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Principe's Blog: Tough Times for Tom

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers head coach Tom Renney won back-to-back Memorial Cups with the Kamloops Blazers in the 1990s. (photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)

Uncomfortable is maybe the best way to describe how it felt Monday at Tom Renney's morning press conference. That's the word that comes to mind when Renney was asked about his future and what it feels like to have your job on the line. That's not a fun question to ask and even less fun to try and answer. Unfortunately the question isn't out of line. Would I ask it? Well, let me just say I prefer someone else ask it. I always find it hard to ask someone if they think they will lose their job.

Tom Renney has been on the job three years with Edmonton. His first he served as an associate coach for Pat Quinn before the Irishman was let go after year one. Renney just shuffled down the bench from being on the side to being in the middle of things. A former NHL bench boss from Vancouver and NYR, he lasted from June of 1996 until November of 1997 with the Canucks. His record of 39-53-9 ended up being the reason he was let go. Renney has previously admitted that he might not have been ready for his position with Vancouver. He was much more ready on February 25th, 2004 when Renney was named the interim coach with the Rangers. He compiled a 164-117-46 record and three straight post-season appearances. Yet it didn't keep him from eventually losing his spot on New York's bench.

Along with stops in NHL coaching circles he has also worked his way around the World. Renney has been with Hockey Canada and been to the Olympics, World Championships and World Junior Events. When he coached Kamloops, the Blazers strung together a 101-37-6 mark (his .714 winning percentage is still the all time highest winning mark in CHL history). Kamloops won two league titles and a Memorial Cup with Tom Renney as the head coach. What he's done in the past doesn't really matter now but it builds a case for why he was chosen in the first place.

With the record Edmonton has and a coach sitting in the final year of his deal it's progressed to concerns about the team under Tom Renney. However, let's switch things around a little and not play the blame game but the name game. Let's say Renney wasn't coaching the Oilers and Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma, Joel Quenneville or Claude Julien were. How much farther ahead would Edmonton be if one of the four most recent Cup champs and not Renney was deciding on systems, line combinations and strategy? Would it be 5 points or maybe 10? Would they be a playoff bound team? This is all so hypothetical that it's impossible to say what the results would be or could be but it makes me wonder how much better the Oilers would be. I don't think the difference would be that great and those are the best in the coching business.

Tom Renney is the tenth coach in team history. He follows Glen Sather, Bryan Watson, John Muckler, Ted Green, George Burnett, Ron Low, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and Pat Quinn. This season, seven coaches have been fired and Renney doesn't want to be the 8th. He said on Monday he'll keep working until someone asks him to turn in his keys. Until then he'll use them to try and unlock the mystery of what it takes to coach a winner in Edmonton.
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