SUN Hockey Pool

Hard-working Oilers look for respect

TERRY JONES, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:26 AM ET

Tom Renney is not the most demonstrative coach in the National Hockey League. He may, in fact, be the least.

And goodness knows it’s not like the games mean much in the standings for the Edmonton Oilers right now. What’s another loss, other than to maintain 30th and put themselves in position to end up with the first pick in the NHL Entry Draft again?

But Renney filled the air with Bruce Boudreau language, banged the Plexiglass and was so visibly upset that he invited being thrown out of Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

He also gave serious consideration to making himself eligible for a fine in the post-game interview room.

“There was a lot of me that gave consideration to that,” he said.

How did the mild-mannered man end up so out of character?

“Your guys need to know you are with them,” he explained.

“We work hard as a team and it hasn’t been easy for us this year. We’re not complaining. We’re trying to be legitimate and respectable and allow our fans to embrace the right things about a team that cares who they are.

“Sometimes things get in the way of that happening that you have no control over.”

Like referees.

“You have to live with that, of course. But sometimes it is important to make sure the coach is 100% with them.”

And so he took it out on the referees, telling them to go elsewhere and multiply and then gave a whupping to the Plexi-glass.

“I just decided to demonstrate it. I elbowed it. And I punched it. It doesn’t move very much.

“They tolerated a coach that was right on the edge tonight. They could have made a fool out of me and they didn’t,” he said of the zebras.

It all transpired as a result a couple of calls late, one a hard to swallow diving call against Linus Omark and another a disallowed goal.

Most nights, with this hockey club, when stuff happens, you know the stuff happened because the Oilers helped make it happen. And, indeed, when a team goes one-for-nine on the power play, they don’t have a lot of room to blame the referees in the big picture.

But this wasn’t a normal night.

This was a night when Chris Vande Velde, Ryan O’Marra and Alex Giroux flew in on Daryl Katz's private jet from Grand Rapids, Mich., to play their third game in three cities in three days in two leagues.

This was a night when the Oilers iced 12 forwards who had played fewer NHL games combined than Shane Doan.

This was a team that was down to 11 players who started the season on the active roster, and Vande Velde, O’Marra, Giroux, Linus Omark, Jeff Petry, Liam Reddox and Teemu Hartikainen, who were Oklahoma City Barons.

“The guys played their guts out,” said Renney.

“I liked the way we played tonight.

“I liked the fact that we cared enough.

“I think we are sixth or seventh in the league in blocked shots, hence the ankles and feet and that kind of stuff.

“We work, we try and we give everything that we possible can with what we’ve got.

“We have to continue to do that and be better at it going forward. I liked our team tonight, and that effort.

“They tried. You can’t play with fools gold,” he added of the power play.

Ah, the power play.

“We couldn’t get the puck in and when we did, we didn’t simplify anything,” said Ryan Jones.

But with Ales Hemsky, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Ryan Whitney out of the lineup, that’s the power play.

“Earlier this year we had nine power plays with everybody there and didn’t score,” Jones pointed out.

Jones offered the perfect players perspective on proceedings last night and how that loss hurt more than most 3-1 losses, home or away, this year.

“We’re building character. We’re building our identity for the future.

“We’re trying to become a team that’s hard to play against. And if we keep it simple and play hard, we should be in every game, even in this situation with four guys up in the last two days.

“We’re trying to work hard and gain respect for each other. That’s the exact kind of identity we’re looking for.”

These guys get it. And considering the way it’s gone for them this season, that’s something to be treasured.

More than anybody, Tom Renney understands that.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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