February 16, 2012
Renney still not 100%
By DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Tom Renney is still suffering the aftereffects of taking a puck to the head last week in Toronto.
The Edmonton Oilers head coach took practice off on Tuesday and left the morning skate duties to his assistants on Wednesday.
“We’re just reducing his workload right now,” said Oilers associate coach Ralph Krueger. “He’s fully involved with our coaching preparation and discussions. The plan is that everything will be normal (Wednesday night). He’s not at 100% obviously and we’re trying to get him there.”
Renney was behind the bench when the Oilers hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night, flanked by Krueger and assistant coach Steve Smith.
Krueger had taken over the coaching duties when the two teams faced each other last Monday after Renney was clipped by an errant puck during that morning skate.
The Oilers coach required 12 stitches to close the gash towards the back of his head. He’s been suffering minor concussion-type symptoms since.
“I think the work is not that difficult when we’re setting up practices and doing some generic things,” Krueger said. “But to process of all the other information, there is a lot of mental pressure for a National Hockey League head coach, from morning until night and probably through the night as well.
“You need to be 100% in your mind to be able to handle that, and at the moment, it’s a little bit better for Tom to have less of a load there.”
A year ago, it was Ladislav Smid who was packing heavier suitcases on the road and keeping an listening intently to trade talk.
The Oilers defenceman generated plenty of interest as last year’s trade deadline approached, but remained in Edmonton where the team won’t consider moving him this time around.
“I tried not to pay attention to it last year, but it’s kind of hard when you see your name out there on TV,” Smid said. “This year it’s quieter and I can just focus on playing hockey.
“Part of it was because my contract was up last year and nobody really knew what was going to happen and everyone was wondering if they were going to make any changes, which they did. Thankfully I got to stay here.”
The best move the Oilers made at the deadline — other than unloading Dustin Penner — was keeping Smid, giving him an opportunity to continue developing.
This year Smid has been one of the Oilers best defenceman and is unlikely to be moved. The same can’t be said for some of his teammates, however.
“I don’t want to lose any of these guys,” Smid said. “They’re great teammates and great friends, so it’s always sad to see somebody leave.”
The Oilers returned to a new-look Rexall Place on Wednesday.
While the team was on the road, the crew in the building installed colored stanchions, which stood out and gave the ice surface a different feel to it.
Early in the contest, crews had to repair one of the stanchions, following a Maple Leafs goal. Yet later in the opening frame, Taylor Hall put them to the test when he nearly drove defenceman Jake Gardiner through the boards.
OFF THE BLOCK
Earlier this season, Sam Gagner didn’t have a place down the middle with the Oilers, forcing the centre to play on the wing.
The move prompted many to believe the former first-round pick was expendable.
But that all changed as Gagner began to find his game, then exploded offensively in the first week of February.
Now Gagner is centring the team’s top line and is off the market.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me either way, I just wanted to make sure I was playing the same way coming out of the All-star break,” Gagner said. “I just wanted to focus on my game and do what it takes for me to be successful. Obviously there are going to be a lot of other outside distractions that I can’t really worry about, I just have to go out and play.”
Having been the talk of trade speculation in the past, Gagner knows it can be hard to concentrate on the job at hand at this time of year.
“It’s hard to say in the present when there’s a huge decision on your future that can come in the next three weeks,” he said. “I think it’s really important for guys to focus on the right things and that’s just being the best player you can be every night. You have to focus on your own game and hopefully everything takes care of itself.”