March 31, 2012
Coming Soon for Oilers: 'New normal'
By Terry Jones, QMI Agency
Because of the embarrassing, ridicule-inviting situation involving the league rejecting the call-up of Magnus Paajarvi Friday because the Edmonton Oilers couldn’t count to four, perhaps a much more meaningful story went largely uncovered.
It was coach Tom Renney’s announcement of the “new normal” coming to Edmonton next season.
I don’t know if the Oilers coach knows if he’s going to be part of it yet, although his words might suggest he’s gotten the word that he will, but in his intelligent, reasoned way lacking exclamation points, Renney made some interesting statements in the past 48 hours.
“If I’m a veteran player here and seeing this transition, maybe I’m seeing a new normal for me,” he said.
That quote, delivered in the pre-game media session Friday combined with other pre- and post-game comments, should have been shot out of a cannon.
In Renney’s soft-spoken way, he virtually announced that from this point forward this was going to become Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and their young associates hockey team now.
And that the others better give a good long, hard think about how they’d be fitting into things going forward.
He said those players better be thinking “Maybe there’s something else I have to get my head wrapped around in order to be able to contribute and be part of something very special here for as long as I’m here.”
Renney thus admitted a great divide may exist there.
“I think the honest answer here is, yeah, I think there’s some difficulty in those areas.
“With the transitional players or the veteran players coming back, when you see this youth movement blossom in front of you, you say ‘OK, where am I in the grand scheme of things?’
“From a coaching perspective there’s psychology you have to work with in that, but you also have to realize these kids are the future. And how you allow others to participate and be part of that and feel some self worth is really critical.
“If you don’t do that, then there’s cancer. There’s poison.
“It becomes a little bit polluted and contaminated by the wrong attitudes. And you’ve really got to work on that.
“It would be a good question for them, those guys who are in that position. It would be enlightening if they’re honest with you,” Renney suggested of some of the media interviewing which might be done in the final week of the season before these players go through their exit interviews.
It’s not every day Renney uses terms like “cancer” and “poison.”
And he effectively said the kids aren’t just emerging stars, they’ve earned their stripes, too.
“Let’s be honest about it, look what these kids are doing.
“How they’ve been deployed has always been an object of talk. I understand it. That’s all fine. I’ve done it for what was most important for them to be viable, to start and finish a season and all of that stuff. These kids are outstanding hockey players,” he said, no doubt to referring to the way he’s handled the kids on their trip through this season to get to the “new normal.”
Renney was very careful to provide RNH and the other young stars with easier minutes with match-ups avoiding top centres and defensive pairs early, while giving inordinate amounts of ice time to players like veteran Shawn Horcoff and especially transition player Eric Belanger.
Even with Paajarvi’s recall rejection, Belanger finally ended up a healthy scratch versus Los Angeles Friday.
In his post-game media session, Renney went out of his way to deliver the message that Paajarvi will be in many future Oilers team pictures with them.
“I think we’re pretty comfortable with Magnus being an Oiler. And a full-time Oiler. At the end of the night that is the most important thing. This is a good young hockey player who will be everything that we hope he will be.”
You get the idea. Next year the ownership and leadership of this team is going to be turned over to the young talents on this team and either dramatically or gradually taken away from the veterans and players brought in to transition them to their future depending how they deal with it.
They failed this season. Not the kids.