Youthful Oilers Still Work in Progress
"We had some young players in New York," the first-year Oilers coach told FanHouse Friday. "Mark Staal, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, though not all at the same time.
"We're talking about exemplary first round players. People who watch our team recognize we're kinda pinning our long term hopes on them."
Renney's referring to the fact that three recent first-round picks -- Taylor Hall (2010), Magnus Paajarvi (2009), and Jordan Eberle (2008) -- have all started their NHL careers at the same time in the Edmonton lineup.
Through Saturday's 6-1 loss to San Jose, the Oilers sit at 2-4 and in last place in the Northwest Division. That doesn't tell the whole story, as Edmonton has shown flashes of being a very competitive team. On opening night, the Oilers whitewashed rival Calgary 4-0, as Eberle scored his first NHL goal.
Thursday, they lost 4-2 to Minnesota, but the Oilers dominated a large chunk of the game, and they did everything but score.
"As much as we really tried hard, we really couldn't pull that off, either," Renney noted.
It might have been Hall's best game as an Oiler. He took 11 shots, but is still trying to get his first NHL goal.
"He's been good, he's been young, and he's been anxious," Renney said. He noted Hall is working hard, and his expectations of the rookie are high.
The players' expectations are high, too.
"We wanna be 5-0, and we're not that good," Renney said. "We have had some little things to overcome in the meantime. We've had leads halfway through games and shown a little bit of youth."
Renney's Oilers had a 2-1 lead in a game at Minnesota Oct. 14, but consecutive penalties led to power-play goals by Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu 52 seconds apart in the second period.
Through six games, Hall has just one point, an assist. Paajarvi has one goal and one assist for two points, and Eberle leads the way among the three rookies with two goals and two assists.
"He's a very confident player," Renney said of Eberle, who played in the WHL and starred for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships in both 2009 and 2010 before turning pro. "Terrific hockey sense. Hockey I.Q. as good as any. He's been able to do a lot five on five, power play, and even penalty kill (his first NHL goal was short-handed). His career is got an arrow up to it as well."
There was talk of Eberle joining the Oilers last year, but Renney isn't at all upset it didn't happen, considering the Oilers were dead-last in the NHL last year.
"I think it was crucial," he said of the organization's decision to leave Eberle in the WHL. "I'm not sure that this was an environment that would have been good for a young player."
Frankly, all three kids have the arrow pointed squarely up. Renney notes that the fans in Edmonton have really taken to the concept of the team rebuilding the right way.
"The beauty of the Edmonton fans is they get it," he said. "They understand the game. They've had to watch what's happened in the past and they have had enough. We need patience with this, we need their support while we do it."
The coach is excited about the future, because he knows his team has a ton of potential, and the three rookies are front and center because of their talent.
"The've got great instincts," he told FanHouse. "At the end of the day, that's what you want to work off of. In the case of all three, there are some fundamental parts to the game, and we work on that."