Above the 49: New Oilers coach in better spot to succeed
By Daniel Fung, Sports Network Columnist
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - There is no guarantee that whoever the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers is will enjoy more success than his predecessor, but what's certain is he will be put in a much better position to be successful.
Edmonton, of course, became the latest NHL team to dive into the market for a new head coach after announcing last Thursday that it would not be renewing the contract of head coach Tom Renney after two years on a job that began with a sudden shift in organizational philosophy.
Although Renney was only the head coach for the Oilers for the past two seasons, many will recall he was brought in three years ago for the start of the 2009-10 season as an associate coach to work alongside Pat Quinn. What many won't likely remember, however, was that Quinn was brought in to guide a team that had underachieved and missed the playoffs for two seasons in a row following an appearance in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals but was still expected to be a top contender. Renney, somewhere down the line, was earmarked to assume control of a club projected to be consistently in the playoff mix.
One year later, Quinn was unceremoniously removed from the bench and Renney left to pick up the pieces of a team that suddenly found itself in a full-scale rebuild mode.
When Renney, who finished his tenure as Oilers' head coach with a 57-85-22 record, first arrived in Edmonton the Oilers boasted a veteran-laden lineup that included names such as Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mike Comrie, Fernando Pisani, Ethan Mouray and Sheldon Souray. Among that list, only Horcoff and Hemsky are still with the team following Renney's departure.
In retrospect, one has to wonder if Renney would have been brought in at all had the Oilers known they would be headed down the rebuilding path three years ago.
Although Renney has had a history of success working with younger players (he guided the Canadian major junior hockey's Kamloops Blazers to consecutive WHL championships and one Memorial Cup title in the early 1990s), his most effective NHL stint to date has been with the New York Rangers, who he led to three straight playoff appearances coming out of the lockout year. The Rangers were a veteran-heavy team that featured the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury, Brendan Shanahan, Michael Nylander, Scott Gomez and Martin Straka at various points during Renney's stint there.
Renney did an admirable job behind the Oilers bench in his brief time even though the team finished at or near the bottom of the league standings in back- to-back seasons. This season, the Oilers posted a seven-win improvement compared to Renney's first year behind the bench. Edmonton also has seen the likes of youngsters Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Devan Dubnyk develop into consistent NHL performers during Renney's stint.
But despite the positives of Renney's stint with the Oilers, it's clear they felt they needed a change in order for them to take the next step into turning the blue-chip prospects they've assembled into a core group of superstars who can lead the Oilers back to the Promise Land. The man to lead that charge could be former Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter or current Oklahoma City Barons head coach Todd Nelson, as has been rumored, but it certainly was not going to be Renney.
Whoever the new coach turns out to be, he'll have a clear idea of where the team is headed and what the expectations are moving forward. That's more than Renney ever got.
The Oilers are the fourth Canadian NHL team to make announce a head coaching change this calendar year. The Toronto Maple Leafs fired Ron Wilson in March and replaced him with Randy Carlyle, the Flames parted ways with the aforementioned Sutter back in April, while new Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin demoted interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth back to assistant coach earlier this month.
05/23 10:18:15 ET