The Coach

On virtually any other NHL team, Dallas Eakins would be out of a job right now. A 4-14-2 start is a fireable offence for most NHL teams, but here Eakins has a protective barrier formed by the ghosts of Criag MacTavish and Pat Quinn and Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger.

The Path Forward

It isn’t too early to think about firing the coach. It’s just too early to actually fire the coach. Edmonton has fired coaches so many times without results (on that note, wouldn’t it be nice to go back two years and let Tom Renney keep coaching the team?) and it’s time to go a different route.

This is one of the things Craig MacTavish is here for. In previous years, Steve Tambellini proved remarkably unwilling to address simple team needs (such as fourth line centre). MacTavish is already one up on Tambellini because he’s been willing to try plugging in minor leaguers (recall Mark Arcobello rotting on the farm while Chris VandeVelde and Ryan Smyth failed as fourth line centres) but that’s not enough.

It’s trade time. And not a ‘move Ladislav Smid for futures’ trade. A trade that actually brings in NHL talent. Maybe it’s a defenceman who can play in the top-three. Maybe it’s a big forward who can play in the top-six. Maybe it’s a good third-line wing so that Boyd Gordon doesn’t have to drag around Jesse Joensuu and Ryan Jones. I don’t know what’s out there, or how much what’s out there costs to acquire; I do know that this team isn’t getting the job done and Dallas Eakins seems like he’s out of answers.

Normally, when the coach is out of answers the coach pays the price. In this case, so many other coaches have been out of answers that it’s time to try giving the man behind the bench some different pieces.

Lousy NHL Debuts

Some very good coaches have had some very bad starts to their careers, generally because opportunity arises with bad (or expansion) teams. Here’s a brief list of some very good coaches who started out on the wrong foot:

  • Scotty Bowman: 4-13-2 with St. Louis
  • Dick Irvin: 2-6-4 with Chicago
  • Ron Wilson: 4-13-2 with Anaheim
  • Lindy Ruff: 5-10-4 with Buffalo
  • Ken Hitchcock: 10-18-8 with Dallas

Naturally, I’m not saying ‘oh man, Dallas Eakins is Scotty Bowman!’ That would be crazy. What I am saying is that it’s possible that the Oilers will end up benefiting from their (essentially) forced patience with Eakins. Of course, it’s just as possible that 20 games from now nothing has changed and Eakins is out the door, but it’s at least plausible that the coach can right the ship.

So, About That Trade…

It has to be coming, and it has to be meaningful.

  • One coaching move I am curious about is why we haven’t seen Hall, RNH and Eberle together more frequently and for an extended period of time. Putting that line together has pulled this team out of the fire in the past. This should be an especially obvious move given the number of goose eggs this team has laid over the past few weeks.

  • There will be no major moves for a defenseman because the plan all along was to wait for Klefbom and Nurse. Add Ekblad (possibly) to that list now.

    I hope we stand a chance at getting Kulemin or Steve Ott in the offseason, but I won’t hold my breath.

    • D-Unit

      Sadly, that’s the only thing that brings me some satisfaction at this point. Dreaming of a future Oiler blueline of J Schultz, Klefbom, Nurse…and Ekblad.

        • outdoorzguy

          I’ve seen him play forward! Actually, Mike Green was the same way. The offence was always there but the defence took years to come around. The payoff was very good.

          • DoubleDIon

            Except, you know that Mike Green actually put up enough offense to make up for his still “better-than-Schultz” defense right? He was the leading goal scorer and point getter in the entire NHL before the injuries hampered him. Schultz is an above average offensive guy, certainly not elite like Green at the same age. By Schultz’s age he already had a 30 goal season and back to back 70+ point seasons. He was also way more physical than Schultz. Btw, he missed games in both the 73 and 76 point seasons and was over a PPG player in both. He was also a +63 combined in those seasons where he was Schultz’s age. Kind of a silly comparison.

  • JW all those coaches were already successful at some point in there careers before they had bad starts.
    Eakins has no sample size.

    I don’t care how many coaches have been through here!!

