The teams are the bottom feeders of the league, with Columbus primed to select Nail Yakupov with the first overall pick. But in games like this where points in the standings are trivial, players still have something to play for.
Captain Shawn Horcoff's ballyhooed contract has made it a near certainty that he will be back next year; however, the same cannot be said for everyone. Linus Omark, Ryan Jones, Ryan Smyth and Lennart Petrell are players who need to improve their standing within the organization.
Add Head Coach Tom Renney to that list as well.
In hockey markets like Edmonton, seemingly every fan feels they have what it takes to succeed as an NHL head coach or general manager. That's something that has not nor will not change.
What has changed, in Edmonton at least, is the media pressure. Writers, television hosts and radio personalities have started to apply pressure to an organization that is bordering along the lines of "perennial loser."
Initially, Steve Tambellini took the lion's share of the criticism. The school of thought was that he had not provided his organization with the tools to succeed, and that Tom Renney was just bearing the burden of ineptitude at higher levels.
The criticism is now on the head coach, and it has only increased after a lackluster performance against the San Jose Sharks on Monday night.
The criticism that Renney had for his troops in the post-game press conference didn't deviate from what he's mentioned before: lack of effort and too many passengers. A lack of effort is something that has been all too common in Edmonton this season, leading many to reach the conclusion that the head coach has lost the room. Other criticisms of Renney include:
-Mismanagement of players, Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi in particular; players whose offensive abilities mandate that they play scoring-line minutes with other similarly skilled players. The misuse also includes Eric Belanger, a bottom-six forward who has on several occasions played more than Jordan Eberle, the team's best player and lone NHL All-Star.
-The defensive game. Renney is known as a defence-first coach, and in his two seasons at the helm the Oilers have been 28th and 24th (currently) in goals against. Devan Dubnyk has yet to show that he is capable of being a No. 1 goalie while Nikolai Khabibulin has seen his career come to an unspectacular end.
-His continuous reliance on veterans. Many feel that Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Gagner should be given precedence with ice time over the likes of Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky.
-Whether he has control of the dressing room or not. Nights like the game against San Jose have led many to believe that Renney does not have a firm grasp on the dressing room and that he has lost the ability to control his players.
There is also something else to consider. The Edmonton Oilers are under a rebuild, one which is comparable to what Pittsburgh and Chicago went through.
The Blackhawks fired Denis Savard at the beginning of the 2008-09 season and replaced him with Joel Quenneville, who eventually guided them to the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins went a similar route, firing Michel Therien 57 games into the 2008-09 season. They replaced him with Dan Bylsma and won the Stanley Cup that year.
The Oilers followed their models of rebuilding from the No. 1 overall pick out. Their history suggests that Renney wouldn't be the man in charge once the going got good anyway.
For those who say that Renney will easily find work if the Oilers don't renew his contract, it may not be that easy. Craig MacTavish, Mike Keenan, Therien and Savard are all still on the coaching market.
Also, the league has been trending towards younger, less experienced coaches. Bylsma, Guy Boucher, Kevin Dineen and Kirk Muller are the new generation of coaches, with job opportunities few and far between for older, more experienced candidates.
Regardless, it appears as though, like many of his players, right now Tom Renney is auditioning for employment next year.
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