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.