May 18, 2012
Ex-Oiler says team needs hard-liner
By Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Jason Strudwick wasn't happy to see Tom Renney go.
The former Edmonton Oilers defenceman got to know Renney well during his NHL career, playing for the veteran coach on two separate occasions.
And while Thursday's announcement that the Oilers were not renewing their head coach's contract was disheartening to Strudwick, it did not necessarily come as a surprise.
"In my heart, I wanted Tom to continue coaching, I like Tom, I think he's a good coach," Strudwick said Friday. "But I think my head knew that they had decided the outcome.
"I'm not sure what their thoughts are. they might just want a change in direction and a fresh voice. I don't personally think it's fair to pin it all on Tom. They had a lot of injury issues and they had some young guys that were learning to play the game and some other guys had a tough year."
Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini flew to B.C. Thursday to meet with Renney informing him of the club's intentions to go in a different direction.
Renney spent three years with the organization, initially coming on as an associate to Pat Quinn, before taking over the head coaching duties the following season.
Under Renney, the Oilers finished in 30th and 29th places respectively as the club began a rebuilding phase.
"I think the team was better than it performed last year, but I think Tom just got caught at a bad time," Strudwick said. "For a young team, he was prefect, he definitely helped develop the young players, which was a big role with that team. I thought he did a great job with the young players."
A strong communicator and good teacher, Renney succeeded in helping the Oilers young rising stars navigate their way through their first NHL seasons.
However, with the club still languishing near the bottom of the standings at year's end, management felt a new coach was needed to take them to the next level.
Unfortunately for Renney, the Oilers waited more than six weeks from the end of their season to come to that conclusion.
"I have a good relationship with Tom, so I would have preferred to see something happen quicker," Strudwick said. "You don't like to see a friend of yours just left out of the ledge. But at the end of the day, the result is the same. He's left without a spot to coach and now he's looking for somewhere to coach.
"To be fair to Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe, they were really busy they had a lot of stuff going on. I think they got to it as soon as they could."
Having made a decision on Renney, the Oilers now turn their attention on finding a replacement behind the bench.
A number of names have already surfaced as possible successors. The Oilers hope to have a new head coach in place by the NHL Entry Draft in just over a month.
"If you're talking about what's going to be the core group with this team, Taylor Hall, (Jordan) Eberle and (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins are still young in their careers, but I don't think it would be wrong to have someone that maybe has a heavier hand," Strudwick said. "Tom is not a coach that his going to be quite as heavy as a Randy Carlyle or a Ron Wilson. That's not to suggest they need someone quite that heavy, but someone that is going to make the guys toe the line. And not just the young guys, that goes all the way up until your oldest core veterans as well."
Early indications have former Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter as a leading candidate. There are also a number of good minor-league coaches looking for an opportunity at the next level. One of them would be Todd Nelson, who has done a great job with the Oilers AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.
"I'm not sure who they'll hire, but whoever they do, I'm sure it'll be an exhaustive search," Strudwick said. "And if Brent Sutter is the guy, as a fan, I would feel confident they made the right choice."