    Eakins cannot be allowed to continue this gong show!!

    Two 5-3 and he never put Yakupov on one! The guy is holding a grudge, how do you not put the purest shooter on a 5-3??

    It cost the Oilers the game!!!

    He hasn’t done very much right since he got the job.

    Allowing this to continue is going to cost MacTavish and Lowe their jobs, in the interest of self-preservation I would fire Eakins after the San Jose game in which the Oilers get throttled 6-1, if MacTavish has any kind of foresight

  • Too many coaches have been turfed. Even if Eakins does a few things that I disagree with, he isn’t the problem. In fact, changing coaches every year likely IS one of the major problems. So if I’m the Oilers then I’m sticking with Eakins.

    What I WOULD do is fire Bucky and Smith then give Eakins Carte Blanche to hire the staff he needs to be successful. These ex Oilers have survived a couple coaching changes. It’s ridiculous.

    • Spydyr

      Just HOW do you know that Eakins is not the problem?? By any basic metric one can see that every part of our team has regressed under Eakins.

      Not one player has improved under Eakins……not one. Just because we are all fatigued with coaching changes does not mean we hired the right guy………..just maybe we had the right guy all along in Krueger and hiring Eakins was a bad mistake?

      Keep an open mind.

    • Spydyr

      So following your logic if you have three flat tires in a row and the fourth goes flat. You will continue to drive around on the fourth flat tire?

      It does not matter how many coaches have been fired in the past. If your coach goes “flat” you replace him.

      Eakin’s has a Nail and is almost out of air.

    • You honestly believe Eakins has full authority in decision making?

      Then explain why players such as Gagner – Schultz – Hall – Eberle – have not sat one minute, even benched a period?

      Ether Eakins is talking out his ass about accountability or he was told to keep playing certain players.

      Not to mention his systems have failed both offensively and defensively, poor player decisions, poor PK, poor PP, poor goalie decisions, he was actually bullied into letting his backup goalie return to the net.

      His shot differential is league worse, his goal for and goals against are the worst.
      THIS IS the worst Oiler team ever!!!! That says a lot when Pat Flippen Quinn is a better coach!!!!!

      What actually qualifies this guy as a good coach? What qualifies him as a coach that should stay? Has he earned the right to stay!

      MacTavish made a poor decision, it’s that easy, that simple.

      It is the coach, keeping him in doesn’t make the team better!!

      • 2004Z06

        So how many games do you give the next coach? The one after that?

        The carousel needs to stop sometime! I would wager that this coach is going to get a fair bit of rope and players that are “un-coachable” will be moved instead.

        • The idea that it’s going to get better under Eakins is just terrible foresight, this record is compiled under playing mostly Eastern based teams, there schedule is going to be mostly the tougher western conference from here on out.

          Do you have any idea how badly they have been out played against the west teams? 10-1 goal ratio, 107 + shots to 50 or so in THREE games!!

          So you want to keep a coach in that can’t clearly coach at this level? But you’re willing to move Eberle -Hall – Yakupov – Schultz – Gagner – Jones – because they became un-coachable under Eakins??

          You can’t trade half the team and your only stars.

          This is the worst Oiler team ever…….EVER!! thats a ringing endorcment of the coach, not the players.

          • Bleak Winter

            It’s probably not going to get better under Eakins, but it’s not going to get better under any of the stop-gaps we could replace him with either. That’s what we’re limited to now. Stop-gaps.

            Who is your ideal coach to right the ship? Now explain how does that guy even want this job? We aren’t in a position to hire a saviour-level coach here. We fire Eakins and I guarantee you that we get either Buchberger or Smith as interim head coach. Do you want that? Absolutely best case scenario MacT steps back in. Todd Nelson would be smarter to stay in Oklahoma and wait for a real NHL team to poach him.

            The guy who would take this job now is likely not a guy who is capable of leading us out of this on his own. Anybody who is good enough has much better options for their career.

          • Good points.

