KEITH ACTON: CONNECTING THE DOTS

Robin Brownlee
June 09 2013 07:41PM

I don't expect it'll take long for the Edmonton Oilers to unveil Dallas Eakins as the replacement for Ralph Krueger as head coach – it's a formality that could be dispensed with as early as Monday -- and I'm guessing we won’t have to wait long to get a glimpse of the coaching staff Eakins settles on.

While it stands to reason long-time NHL head coach Paul Maurice will be on the short list for what I expect to be an associate position under Eakins, seeing as GM Craig MacTavish already interviewed him, Maurice isn't the only name that makes sense.

The Eakins-Maurice connection, of course, is the two seasons they spent together with the Toronto Maple Leafs, when Maurice was the head man and Eakins was one of his assistants. I went as far yesterday to say I'd be stunned if Maurice wasn't the guy Eakins names to his staff. Seems obvious, personal connections being as important as they are in most walks of life.

I'm wondering, though, if Eakins might surprise everybody and if history and personal connections – not only with Eakins and MacTavish but with the city of Edmonton -- might see another former Oiler named associate coach when the smoke clears. What about Keith Acton?

IT'S WHO YOU KNOW

Acton, who spent 15 seasons in the NHL as a player and has another 16 years as an NHL assistant coach on his resume, has way too many connections with Eakins, MacTavish and Edmonton to ignore or dismiss as a candidate.

Acton, who joined the staff of the Columbus Blue Jackets last June, was an assistant alongside Eakins under Maurice in Toronto. He was also an assistant coach with MacTavish and Charlie Huddy under John Muckler in New York with the Rangers. Acton also won a Stanley Cup here with the Oilers in 1988 as a teammate of MacTavish and Kevin Lowe.

It's difficult to ignore all that history, but equally important, Acton is seen as the experienced technical coach the Oilers lack right now, the kind of coach who can work a power play, who is strong with the Xs and Os. He's a fit.

While I can't imagine Acton signed on with Columbus for just one year, I also can't imagine he wouldn't have an out-clause in his contract allowing him to move to another organization for a promotion. I'd think moving from assistant coach to associate coach would qualify.

Stay tuned. We'll know soon enough.

ONE LAST THING . . .

My expectation is incumbent assistant coaches Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger will be retained.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 MarcusBillius
June 09 2013, 07:49PM
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How about Maurice as associate and Acton as assistant? Hell, I'll take Barry Melrose over Smith and Bucky. Anything to cut down on the old boys club.

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#2 Benhur47
June 09 2013, 07:54PM
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I'm surprised you think Bucky and Steve will keep there coaching positions. I don't see their results as anything positive. Also a new coach usually brings in his own people. I kind of like the thought of Eakens bringing Todd Nelson in as an associate coach. He has an excellent record and history with lots of Oilers players. Maybe Bucky &/or Steve go to OKC? What do you think?

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#3 Racki
June 09 2013, 07:59PM
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I don't see it happening, but it would be one heck of a bold move and show MacT meant business if he scrapped the coaching club and let Eakins bring in whomever he wanted to.

I don't know if Smith and Buchy are that bad of assistants, I just know Buchy has survived some pretty awful years, and Smith a few, himself. I would think the less constants over those years that we keep here, the better. However, Smith and Buchy might be of the right philosophy (to steal MacT's words) as both MacT and Eakins. I'd imagine that Eakins will be heavily convinced (or forced) to give it a go with those two and see how it goes, for at least a year.

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#4 Dave #2
June 09 2013, 08:00PM
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I think Daryl Katz made the decision and MacT did the dirty deed. I have no evidence, just a hunch.

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#5 Jimmer
June 09 2013, 08:06PM
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New coaching staff and a new leadership group (with Hall as the captain) is just what the doctor ordered.

Make it happen MacT!

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#6 madjam
June 09 2013, 08:11PM
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You could be right about Acton if it's Eakins -good choice .

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#7 Sliderule
June 09 2013, 08:14PM
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If Bucky and Smith are still here we will know that the master puppeteer is still got his hands on the strings from high above.

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#8 madjam
June 09 2013, 08:15PM
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Any talk about bringing back Maynard I believe his name was -the hex man from glory days ?

