EDMONTON - Tom Renney was told the Edmonton Oilers head coaching job would eventually be his, whenever Pat Quinn decided to step away.
As it turns out, the decision was made for Quinn and Renney’s opportunity came sooner than expected.
On Tuesday, the Oilers announced they were moving Quinn to a senior advisor position and slotting Renney in the lead role behind the bench.
“(GM) Steve (Tambellini) told me that he didn’t have a timetable for this and that I should always be ready, which I was,” said Renney. “The bottom line for me is that Pat had to endorse this.
“To be honest, I’m not sure I’m very good at that assistant stuff, that helper stuff. But I feel responsible for what happened here last year. I feel that I needed to do a better job, but I also felt that I gave everything I could to Pat, to Wayne (Fleming), to Bucky (Kelly Buchberger), to our team, from my vantage point. Yet I’m one of those guys that needs to expand and I feel really comfortable being responsible for the big picture.”
Renney, 55, becomes the Oilers’ 10th head coach in franchise history and third in the past three years.
He was brought on board last year to work with Quinn as an associate coach. The two replaced Craig MacTavish.
“We spoke last year about bringing these two men in who had a wealth of experience, credibility, leadership and we had a whole plan going forward,” said Tambellini. “Obviously with what happened this year in regards to the depth of our organization, the fact that we were rebuilding and that we were going to be young, it made sense to me over the last couple of months to basically accelerate our plan by one year.”
Prior to working with the Oilers, Renney had spent the previous nine seasons with the New York Rangers, taking over as the team’s head coach towards the end of the 2003-2004 season. He was fired 61 games into the 2008-2009 campaign.
The Oilers represent Renney’s third club, having coached the Vancouver Canucks through the 1996-97 season and into the following year before being let go.
“Clearly I followed Pat here to Edmonton,” Renney said. “I certainly plan to use his knowledge in order to move this team forward based on what he knows about the game, how to grow a team, how to grow an individual, how to grow a champion.
“Saying that, I’m looking forward to bringing my personality to the hockey club and the things that I identify with in terms of being a champion.”
As the associate coach last season, Renney was primarily responsible for coming up with the team’s game plan and running the defence on the bench.
Now he’ll ultimately be responsible for all aspect of the coaching staff.
“It doesn’t matter who I’m coaching, I want the rink to be a destination, I don’t want it to be purgatory,” he said. “I want them to come ready to work, willing to work, understanding what the expectations are, but wanting to first and foremost to be there and that’s critical to me.
“I think what Pat did was set the compass for his organization. I was really pleased that Steve’s initial conversations a year ago were that Pat stayed within the organization to help with that direction.”
Renney inherits a team building from scratch. Along with the whomever the Oilers decide to select in with their first pick in Friday’s NHL Entry Draft, Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall, the club is expected to ice a young lineup next season, building towards the future.
“We have to do everything we can to win, but we can’t do it at expense of the growth of an athlete and this team and this franchise,” he said.
“Players have to know they can make some mistakes. I did along the way and I was given another opportunity. I’m better for that and you have to recognize that in your athletes too. We’re going to do everything we can to win. And I think it’s been proven since the lockout that you can go into any season as a bit of an underdog, a team that on paper might not look like a playoff contender, but do exactly the opposite.”