2006-02-17 / Sports

NY Hockey Report: The Jack Adams Should Go To Renney

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

NEW YORK – So much has been said about the seasons Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist are having. So much so, they have some serious consideration for post-season hardware.

It’s still unknown if Jagr will win the Hart Trophy or Lundqvist will take home the Vezina or Calder. There’s a lot of season left and there are certainly other worthy candidates out there for the awards.

But one Ranger should also be in the race for some recognition; Coach Tom Renney.

After every season, the National Hockey League Broadcasters’ Association hands out the Jack Adams Award to the “NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” Well, look at where the Rangers came from and try and find a more influential bench minder than the Blueshirts leader.

In training camp, New York was picked last by many hockey publications in the country.

Renney had a team with one star in Jagr, who is known to get disinterested easily, a bunch of aging Czechs on the top two lines, American Leaguers on the third and fourth shift, a questionable defense, and a goalie tandem of a journeyman and an untested rookie.

It didn’t look pretty to anyone and could have easily failed.

But unlike past Ranger teams, coach though had a plan. He wasn’t going to be outskated by the opposition and put a system in that played to the strengths of the players he had.

He also picked his coaches, which formed a very formed a very prepared braintrust.

And the results have been outstanding. Jagr has returned to the force he was in Pittsburgh. After last night’s 4-3 win where he scored two goals and an assist, the forward credited Renney for letting him play his game.

Renney found that “valuable lesson” out during his time as the coach of Vancouver. “You have to let your star players and those highly skilled and talented people the latitude to do extraordinary things that make it real tough for the opponent.”

Sure one could argue the Rangers lucked into Lundqvist, who no one expected to be this good, but every coach’s success has a little luck in it. Joe Torre was called “Clueless Joe” when he replaced Buck Showalter, but after taking over a team with a young Derek Jeter and emerging closer Mariano Rivera, the Yankee manager is now entering his second decade leading the Bronx Bombers and will be going to the Hall of Fame when he retires.

With Lundqvist, Renney did have the smarts to pick and choose when and where to play his goalie early in the season. He tried to put the Swede in a position not to fail and as his confidence was gained, the wins were piling up.

Because of the coach’s guidance, the rookie netminder has a good chance to lead his country to a medal in the Olympics and have the Rangers win a few rounds in the playoffs.

But with the Blueshirts on top of the Atlantic Division at 34-15-8 and 9-1-1 on their last 11 games, there are whispers about a possible Stanley Cup run.

Yet that is down the road and there is still so much hockey to be played before the regular season end. With Lindy Ruff and Peter Laviolette also surprising in Buffalo and Carolina respectively, the Jack Adams race will come down to the wire.

But as the season is progressing, it is starting to look like Renney’s race to lose.

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