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#9 mlcsellil
June 09 2013, 08:19PM
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I believe Mac T will give his new coach all the privileges that head coaches are given where it pertains to hiring his own staff. One of the reasons i think this, is that if Eakins is his man, MacT knows a few other teams were interested in him enough to interview him, and MacT was the one chosen. I don't think there will be any arm twisting to persuade Eakins to settle for the old crop. Another reason I think all privileges are granted to the new coach, is that MacT has been emphatic about bold changes that will guide the team in the right direction. Tambo didn't give Kruger anything in the way of help behind the bench or on the ice, I have total trust that we will witness a GM doing right by the coaches, team, organization and fans. My hope is that it gets decided that Bucky and Smith have done their tour of duty with the Oil.

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#10 Muji
June 09 2013, 08:20PM
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Don't get me wrong, I like the bold moves. It's a breathe of fresh air. But should we be excited that we're poaching coaches/management from "powerhouse" NHL organizations like Toronto, Columbus, etc.?

Yay?

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#11 Racki
June 09 2013, 08:23PM
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Dave #2 wrote:

I think Daryl Katz made the decision and MacT did the dirty deed. I have no evidence, just a hunch.

I think this conspiracy theory may have held water at times in the past (it was feasible to think that from time to time under Tambellini's reign), but now the stuff about Lowe or Katz deciding everything is really non-sense to me.

MacT took full ownership of this. He said he looked around for an associate coach to work with Krueger and decided he was trying to fit Krueger's needs too much and the guys he was interested in weren't really the guys that were Krueger's "style", so to speak. MacT stated that he and Krueger had philosophical differences on coaching. So really, I think the case was, Krueger was Tambi's hiring, and if MacT was GM back then, I don't think he would have hired Krueger (at least if he knew what his coaching style would be like).

This isn't someone pulling MacT's puppet strings.. this was all MacT's decision. I liked Krueger, but I also really like MacT, and I may be drinking the kool-aid, but I'm trusting in the plan he's laying out. Krueger didn't fit in with that plan because of his lack of tactical coaching skills.

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#13 G Money
June 09 2013, 08:29PM
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Interesting speculation.

I assume that's what this is - informed and interesting speculation, as opposed to 'I got a source who says...'

I think Eakins needs to turn over the assistants, and get in the guys he knows and trusts. Anyone who's worked on a management team knows that trust in your colleagues is fundamental to corporate (in this case team) success.

I think RK was trapped a little bit - he probably should have brought more/better coaching knowledge and experience on board when he joined, but probably found it difficult to throw away his former colleagues, not to mention card-carrying Old Boys Club members.

Eakins doesn't have that baggage, and I think he'd be foolish not to exercise the freedom to pick new assistants that MacT has already stated is part of the package.

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#15 Craig
June 09 2013, 08:39PM
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@Robin Brownlee

And that is why the Edmonton Oilers are the laughing stock of the league. I don't understand why the process has to be dragged out even longer, everybody in this city knows there useless why don't they see it...

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#16 Josh Oiler
June 09 2013, 09:26PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Time to get past the Kevin Lowe cliches, as handy as they are.

Lowe has input into hockey decisions. This is not a news bulletin. He has a relationship with Buchberger. Same.

So does MacTavish and Daryl Katz. Have you considered that MacT and Katz have a say in this? Saying Lowe is sitting in the shadows calling the shots had more weight during Tambellini's tenure, but has far less now. MacT isn't anybody's puppet.

With all due respect Mr. Brownlee but Mr Hermit Daryl Katz is quite a master puppeteer.. Major decisions go through him as well as his input is taken with extreme regard.

Don't forget Katz is a huge hockey fan like everyone here and I'm sure doesn't sit by the wayside during major decision-making.

As much as I love this bold decision. And love MacTavish making them... And as rough and tumble as ppl think he is.. But he has a hand up his a$$ helping him through.

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#17 Mikey
June 09 2013, 09:44PM
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Josh Oiler wrote:

With all due respect Mr. Brownlee but Mr Hermit Daryl Katz is quite a master puppeteer.. Major decisions go through him as well as his input is taken with extreme regard.

Don't forget Katz is a huge hockey fan like everyone here and I'm sure doesn't sit by the wayside during major decision-making.

As much as I love this bold decision. And love MacTavish making them... And as rough and tumble as ppl think he is.. But he has a hand up his a$$ helping him through.

Sounds like some one is a super sneaky spy.

