Tom Renney will not be confused with John Wayne. More importantly, he will never be confused with Mike Keenan, Scotty Bowman or Emile Francis. Roger Neilson is who Renney reminds me of. Neilson coached 280 regular season Ranger games and won 141 of them. Renney has coached 184 regular season Ranger games and has won 90 games. Neilson was fired after 40 games in the 92-93 season at the request of Mark Messier who believed that the Rangers could go no further with Neilson. Remember the Rangers had won the President's Trophy the previous year (1991-92) only to be eliminated in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins four games to two. Remember that was the series where a Graves slash supposedly broke the hand of Mario Lemieux. Graves was suspended the rest of the series and the Rangers lost the series. So into his fourth year Neilson was gone because the Ranger leader, Mark Messier, felt that the coach could not take them to the Stanley Cup. Messier was correct.
Renney is entering his third year as the Ranger coach and Jaromir Jagr has two seasons remaining with the Rangers. Any correlation? You bet. If the Rangers don't get this holy grail within the next two years, Renney is gone. I have a feeling that if the Rangers don't hit the jackpot next year, Jagr will be acting like Mark Messier and deciding that Tom Renney is not the coach the Rangers want to get to the top.
Renney blew the Rangers hope of at least reaching the Eastern Conference finals by his blunder in game five. With the Rangers up 1-0 and about a minute to go Renney had the Jagr-Nylander-Isbister line on instead of having a defensive line on of Avery, Betts and Ortmeyer. Renney won't admit it and the drive by sports media never asked him about his choice but he was hoping for a shorthanded goal from Jagr ala the one Jagr scored against Atlanta in the series clincher. Isn't it amazing that not one sportswriter asked him why the Jagr line was on with less than a minute to play? To his credit I did see The Maven, Stan Fischler, ask that question on the post game show. Too bad he didn't get the opportunity to ask it of Renney. The Rangers should have won the Buffalo series in five games also blowing game two thanks to Malik and Rachunek.
And what of his personnel decisions? Why bring Rachunek back to play against Buffalo and break up a winning defensive combination from Atlanta? Granted Atlanta is no Buffalo but the big difference in the two teams was the goaltenders. Atlanta had the firepower up front that Buffalo has but didn't have the offense from the defenseman that Buffalo has and didn't have as good a goalie as Ryan Miller. So you knew that the games would be tight and low scoring. Why put in a defensive liability like Rachunek who lived up to his liabilities in the playoff? Why bring up Nigel Dawes for the sixth game? He should have been up earlier in the season getting the experience and confidence he needed. But no, we got Brad Isbister. Why? Is Renney the coach or the puppet of Sather? I'll bet on the puppet. Better to make the guy above you happy, that keeps your job, right?
Renney never screamed for the second line center he needed. He never used Matt Cullen properly, especially on the power play. He never gave Thomas Pock a chance to develop into a top notch offensive defenseman. He never gave the young guys a chance to really make the team at the start of the season. Callahan, Dawes, Dubinsky and Pock should have been on the starting team and guys like Isbister, Rachunek, Cullen and Malik, yes Malik, should have been fighting for the jobs. Look at how they handled Prucha. Third line, fourth line, bench, little power play time, decreased minutes and he still managed 22 goals.
This is the coach that the sports experts are extolling as the guy who is keeping this team together and has them winning. Excuse me. Henrik Lundqvist and Jaromir Jagr are the reason this team is held together and is winning. Brendan Shanahan would be a better coach than Tom Renney. You doubt that statement? He was the on ice captain most of the season and was certainly more vocal on the bench than the coach was.
Performance Rating: C