Steve Tambellini said in April he needed to hear Tom Renney’s plan, how the veteran head coach was going to make the youthful Edmonton Oilers better than the 29th-ranked team in the NHL.
Apparently, Tambellini didn’t like what he heard.
With a tweet and a news conference Thursday, the Oilers general manager announced Renney would not be back with the organization next season. Technically, Renney’s contract was not renewed, meaning the Oilers are now on the prowl for their fourth head coach in five years (from Craig MacTavish to Pat Quinn to Renney to whoever is next).
Speaking to the media at Rexall Place, Tambellini said he made the decision not to being Renney back only days ago, and had met with him earlier in the day in Castlegar, B.C.
Renney was hired by the Oilers in 2009, as an associate coach. He was then appointed head man in 2010, and guided the Oilers to a 57-85-22 record over two seasons.
In both, the Oilers finished no better than second-last in the NHL and missed the playoffs.
“I’m not going to dissect Tom as a coach. He’s a good man, a good coach,” Tambellini said. “We’re just trying to find things to get better – better as a management staff, a coaching staff and players. We want to make sure we’re putting ourselves in a position where we are competing for a playoff spot.”
Asked if it was something Renney didn’t do or say that cost him a new contract offer, Tambellini answered it was about transitioning the Oilers from a group of promising players to a team that delivers on a more-consistent basis.
“There’s been some positive things that happened with the hockey club … but we just want to prepare going into a phase where we need to get to a different level of compete. Expectations will increase,” the GM said. “As they should.”
Renney, 57, had also been a head coach with the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers, and was unavailable for comment. Just who his successor will be generated much of Thursday’s fallout in Edmonton.
Brent Sutter has already been trumpeted, which would make him the first of the Alberta-raised Sutter clan to lead the Oilers. Sutter was recently let go after three non-playoff years with the Calgary Flames and was also coach of Canadian team at this year’s world championships. Canada lost to Slovakia on Thursday, and was eliminated from medal contention.
Oilers president Kevin Lowe was the GM of that Canadian team at the worlds and saw Sutter’s work up close while Tambellini described Sutter as “a good coach.”
Another name garnering attention is assistant coach Ralph Krueger. His fate, and that of fellow Oilers assistants Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith, will be determined by the new bench boss. Krueger joined the Oilers in 2010, after stepping down as head coach of the Swiss national team. He also filled in as head man this past season, when Renney was hit by a puck and suffered postconcussion syndrome.
Another possibility is Todd Nelson, the head coach of the Oilers’ AHL affiliate Oklahoma City Barons, who began their playoff series against the Toronto Marlies on Thursday.
As for when he wanted his new bench boss hired, Tambellini said: “There are a few people that we have interest in. I don’t know when that will be. I would hope something prior to the [NHL entry]draft or at the draft in place. We just want to make sure we have the right person.
“Let us go through the process.”