There aren’t many coaches who have a good year on a team that finishes 35 points out of the playoffs, but Tom Renney’s work with the Oilers this season earned him a passing grade from the players.
An A, even.
“I thought Tom did an unbelievable job dealing with the players this year,” said Shawn Horcoff. “I gained a lot of respect for him; it was a tough situation for him.”
Injuries, inexperience, more injuries and a whole lot of AHLers all contributed to Edmonton’s 25-45-12 record, but Renney somehow kept the mood in the dressing room upbeat and had his team fighting to the finish.
“You could see in his face how frustrating it was,” said Horcoff. “All he wants to do is win. He’s such a good guy and he works so hard, you want to pay him back and the only way to pay him back is by winning.”
“Tom had a really good handle in the room,” added Ryan Jones. “He knows what each guy can bring and he demands the most of each player. He’s got the respect in the room and that’s huge in professional sports.”
On a team that included a lot of rookies making a lot of rookie mistakes, a drill sergeant might have turned the atmosphere black in a hurry. Renney did more teaching than scolding in his first year as head man.
“Tom’s been the ideal coach for a young team,” said Taylor Hall. “He’s not a coach who’s going to yell at you or single you out in the media, that’s really nice for a young team.
“We didn’t want to put him in the kind of predicament that he had, last place and stuff, but for a guy who had to deal with that, come in in those kind of circumstances, rebuilding, he’s done a really good job.”
Of course, it’s easy to be calm and understanding when the organization is getting a free pass. Next year, when expectations are higher, the leashes will probably get shorter.
“Our goal next year is to make the playoffs and I think you’ll see a little bit of a different Tom next year,” said Horcoff. “A little bit more intense, a little more focusing on winning and getting results and if we’re not getting those for him, there could be consequences.”