SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers showed 'resilience' - Renney

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:48 PM ET

It may seems strange that as NHL coaches are being fired following the regular season, the one whose team finished last is among those with the best job security.

Yet while winning is always part of a coach’s mandate, Tom Renney’s key objective this season was to safeguard the organization’s future and guide it through their first full campaign.

“Our season was one that saw some highs and lows, which is certainly to be expected,” Renney said on Tuesday. “I love the way we identified internally and with the fans what our intentions were and then sort of shared the journey with them. In a lot of cases it wasn’t as good as we hoped for, but not us unpredictable as it could have been.

“But that being said, there were a lot of good things. We saw the growth of a lot of good, young players. We saw an ability to play the game a certain way. Both should stand the test of time and allow our fans to identify with that growth for years to come.”

As the third head coach in three years with the club, Renney’s circumstance differed from his predecessors, Pat Quinn and Craig MacTavish.

With the club being forced to blow up the entire organization and start fresh after perhaps overestimating their talent level a year ago, Renney was not required to win at all costs, which has given him some leeway.

Instead, he was responsible for helping develop a solid foundation where the Oilers could continue to build — a job in itself that came with its own set of challenges.

“I like the fact that these players remained coachable,” Renney said. “They gave themselves up to a style of coaching, never mind the content, that will pay dividends in the long run. They showed a resilience that is required to move forward though their NHL careers, both as individuals and as an organization, as we continue to grow and get better.”

The Oilers started the season with four rookies in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Devan Dubnyk, who were to be the cornerstone of the rebuilding phase.

Throughout the year, they uncovered other gems such as Linus Omark, Jeff Petry and Teemu Hartikainen.

Despite their youth, the Oilers were able to remain competitive in the first three months of the season, hovering near the .500 mark through the middle of December.

But injuries eventually took their toll, starting with their top defenceman in Ryan Whitney and going on to inflict their leading scorers, including Hall, who was making his case to be the league’s rookie of the year before injuring his ankle in a fight.

“There was a point in time where you said ‘uncle’ to the injury situation,” Renney said. “It’s one of those circumstances that every team has to deal with and I thought we did a very good job with that. We continued to accept responsibility for our performance by those who could play.”

In the end, the Oilers were forced to play with a makeshift lineup and limped towards the finish line, losing 14 of their last 16 games.

They finished last in the league standings for the second consecutive year and will select first overall again this summer.

“I don’t say this is where we figured to be, because it’s not,” Renney said. “It’s not where we wanted to be and it’s not where we hoped to be. I think every single season your goal is to make the playoffs. If not, you should get out of the league, go play somewhere else or go coach somewhere else, where expectations are a little softer, a little more palatable and friendlier.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs and we will pursue that objective.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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