Ask an older hockey fan for a list of Bruins coaches and you’ll get a long list: Harry Sinden, Tom Johnson, Bep Guidolin, Don Cherry, Gerry Cheevers, Terry O’Reilly, Mike Milbury and I could name a bunch more.
Habs? Bowman, Bob Berry, Jacques Lemaire, Jacques Demers, Pat Burns and on it goes.
The Rangers? Lordy. Emile Francis. Fred Shero. Herb Brooks, Roger Neilson. A bunch of guys over decades and then Mike Keenan. Then a bunch more and Tom Renney.
Since the 1967 expansion draft, New York’s Rangers have had 23 coaches (and some of those came back later). In the same time frame, Montreal has employed 16.
Renney enjoyed 243 regular season wins with the Rangers, the most since Emile Francis over 30 years ago.
Tom Renney was employed from 2004 to 2009 by the Rangers and had a successful run. In the half dozen or so seasons between Colin Campbell’s demise and Renney’s hire the Broadway Blueshirts were wandering in the wilderness. Renney righted the ship (with help from the procurement department and some good management moves) and the Rangers had some post-season runs. They made the playoffs, they got out of the first round, they gained traction and built the foundation for something good.
Whether or not the NYR reach the pinnacle during this period of their history is no longer a part of the Tom Renney story. His future may be in Edmonton, let’s see what we can find out about him.
- Does he roll 4 lines or sit people on the end of the bench? In the 03-04 season (Renney was hired late in the season) the Rangers employed 6 regulars who played more than 10 ES minutes per night (they were Jagr, Holik, Jan Hlavac, Lindros, Messier, Josh Green). Dan Lacouture, Jed Ortmeyer and Chris McAllister all played 8 minutes or less at even-strength. That was the team Renney took over, and after the lockout the club returned with a different look, but again had 6 forwards who played 10 or more minutes at even strength. In 2006-07, Renney seems to have expanded his bench at EVs, with 9 players over 10 minutes a night (several of them role players). Incredibly, 11 regulars had 10 minutes of ice-time a night (or more) in his final full season with the Rangers.
- Why the change? The Rangers were adding good young talent all down the line during this period (as we’ll see when we discuss the rookies). As Renney found he could rely on these players (and there was controversy here) the veterans gave up a shift or two per period and balance and fresh legs became the norm.
- Does Renney roll 3 D pairings or stick with his best 4 men on the blue? In his first full season with the Rangers, he relied on everyone pretty much equally at EVs and PK. Six men were between 2:49/game and 3:36/game when the NYR were a man short that season. He did rely on Rozsival, Tutin and Poti on the PP. Each of the following seasons was very similar, although he was relying on Rozsival (and later Staal) more than the others. This isn’t Cito Gaston straight up but it’s pretty straight up. MacT for instance would usually run his 3 best D heavier at EVs and PK when given the opportunity (and of course had his PP men, too).
- How Does he Handle the Rookies? In his first season, they brought in a bunch of kids (remember this was post lockout so 2 seasons of rookies were out there). Fedor Tutin, Dominic Moore, Petr Prucha, Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr all had their rookie seasons in 05-06. Some skill and a lot of muscle there, it’s a good rookie crop for one NHL team. The following season only Dan Girardi played enough to qualify but in 07-08 the flood poured out with Mark Staal, Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes and Ryan Callahan all enjoying their rookie seasons. That’s a beauty year for an NHL team. Renney employed 10 rookies in three full seasons, or 3.3 per year. This compares to MacT’s 5.0 per season, which I think tells us the Rangers as an organization didn’t force feed the kids the way Edmonton did during MacT’s reign. I think that’ll be key moving forward should Renney take the job in Edmonton.
- How Many of these Rookies Had Major Roles as Rookies? Staal, Dubinsky, Tutin, Moore, Prucha. MacT’s list would be longer, deeper and would feature men who were more marginal in talent. I very much doubt the next Oilers coach will be burdened with a “develop them on the fly” order as was the case with the previous coach.
- What kind of Rookie Stepped up under Renney? I think there are similarities between Renney and MacT here, as the two-way types (like Dubinsky and Callahan) all flourished and found roles were the one-dimensional types (like Dawes and Prucha) had a harder time of it.
- What kind of rookie defensemen develop well under Renney? Really good ones. Tutin and Staal arrived under his watch and they use Dan Girardi a lot but I don’t know how good he is/will be.
- Is there an area of concern with regard to rookies? I don’t think so, he looks pretty textbook. There aren’t any Fernando Pisani’s that I can see, but not having a Fernando Pisani emerge isn’t a crime (he is a somewhat unique player in terms of development).
- Does he have specialists for certain roles? He really tried to get his best players on the ice for powerplays. Jagr, Nylander, Straka and Shanahan all had over 5 minutes a night on the PP or more in 06-07. He seemed to like Blair Betts in the Todd Marchant role.
- What are his Strengths? I think he was very good in developing a strong defensive team, through both the roster (including goalie) and strategy. He’s a button-down type coach in terms of style but has a laid-back manner and delivery. He believes it’s a lot about what you leave (using MacT’s phrase) but has a reputation of being a “players coach.”
- What are his weaknesses? I’m very tempted to say “the same as MacT’s” in answer to this question. The button-down style got them into the playoffs quite a bit but the lack of offense got him fired.
- What else got him fired? Part of it was probably that they had stopped listening and his time had come, but another part is that Glen Sather has no idea what he is doing.
- What is his future? NHL coach in a city smaller than NYC.
- Is he a good candidate to coach the Oilers? I think he’d be an excellent choice.