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?


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.


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.

  • McDavid's Comet

    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.

  • McDavid's Comet

    Robin, I don’t want this question to sound snarky, so please don’t take it that way.

    If Keith Acton ends up being one of the assistants, how does he not get slapped with the “Boys-on-the-Bus” or “Old Boys Club” label or whatever-you-were-calling-it the other day?

    I mean, Acton obviously wasn’t around Edmonton as long as many of the others … but … he was definitely here in the Glory Days, if only for a year or so.

    Will he avoid having the label slapped on him if things go sideways?

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      Fair question. My take is straightforward — a coaching/scouting/etc candidate shouldn’t be hired or disregarded just because he’s a former Oiler.

      Qualifications matter most. Acton is qualified.

  • Bonvie

    I think Eakins Is a great choice for a head coach but I really like Todd Nelson of OKC. I would think if he’s not brought in at least as an assistant, the Oilers will lose a great guy from the organization.

    Seeing Krueger fired was a huge relief for me, didn’t like him from day one but about half way through the season I had to turn the channel when an interview would come on. He pulled the wool over a lot of eyes I think Renny accomplished similar results with a heck of a lot less, more injuries, younger less experienced lineup, mor holes in his roster.

  • Bonvie

    I love the hiring of Eakins but would probably rather see Bucky let go because he has survived numerous head coaches and always seems immune to any blame. I don’t mind Smith, he was given crap to work with on D and I think that he’s done a nice job with guys like Petry and Smid.

    I would rather Acton than Maurice. Although Maurice and Eakins have worked together in the past, I don’t like the idea of having a head coach as an associate coach. I remember in that interview Gregor did with Eakins a year ago how Eakins said he likes to be in control and run the team his way. I don’t think having a former head coach who has achieved a reasonable level of success in the head role as your associate coach would allow Eakins to do that.