Renney makes his calls

Oilers head coach Tom Renney explains how he made the decisions for his team's lineup going into...

Oilers head coach Tom Renney explains how he made the decisions for his team's lineup going into this NHL season.(TOM BRAID/Edmonton Sun).

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:44 PM ET

Tom Renney took so long in answering the question that was pretty much the answer in itself.

“Were there any changes from the team you ended up picking to take into the season than the one you would have chosen going into training camp?” he was asked at final cutdown day yesterday.

“Maybe a couple,” he finally answered.

There’s every evidence that the Edmonton Oilers went the way they figured they were going to go when they began the annual exercise that fools fans every year.

Fool No. 1 apparently was Linus Omark who seemed shocked to discover that he had been tagged to go to Oklahoma City from the git-go. The concept of being a smallish, softish fourth rookie behind Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi who wasn’t going to make it to the NHL to start this season apparently was lost in translation between Sweden and North America.

By the end of the morning the cuts were done give or take a goalie. And Renney, after discussing the decisions, started to field the questions not about the players who were leaving but the ones who were staying, the kind of team he thinks he has here to start the season and the kind of team he wants them to become.

There were no delays in coming up with the responses to any of those questions.

“I think we’ll have an exciting speed and transition game. I’m not sure we have a complete enough defence. I’m hoping we’ll be in your face enough to get respect. And with the youth, we might just be naive enough to just go and play,” he said of the three kids who were guaranteed their spots with all the advertising and promotion and focus going forward.

“I want a team that comes at you, that doesn’t get pushed out of games, that competes for every inch of ice and does that in a certain number of ways.

“Certainly we have to have a physical component to our game. We have to be able to defend each other. We have to be proactive in trying to push the other team out by playing hard, playing firm,” he said.

The decisions, if they were decisions at all, all leaned in that direction.

“We need to play with more size and grit and jam in our lineup. That said, I want to be a team that pursues the puck and when we get it, we’re attacking and we put the opponent on their heels. So we want to sign our work with that requisite.

“I think we’ll also be a fast transition team, a good attack team and a team that doesn’t allow other teams to muscle their way into our type of game.”

All good. But there’s a real balancing act involved in all of that working three rookie feature forwards into the mix, playing major minutes if they prove to be coachable.

Trying to combine all of the above with patience and a tonne of teaching and nurturing involves a major coaching challenge for a man who says he believes in coaching one player at a time and has no intention of positioning this team to pick anywhere near as high in the draft as they did this summer.

“We want to win. We want to make sure that these kids know what that really means and the fortitude that it takes,” said Renney.

“It really has to be so much a part of your fibre and your fabric that you don’t let each other down in practice.

“We’ve got to have that. If we’re going to be good quick, we have to pursue wins.

“It will not be at the expense of growing a player. They’ll be able to mess up or make a mistake and not ride the pine for the rest of the night. We’re going to play people. But I will deliver on a consequence. There will be accountability. We are not here to tweak. We are changing this here.

“I’ll tell you right now, our work habits will be Stanley Cup work habits. Our attention to detail will be as good as anybody in the league.”

Renney also had one going-away message for young Mr. Omark and all the players headed for Oklahoma City.

“All these people today need to realize this is a work in progress. What they have to remember is that this will be a body of work over time that I think they should want to be part of because this is a pretty exceptional organization to my mind with a great landscape.”

This is now a grow-your-own operation.

It’s like it used to say on the license plates down there. Oklahoma is OK.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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