Dallas Eakins was set up to fail as coach of the Edmonton Oilers and he most certainly did, prompting the Oilers to fire the second-year bench boss 113 games into his tenure with the team this morning.

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Eakins, who had a 36-63-14 record dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season, will be replaced on an interim basis by the man who hired him, GM Craig MacTavish. Todd Nelson, head coach of the AHL Oklahoma City Barons, has been summoned to join the staff.

The move comes on the heels of a 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers at Rexall Place Sunday, a defeat that leaves the Oilers with a 7-19-5 overall record and a mark of 1-11-4 in their last 16 games.

Given the holes on the roster, most notably at centre, lack of depth on the blue line, the inconsistent goaltending the Oilers have suffered so far this season and the flawed make-up of the team, the abysmal record certainly isn’t all Eakins’ fault, but it became his problem with the team about to miss the playoffs for a ninth straight season.

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Eakins, who was initially interviewed as a candidate to be an associate coach to Ralph Krueger, apparently impressed MacTavish so much he was offered the head coaching job while Krueger as dismissed. Eakins received a vote of confidence from Taylor Hall less than two weeks ago.

He has our whole room,” Hall said in an interview with TSN’s Ryan Rishaug. “There’s no doubt about that. I’ve heard stories about what it’s like to play for coaches that just aren’t respected. That’s not the case in Edmonton. We fully respect Dallas and we like having him as our coach.

“He’s got the systems in place. He’s got the right tactics for our team and for our group. Right now, it’s about us going out and playing as well as we can and just doing as well as we can.”

“ . . . Craig and I have talked on a number of occasions and a couple of times I’ve mentioned it’s not Dallas’ fault at all. I think that he’s the guy for our group. He’s the guy to lead us out of this and I made sure that he knew that and that a lot of guys in the room feel the same way.” 

Vote of confidence or not, with seven wins through 31 games and just 19 of a possible 62 points, actions spoke louder than words. This last stretch, 1-11-4, likely isn’t something even an experienced and proven NHL coach, which Eakins clearly was not, could survive. Something had to give.

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Eakins, as is the NHL business, is the fall guy.

While Eakins was far from blameless leading up to his demise – there has been plenty of reasons to question his on-ice tactics, communication and motivational skills and his deployment of personnel – he joins a carousel of coaches, including Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Krueger, who have failed to find success with the rosters they’ve been provided.

The roster Eakins had to work with in large part has been assembled by MacTavish and assistant GM Scott Howson over the past 20 months. Kevin Lowe was GM from 2000 to 2008 before being moved to president of hockey operations.

Save for Steve Tambellini, who took over from Lowe and was fired to make room for MacTavish after his return to the Oilers and the addition of Bob Nicholson as vice-chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group, the names at the top of the decision-making hierarchy remain much the same.

For now.

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  • Jofa

    Gotta wonder what experienced coach would be willing to sign on in Edmonton now, given the track record of coaching changes, the high risk / low chance of success with this group, the lack of support in the form of quaity players, the reputation of this organization and the pressure of coaching in this market. Yeah, it’s a coaching gig in the NHL, and they’re hard to come by, but you have to imagine the next coach is going to explore every other option before signing in Edmonton.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I am quite surprised Nelson is willing to gamble his NHL coaching future on being a scapegoat interim head coach under this dysfunctional management group.

    • papler

      Sometimes it takes the biggest risk, to get the biggest reward.
      Sure he is walking into the gates of hell, but the next winning head coach of the oilers will write his own ticket.

  • vetinari

    I have no doubt that Eakins tried but it was obvious that he was over his head, even last year. This was a mercy fire– plain and simple. And appropriately, MacT should stand behind that bench and see for himself what is going on there and if they close out the year as bad as they started, they he, too, should get a pink slip in April to make way for the new GM/coach combo.

  • tileguy


    Crawford interviewed for the job when Kreuger was hired. Afterwards he said that he was interviewed out of courtesy, it was obvious to him that they didn’t want someone like him (ie a coach with extensive NHL experience).

    The reason none of the people above would ever get the job is that they are 10 times more capable than MacTavish and Lowe, AND MACTAVISH AND LOWE KNOW THAT, AND THEY DON’T WANT TO LOSE THEIR JOBS.