            I can’t honestly know what Katz is thinking, I admit it would be pure speculation I think I can break it down a bit, fired the coaches, didn’t work, fired the GM, didn’t work, haven’t fired the POHO or his buddies….

            Personally I don’t think anybody survives the next purge.

            Your right MacTavish going back behind the bench won’t work, nor would Smith or Bucky.

            I said 3 years ago that Brent Sutter should have been here to mould those kids, his record working with kids is undeniable.

            The whole thing needs to come down, and your right, just changing the coach won’t help in the short term, but is that fair to the fans, the coach and the team?

            We haven’t even played the top western conference teams yet, just middle soft Eastern teams.

            The Oilers haven’t even begun to lose yet! We as fans are in for a whole new version of suck.

  • vetinari

    It seems that if it wasn’t for us burning through as many coaches as what we did the last few years, Eakins would have been fired by now.

    If there was a coach that we should have been more patient with, it likely was Renney because he came with actual NHL experience.

    The alternative would have been to at least give Krueger a full training camp and this season (because the team did move up the standings and show improvement under him) with Eakins as his associate coach.

    MacT made this move to “take the team to the next level” and to bring the team under a coach with a philosophy closer to his own. MacT has to own this decision and if I was him, if the team doesn’t play close to .500 hockey between now and new year’s with the addition of Bryzgalov, mercifully let Eakins go and step behind the bench for the balance of the season.

    How can you say that anyone is learning in this environment? In fact, morale has never been lower, and the only option to trading 23 players is to fire the coaches, and while you are at it, include the assistants and the president of hockey operations.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      Except it won’t be what needs to change. The management is the biggest problem and the only facet of the club that is untouchable. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

  • DoubleJ

    Just wondering … if they would go so far as to fire the coach, would any one WANT to coach this team? A few years ago, at the start of this “rebuild” seemingly everyone wanted the Oiler coach gig. I am not so sure that it is still the dream job.

    • D-Unit

      I agree. Only going to have Rookie NHL coaches trying to get a shot in the big to coach this “team”. Maybe a coach who has been out of the league for a while would. Sign a 3 year deal, coach part of one and collect cheques for the rest of the contact. The Oilers are definitely not a stepping stone to a full-time NHL head coaching job at this point.

  • DoubleJ

    With a rather pathetic defence (underspending) and goalies that have to many off nights , along with a diminutive forward group that lacks physicality , one can hardly lay fault with the coach to much degree . MacT. , like Tams , needs to give the coach more viable NHL talents to work with -not more low grade ones or AHL fillins . Our team is a reflection of what MacT. has not done to change our fortunes . I suppose Lowe is responsible as any for that as well .

  • outdoorzguy

    Oct 7, 2017 Edmonton

    After construction delays and political wrangling, Edmonton’s new arena, The Rexall Repository was officially opened a year behind schedule by Katz Group Executive Vice President of Operations and former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel. Mandel dropped the puck as the Oiler opened up another NHL season by the dropping the ceremonial puck at the start of the game with the visiting Los Angeles Kings. Despite another sell out crowd, the 410th in a row, the Oilers dropped a 4-2 decision to the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings who had played the night before in Vancouver. Former Oiler Nail Yakupov, who led the league in scoring last year, picked up right where he left off last year, scoring two goals and setting up a third. The home town Oilers’ goals were scored by David McConnor and local product Tyler Benson. Goalie Laurent Brossoit made 48 saves on the night for the Oilers.
    After the game, head coach Shawn Horcoff was joined by his assistant coaches Kelly Buchburger and Steve Smith to give their assessment of the game. Horcoff stated that despite having so many young players in the lineup and first overall draft picks, he “felt there was a good blend of old and new”, and it would take a bit more time for this group to “gel together”.
    Later, Oiler General Manager Bob Stauffer joined his coaching staff and was asked about the team’s rebuilding under his leadership. He commented that he was “only starting the second year of his vision for the team and it may take four or five more years to get things where he would like them to be”. Stauffer also says “despite the best efforts of previous GM’s, it would not be a continuation of the previous rebuilds which occurred over the last nine years”, but a new, focussed vision. He encouraged fans to continue to support the team by filling the new arena and looking to the future with anticipation as the team still was looking for a puck moving defenceman and top three center. Despite the opening night hoopla, team owner Daryl Katz was not in the building and was not available for comment as has been the case since 2008.

