SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' Renney welcomes scrutiny

Tom Renney made no apologies for the way he played his young point-getters this past season. (QMI...

Tom Renney made no apologies for the way he played his young point-getters this past season. (QMI AGENCY)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

EDMONTON - Tom Renney made no apologies for how he deployed the Edmonton Oilers’ rising stars this season.

Being charged with developing the team’s future, the Oilers head coach believed it was, at times, important to protect.

While not always a popular outlook, especially considering where the team finished in the NHL standings, Renney felt it was the right way to go, even if it ends up costing him a job.

“You’re talking about the future of the organization and I understand people want to watch these great young players on the ice as much as possible,” Renney said in his year-end press conference Monday. “But if you want a product that stands the test of time, you have to take care of it.

“If you want your ’56 Chevy to look good in the driveway 30 years from now, you have to take care of it when it’s a ’56 Chevy. For me, I held true to my belief in how to play these kids and how to give them an opportunity to have success, not only individually, but also as a team.

“Lets not forget that every one of them (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) was at some point in time hurt this year, and two of them were hurt last year.”

Having failed to get the Oilers anywhere near a playoff spot this season, Renney took a lot of heat for managing the ice time of his top three players throughout the year.

Had his veterans been more productive this season, it probably would not have been as big an issue. But when the youngest players quickly developed into the team’s best players, the demand to give them more ice time became increasingly louder.

To Renney’s credit, however, his focus was beyond this season, even if his current contract wasn’t.

“As they get stronger — and I think that’s a big issue for our team, strength is a big issue for our team, moving forward — they’ll become bigger impacts,” Renney said. “Certainly they’re on the verge of that and it’ll be interesting to see how Nuge makes out this summer in terms of gaining strength.

“They’re certainly on the verge of playing more and being even more important to our club. From a coaching perspective, they’ve demonstrated that we’re going to have to win through those guys getting more minutes. But I’m not going to apologize for playing them any more or any less than what I did. I did what I felt was right and they survived.”

Renney found himself at a difficult situation this season, trying to get the most out of his hockey club while at the same time, protecting its biggest assets. It was a fine balancing act to begin with, complicated by a rash of injuries exposing the organization’s lack of depth.

“Yes there is disappointment, no question, but I think there are ways where we can measure success in a season like this even though it’s a 29th-place finish and not anywhere near where we like to be,” Renney said. “That’s what you look for when you’re going through this type of process. I really believe strongly that there are very good things in store for this team and this organization.

“You have to go through years like this year in order to make sure what you do next is right.”

From the beginning, the Oilers have maintained the rebuild is for the long haul.

This summer, they’ll have the ability to add another important chip to the process, once again having access to a high pick in this summer’s NHL draft.

Renney, who still does not know where his future lays with the club, wants to continue to be part of the process.

“I love coaching, I love the game of hockey, I see myself continuing to coach and I want to do it here,” Renney said. “I think highly of the community. It’s bigger version of the town I grew up in and I like the fact that people care here a lot. I love the fact that we’re scrutinized and I think that’s completely fair.

“I think that’s what makes Canadians and hockey special.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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