If Michel Therrien can get fired, so can Tom Renney.
This is just the way the sports business goes these days as Therrien took the fall for the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins, after leading his team to the Stanley Cup finals last season.
“I owe it to the franchise and the organization to take the steps necessary that I think are best, and that’s what led me to do what I did,” Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero said about the change.
Therrien will be replaced by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach Dan Bylsma and it will be his job to turn around the Penguins.
The Pens are in worse shape than the Rangers. They currently sit tenth in the conference with 59 points with no sign of pepping up. But the Rangers are in a free-fall, with 66 points and sixth in the conference. The Blueshirts have just one win in the last eight games and some of the losses have been brutal.
Yet, none are as bad as yesterday’s 5-2 drubbing by the Philadelphia Flyers, where the Rangers let in a 5-on-3 shorthanded goal in the second period. The team is looking lost, and Renney may be the next coach to get the ax if something doesn’t turn around quickly.
“I take full responsibility for where this team is right now,” Renney said. “It comes with the position so my job is to correct this, get us winning, and getting us feeling better about ourselves.”
Renney is just trying to be captain of the ship and it’s not his fault that the personnel on the club have not jelled. This past summer it was general manager Glen Sather who gave the foolish contract to Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival has shown he’s not a $5 million a year player.
And when they signed Scott Gomez and Chris Drury in 2007, it was to have them play with front-line wings like Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan. As we have seen this season, neither can step up with the spotlight shine upon them.
Also, can you blame Renney for Sather signing so many back-end forwards? Dan Fritche was a bust and Aaron Voros has not become Sean Avery, who now may be back in a few weeks. Patrick Rissmiller was so bad that no team wanted him on waivers, although the cost would be minimal.
Frankly, the only reason why the team has a sixth place standing is the play of Henrik Lundqvist, who has been hung out to dry too many times by his defense.
Even the Ranger players don’t want to see their coach fall. “They’re not the ones on the ice,” Drury said of Sather and Renney. “We put the jerseys on. They give us guidelines on what our system is on what the scouring report is on what the game plan is [but] we’ve got to execute it. Clearly, a 5-2 loss at home we’re not executing.”
So you can’t blame Renney, but unfortunately he may not get a chance to turn it around. Although unfair, a coaching change may have to take place, with assistant general manager Jim Schoenfeld possibly taking the bench. A new voice may make the team respond in a positive way. It has worked in the past for a number of clubs, including the Mets last summer when Jerry Manuel took over for Willie Randolph.
It’s unfortunately if Renney does take the fall. He has done a tremendous job with the Rangers over the past three seasons and now – as this space has advocated in the past – deserves to have a chance to turn around the team.
But if Therrien’s firing teaches us anything, it’s that every coach is one step away from the unemployment line.