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#18 Hisam Saleh
June 09 2013, 09:46PM
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According to a super reliable inside source:

Ralph Kreuger was offered a demotion, back to Associate Coach but turned it down. Said after spending a season as top coach couldn't see himself relegated back to AC?

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#19 philsner
June 09 2013, 09:51PM
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Josh Oiler wrote:

With all due respect Mr. Brownlee but Mr Hermit Daryl Katz is quite a master puppeteer.. Major decisions go through him as well as his input is taken with extreme regard.

Don't forget Katz is a huge hockey fan like everyone here and I'm sure doesn't sit by the wayside during major decision-making.

As much as I love this bold decision. And love MacTavish making them... And as rough and tumble as ppl think he is.. But he has a hand up his a$$ helping him through.

And the conspiracy theorists rear their ugly head yet again...

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#20 book¡e
June 09 2013, 10:04PM
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Paul Maurice had a terrible record as a coach - not sure if he brings good things to the position or not.

I don't like the Oilers retaining the same assistants. If you are going to change things up, then do it. Ralph Kruger basically said that they were not effective coaches because they came into the position with the Oilers without having much of a coaching background.

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#21 Oil99
June 09 2013, 10:07PM
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It doesn't make any sense if oilers still keep Bucky and Smith . What's the point to keep changing your head coach every year when you know oilers' weak point are their assistance coaches with no experience .... Oilers still want to keep them???? They survived 3 coaches how the hill they gonna survive 4th coach???? It is mind boggling why there is so much love for Bucky and smith from oilers' management ?????

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#22 crobar
June 09 2013, 10:15PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Time to get past the Kevin Lowe cliches, as handy as they are.

Lowe has input into hockey decisions. This is not a news bulletin. He has a relationship with Buchberger. Same.

So does MacTavish and Daryl Katz. Have you considered that MacT and Katz have a say in this? Saying Lowe is sitting in the shadows calling the shots had more weight during Tambellini's tenure, but has far less now. MacT isn't anybody's puppet.

totally agree with robin. mact and lowe are generally cut from the same cloth. this will be the difference in that lowe's advice to tamby may have been heeded much more then than with mact. i think mact's attitude is "i don't really need kevin's opinion, cause its probably the same as mine, and if it's not, too bad."

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#23 Mikey
June 09 2013, 10:23PM
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Oil99 wrote:

It doesn't make any sense if oilers still keep Bucky and Smith . What's the point to keep changing your head coach every year when you know oilers' weak point are their assistance coaches with no experience .... Oilers still want to keep them???? They survived 3 coaches how the hill they gonna survive 4th coach???? It is mind boggling why there is so much love for Bucky and smith from oilers' management ?????

Pretty sure buckey has been an assistance coach in some sort of capacity since 2004. Smith since 2010. They have experience.

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#24 Hisam Saleh
June 09 2013, 10:30PM
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In 1997 I had a restaurant on 34 ave in the Southside that sold hamburgers. One if the burgers we sold was the "Buch-Burger" named after Kelly Buchberger. It sold well at first. Fresh veggies, marble cheese, mushrooms and medium rare ground beef patty.

When Buchberger retired so did we retire the "Buch-Burger".

Maybe it's time to retire Kelly Buchberger for good once and for all from a coaching perspective. Just like a good hamburger special.. Some things just have to come to an end!

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#25 GVBlackhawk
June 09 2013, 10:34PM
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book¡e wrote:

Paul Maurice had a terrible record as a coach - not sure if he brings good things to the position or not.

I don't like the Oilers retaining the same assistants. If you are going to change things up, then do it. Ralph Kruger basically said that they were not effective coaches because they came into the position with the Oilers without having much of a coaching background.

I would be very surprised if Eakins retains Smith and Buchberger. He will want his own coaching staff and MacT has given him full autonomy to do so.

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#26 Josh Oiler
June 09 2013, 10:47PM
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Hisam Saleh wrote:

In 1997 I had a restaurant on 34 ave in the Southside that sold hamburgers. One if the burgers we sold was the "Buch-Burger" named after Kelly Buchberger. It sold well at first. Fresh veggies, marble cheese, mushrooms and medium rare ground beef patty.

When Buchberger retired so did we retire the "Buch-Burger".

Maybe it's time to retire Kelly Buchberger for good once and for all from a coaching perspective. Just like a good hamburger special.. Some things just have to come to an end!

I remember that joint off 99st. Great food. The "Buch-Burger" was a classic. The meat was always a little raw just like his hockey skills.