    So Nelson will get a dead cat bounce and the team will win a few more games in “garbage time” like they always do, and he will be the HC next season.

    You see it is NOT about making the team better, it’s about MacTavish and Lowe protecting their asses.

  • bradleypi

    Young top 30 goal scoring forwards experience 25% reduction in perormance under Eakins.

    Goaltenders experience 39% reduction in performance under eakins. Bounce back to career average once away from Eakins.

    Pay the price! Got what he deserved!

    • Yeah he was in the Press room with Oiler’s curtain behind him.Class act Eakins was @ presser.And of course ,he did right by Oil,negating difficulties with “problem child” Taylor Hall,so Oil can trade him for something of value. Get the Hall out of town problem child and
      lose that ego.Hall will be gone,forever and ever ,Amen.

  • Anton CP

    Mike Babcock is coming to town next year.changes will be made to the development department via Babcock and a third party hired by Nicholson.both Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish will be allowed to hold their titles,but I think the decision making will primarily go through Bob and Mike.This will save the boys on the bus face,when the team turns around,and allow them to share in any celebrations they may or may not have.

    In the meantime,I think the goal is still McDavid,and they will allow Nelson a chance to see where he stands vs NHL competition.i also believe that because Babcock and McDavid is their primary goals,that it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see a big name leave town before or at the draft.this way Connor and Mike come in as new and fresh faces,with enough time to heal the old poisonous wounds,before the team morphs into a butterfly and leaves Krusty old Rexall,flies over to shiny new Rogers,and begins their quest to win The Cup once again.

    • Andy7190

      Prediction – Mike Babcock never coaches in Edmonton as the Home Team Coach.

      Unless somehow an international tournament is held in Edmonton. That would be the only way.

        • Andy7190

          Well, I don’t think Edmonton the City has anything to worry about vs Detroit the City.

          From a hockey perspective though, the ownership has not shown any inclination towards taking steps to winning.

          Everyone except coaches keeps their jobs all the time. Too many old cronies kicking around there with visions of glory days.

          Katz has to somehow come to grips with this perception. Because it isn’t just perception.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I wrote on this site today at 6:12 am suggesting that the Oilers bring in Todd Nelson as an interim coach and was soundly trashed 12 to 3.

    Just saying.

    I find MacT’s defence of Eakins was way over the top compared to the scant praise he gave Kreuger who did a better job than Eakins.

    Eakins was going to bring in more accountability and more performance based coaching but he most certainly did not. I am still wondering why MacT liked Eakins so much.

    • outdoor rink

      Eakins should NOT have been fired.Katz has to end his bum-buddy relationship with K-Low and fire him.Mac-T took half the blame and K-Low deserves the rest.Bringing Nelson in because he has coached the kids with success previously,last time I looked that was in the minors.Any NHL caliber player excels in the minors usually.In the lockout season a handful of Oiler’s were allowed to play in the minors and they did burn up the score sheet,but if they had not done so would have either still been down there,or playing in Siberia.

  • Oilfaninvan

    TRASH: the core group as currently constructed can with a new structure, be successful.

    CHEERS: some pieces of the identified core must go. They are not as good as once thought.

  • Gilmore Tuttle

    Eakins didn’t pay the price. Eakins sucked as a coach, no excuses are necessary.

    He’s been the worse coach in the league since he came in it. The roster is no excuses-other coaches have done better than worse.

    The Oilers won’t improve because Eakins is gone, so there is no need to write another article in the near future saying how Eakins wasn’t to blame. The Oilers won’t improve because the Oilers plan is not to improve, they need to stay the course and draft another superstar. No free agents want to sign here and they never have-so the new plan has been to draft as many as possible and they are sticking with it.

    The fans need to smarten up and stop complaining, realize and except that they are tanking on purpose.

  • Chris.

    Pierre Percicion wrote:

    The fans need to smarten up and stop complaining, realize and except that they are tanking on purpose.

    It does not matter if they are tanking “on purpose”. After so many years I am tired of all the tanking… Why can’t they ever win “on purpose”?

  • Babcock or Quenneville would have failed with this roster. Schultz and Ferrence as #1/2 pairing + an 18-year-old 2C will get any coach fired.

    What can Eakins do with an NHL roster? We still don’t know.