  • DSF

    Jon, I’m not so sure the Oilers will do much of anything.

    The more I think about the Smid trade, the more convinced I become that it was merely a move to pare $3.5M from the payroll…dollars that go right to the bottom line.

    If so, I would imagine that was a Katz mandated move once he saw that there was zero chance of getting any playoff revenue.

    If there are any further moves made, I would expect they will be in the same vein…likely moving Hemsky and Nick Schultz (if they can be moved) for prospects or picks.

  • DSF

    Eakins’s Corsi and Fenwick closed ticked below Krueger’s last night, even with a mostly eastly conference schedule.

    Against five common opponents (out of six), Eakins Corsi close is 30-something-percent.

    By looking at shot metrics, Corsi or Fenwick, and not goal differential, or won-loss record, one eliminates a lot of the effects of randomness, i.e. save percentage, shooting percentage.

    30-something percent against common Western Conference opponents and Detroit…that is abysmal coaching.

  • Pharmboy

    JW – Perhaps Eakins is given a longer rope, but how long do we wait
    until something is done with Bucky and Smith ? I mean come on, they
    were not Eakins first choice, he was saddled with them. IMO – If he accepts it or not, Todd Nelson deserves a promotion and perhaps could ride shot gun with Eakins as well. Nelson also works with the young guns and knows them pretty well from the OKC stint. That all aside, yes it is time to part with one of our darlings, too much of the same. Its time.

    • Spydyr

      Forgot to mention -maybe the right coach was right under our noses
      all along in Nelson. Just maybe. Could he be worse ? I somehow doubt it.
      Eakins will learn but needs help right now – he is as green to this as Yak.

      The AHL is not the NHL- the best league in the world.

      Dont can him yet, it does wont get us to the promise land, but get him
      some proper help on the bench and give up one of the kids with
      a draft pick – this is the year to give it up if you are going to do it.

      • pkam

        Both Eakins and Nelson have never been NHL head coach. Both had been NHL assistant coach then AHL head coach. Their resumes are basically the same. So how is Nelson any different than Eakins?

        The only difference is MacT like Eakins more than Nelson. I don’t know the reason, perhaps because MacT and Eakins have similar coaching philosophy?

      • pkam

        I don’t think Todd Nelson will be interested to be an NHL assistant coach. He had been a NHL assistant coach with the Trashers. I believe he’ll rather be an AHL head coach and waiting for that NHL head coach job.

      • Spydyr

        You know where a great place to start would be? At the top fire Lowe and let his replacement pick his guys. Hopefully he is smart enough not to hire all rookies and his buddies.

        How can it get any worse?

  • Burnward

    The Common denominator throughout the head coach carousel Is Steve Smith and Bucky. At what point do you hold these two responsible for some of these problems.These kids are NOT receiving good mentoring from these two coaches.

  • Ben37

    Maybe it’s time to stick to one coach for a little while. It’s similar to Alex Smith with the 49’ers who had 6 offensive coordinators in his first 7 years. He spent more time learning the new guys name than he did the playbook.

    This is what is happening to Hall, Eberle and the group that is considered the core. Every year they have a new coach and new system to learn and they never actually get to fully learn and play in a system before another one is brought it.

    Perhaps it is time to have some management stability.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      I think available evidence points to the contrary. I would say it would take 5 more years of this horrendous suckage before you see attendance drop off, but factor in excitement over the new arena and it changes to 10.

  • Pharmboy

    Agreed, patience is important here, it is interesting to note that during preseason when our lineup was about equal in terms of quality with the opposition, the team had a decent record, so maybe it isn’t all the new systems and motivational tactics. Big trade required. Additionally, I love Ryan Smyth but it is time, it’s getting sadder to watch each game, a horrible ending to an otherwise admirable career.