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#27 Oilers4ever
June 09 2013, 11:34PM
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Bucky is a good guy but he's been here through too many coaching changes so I don't see how he stays. Smith on the other hand (and correct me if I am wrong here) was coaching the penalty kill team which hugely improved this year and with the young swedish defence man (sorry, name escaping me right now, its latE.. :) ) expected to make the team, I think it would be good to retain Smith for one more year... Aside from that, I think Maurice and Acton would be good fits. I am sure we'll know all this by the end of this week.

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#28 DieHard
June 10 2013, 12:00AM
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Any of you experts of "assistant hockey coaches" know what an assistant hockey coach is suppose to do? Please explain your vast knowledge of this. Yes, I do believe the assistant coach of LA's should be let go for losing to Chicago. That's a fact. Idiots.

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#29 BleedingOil
June 10 2013, 05:07AM
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Mikey wrote:

Pretty sure buckey has been an assistance coach in some sort of capacity since 2004. Smith since 2010. They have experience.

experience at losing.

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#30 MarcusBillius
June 10 2013, 05:52AM
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philsner wrote:

And the conspiracy theorists rear their ugly head yet again...

It's all fun and conspiracy theories, and then one day, bam! The NSA has been reading every email and text message you've ever sent, and has every password, credit card number and bit of information that exists about you.

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#31 MMAX
June 10 2013, 06:07AM
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Dave #2 wrote:

I think Daryl Katz made the decision and MacT did the dirty deed. I have no evidence, just a hunch.

If it was Katz (which I don't believe it was), then maybe he should have sh*tcanned Lowe as well.

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#32 oilabroad
June 10 2013, 07:26AM
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I will be furious if they don't can bucky and smith... how can you justify 4 coaches in 5 years with those 2 clowns svoiding the axe every time?? if mact is being true to his word, he gives Eakins the rope to bring in his own guys. Nepostism isnt bold...

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#35 The Soup Fascist
June 10 2013, 08:17AM
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I think it is generally common practice and a necessity that head coaches pick their staff. If the Oilers were to saddle a new head coach with guys he does not want, a disaster is likely around the corner.

Having said that, the fact Brownlee and Stauffer among others are saying Smith and Bucky will be retained, leads me to believe that is in fact the case.

My hope is Eakins wanted (agreed to?) this situation to have some continuity on the bench and get some insights from coaches familiar with the players. Not sure I am buying that, but that is the only way it would be acceptable, IMO.

If it is to protect the interests of two guys who have been loyal to the organization, we are starting off on the wrong foot.

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#36 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
June 10 2013, 08:35AM
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MarcusBillius wrote:

It's all fun and conspiracy theories, and then one day, bam! The NSA has been reading every email and text message you've ever sent, and has every password, credit card number and bit of information that exists about you.

Do you own a bunker?

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#37 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
June 10 2013, 08:52AM
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Because I have NO idea who would be the best assistant coaches, what I like is what we can actually SEE in the situation.....MacT could have played it safe and picked an Alain Viineault type, but he didn't.....leads me to believe he knows things we don't know....and I for one definitely want a GM who knows things we don't know.........Trust me......Scotty Bowman knew sh!t we didn't know....and he still does....

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#38 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
June 10 2013, 09:02AM
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MarcusBillius wrote:

It's all fun and conspiracy theories, and then one day, bam! The NSA has been reading every email and text message you've ever sent, and has every password, credit card number and bit of information that exists about you.

So your saying that the NSA now knows that I have a large pe......package?

Oh crap........I just said NSA and package in the same electronic post.....have only minutes to shut down, burn my files and go black......peace out....

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#39 thebiggestmanintheworld
June 10 2013, 09:03AM
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I won't get into whether I think it was the right or wrong choice to fire Kruger.

I will get into how it chaps me that we keep looking like incompetant boobs every time we do something.

At least they didn't let Lowe do the press conference.....

the Oiler way....

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#40 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
June 10 2013, 09:07AM
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MB's right! That was fun.....

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#41 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
June 10 2013, 09:11AM
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thebiggestmanintheworld wrote:

I won't get into whether I think it was the right or wrong choice to fire Kruger.

I will get into how it chaps me that we keep looking like incompetant boobs every time we do something.

At least they didn't let Lowe do the press conference.....

the Oiler way....

