February 16, 2009
Never a good sign when the home crowd starts chanting for the heads of both the coach and the GM, which is what happened during the New York Rangers' national television loss to the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday. (Great job picking those games, NBC; really, who would have watched a 6-5, drama-filled battle between the San Jose Sharks and the New Jersey Devils anyway?)
Coach Tom Renney has been on the hot seat for most of this season while his Rangers have been a characterless, tepid and ineffective collection of ill-fitting parts. In fairness, that collection is also currently the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Renney's maligned defensive system is the reason why -- for better or worse.
But with the blue seats calling for blood, Renney's head could be the next to roll according to Steve Zipay of Newsday:
I'm starting to get the feeling that some players---not all---have tuned Renney out, and as the old saying goes, you can't get fire of all the players. My growing suspicion is that if the Rangers don't respond with wins Monday in St. Louis and at home against the Islanders on Wednesday, the successful coach of almost five years may not get a reprieve.
Here's where things get really interesting: Both Zipay and Joe McDonald of NY Sports Day are reporting that Renney's replacement could be Rangers assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld -- former head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals and, most recently, the Phoenix Coyotes. Of course, his most infamous legacy is filled with either jelly or boston crème.
At a time when some are questioning if old school coaches can excel in today's NHL, Schoeny would be as old-school as they come: a fiery players' coach who is less about systems and processes than he is about chewing bubble gum and kicking ass until he's all out of bubble gum.
This team's problems go beyond the suit behind the bench; but Schoenfeld might be able to locate a heartbeat on this comatose team.
Is there still a chance Renney could survive? Sure. Whether he does or he doesn't, he's always going to have champions that will view him as a scapegoat, like Mark Herrmann in Newsday:
Renney does not deserve to take the fall.
That he has not ignited the Rangers lately isn't so much a commentary on him as it is the fact that the current group is just not very flammable. It is a low-key bunch that wouldn't have the bite of terriers if John Tortorella, Mike Keenan or The Wizard of Oz were coaching.
If anything, Renney deserves some credit for having squeezed a long first-place run out of a club that does not have a solid power-play quarterback or a true star center, despite paying three guys as if they could fill those roles.
In a way, he will be; Renney is simply a symbol (or symptom) of the organization-wide decision to play a style of hockey that defiantly cramps the creativity of the high-paid offensive talent on the team's roster. The roster doesn't fit the system, and vice versa. Which is why they're also chanting "Fire Sather!" at MSG these days.
We're going to have much more in the Rangers later this afternoon with a roundtable on the team's problems and what, if anything, a potential return of Sean Avery can do to fix them. Please do check it out.