I had to think about it for a minute....but then it came to me.....you're literally thebiggestmanintheworld.....it's no wonder you're so concerned about appearances....

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#42 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
June 10 2013, 09:28AM
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Seriously though......I post the terms NSA and package ............and THE VERY NEXT POST.......is from a menacing looking machine ....claiming to be thebiggestmanintheworld.......coincidence??.......I don't think so!

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#43 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
June 10 2013, 09:29AM
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What? You don't believe the NSA has killer robots?!

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#44 madjam
June 10 2013, 09:30AM
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Eakins may very well retain Bucky and Smith for reasons of player familiarity , etc.. King and Acton probably will take over the Marlies and hope to land head coaching jobs themselves , as Eakins route did . The players this way only have to adapt to a new head coach and his philosophy . This way not a big adjustment for players . Eakins may change them at a later date , but I doubt that time is now .

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#45 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
June 10 2013, 09:32AM
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Now back to your regularly scheduled programming......So, is it pronounced....E kins........or.....A kins...?

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#46 bdiddy18
June 10 2013, 09:34AM
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I hope Mac T stays traditional..

President apoints GM and gets out of the way

GM appoints Head Coach and gets out of the way

Head Coach assembles his own coaching staff as he sees fit.

if Eakins is the real deal as advertised - he doesn't allow the GM or anyone else assemble the guys he is suppose to work with.

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#47 madjam
June 10 2013, 09:47AM
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WHY ANOTHER NEW COACH - RESULTS ! It's a results industry and past 3 coaches did not perform admirably in that regard despite the personnel they had to deal with . Despite how one feels about them ,they all underachieved in management and many fans eyes . Another coach and another philosophy might be just what clubs needs to take us to next level and positive results .

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#48 Smokey
June 10 2013, 09:49AM
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Brownlee, any rumblings on a change to the amateur scouting or pro scouting. Chances are so close to the draft, probably not, but you gotta wonder if MacT will continue to overhaul his network. Neither amateur or professional scouting has been something to write mother about.

Secondly this morning on the Mandate, Richaug comments that MacT used up his freebie with Kreuger. He made some good points about it, however I don't buy he needs a freebie considering a job with the Oil is like a job for life. Had he been with another organization as GM, do you think he would handled Kreuger so poorly, and used up his one freebie?

Also, can you shed any light on how assistants are hired, and why was Kreuger in the Alps and allowing MacT to conduct interviews on assistant coaches. I may be reading in, but does this not show a micro-management style for MacT at the outset, and spells problems down the line. I am for one extremely curious is Bucky and Smith survive the coaches cuts, because that's going to be a telling sign of how MacT does business.

You wonder what advantage their was for Eakins had to come to Edmonton over NY, Vancouver, Dallas, Etc. You wonder if it boils down to MacT just getting his ducks in a row and hiring before some of the other teams did their due diligence.

Lastly in regards to due diligence, how many coaches were interviewed, Eakins, Maurice, Bowness? Was there more? I'm concerned that MacT is a guy who may appear to make fast decisions without due diligence. If you were hiring a assistant and decided to then hire a head coach instead, and you did not go through a proper coaching search because your criteria changed, this shows me inexperience. We may of got antithesis of Tambo, but having a fast acting, don't do due diligence, micro managing dynamic that MacT possesses. To me I see over-confidence and some arrogance born out of inexperience.

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#49 Racki
June 10 2013, 09:59AM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming......So, is it pronounced....E kins........or.....A kins...?

A Kins (trying to train my brain to properly say it this way)

@Smokey

The Oilers are supposed to be having a meeting with pro scouts this Wednesday (per Stauffer, I believe), so that might mean some changes afterwards. I'd guess that there won't be any amateur scouting changes (at least anything significant) though.

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#50 mlcsellil
June 10 2013, 10:06AM
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I can't imagine MacT trying to encourage the new coach to be handcuffed to Bucky and Smith.

MacT originally interviewed Eakins for the position of an AC, while other teams were interviewing him for the Head Coach. Whatever was said in the room, MacT realized he needed Eakins to be the bench boss, and it seem that we were the team fortunate enough to get him here.

I'm sure the other teams would have offered Eakins full discretion to hire his own staff behind the bench. It makes no sense to me, that Eakins would take a job here knowing he would be limited in his choices before he even gets in the door.

MacT doesn't strike me as that type of control freak.

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