MONDAY MUSINGS…MACT’S FIRST MOVE

The Edmonton Oilers will officially announce Dallas Eakins as their 14th head coach in franchise history at a 1:30 p.m. press conference this afternoon. You can listen to it live on TEAM 1260 or streaming here. General manager Craig MacTavish made his first "bold" move of the off-season on Saturday when he fired Ralph Krueger. Hockey is a tough business, and after only 48 games, without a legitimate training camp and no preseason games, Krueger was let go.

It is hard to accurately suggest how Krueger was as a coach in that short of time, but it is clear that MacTavish felt he wasn’t the right guy moving forward.

It isn’t surprising to see a new GM hire is own coach; it happens all the time. I believe MacTavish wanted a coach who is more of a disciplinarian, hold his players more accountable and play a different system. After two seasons as the associate coach and one as a head coach, I don’t believe Krueger could just turn up the dial and hold the players more accountable. It is difficult to change your persona as a coach, and while Krueger wasn’t a pushover, I think it would have been hard to morph into a "task master."

The Oilers young players need to be more accountable if they hope to start winning. They have loads of skill, but their attention to detail and willingness to compete at a level necessary to win in the NHL needs to be better.

It is rare to see an assistant coach get promoted to head coach within an organization and have success, mainly because he goes from being the nice guy, go-between coach to the guy who makes the final decisions and has to discipline the players. When Krueger was hired I felt that would be his biggest challenge, and it was even more difficult with a young, inexperienced and under-talented team.

Coaching wasn’t the reason the Oilers missed the playoffs for a 7th consecutive season, and unless MacTavish gives Eakins a better D-corps and a few capable veterans, I doubt the Oilers will be a playoff team next year.

Changing the coach was MacTavish’s first big move, but he’ll need to make a few more if this team wants to improve. The past few seasons the Oilers have changed the head coach, but little else, and we’ve seen little improvement. I’m certain MacTavish recognizes this and he will ensure his new coach has some new pieces to work with in September.

QUICK HITS

  • Robin Brownlee suggested that Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger will stay on has assistant coaches, and if that is true, I think it is a bad decision. A head coach should have free reign to select his assistants, all of them. If they stay within the organization in some capacity that is fine, but I don’t see why they would be Eakins’ first choice. He has little to no connection to them.
     
  • If they do stay on, those orders came from the top, Daryl Katz, not MacTavish or Lowe. Katz is more involved in personnel decisions than some think.
     
  • This is a good piece by Jeff Veillette from theleafsnation.com on Eakins’ coaching style with the Toronto Marlies.
     
  • Former Oiler Andy Sutton is using his engineering degree to try and make hockey safer. Sutton is close to making a deal with a big equipment manufacturer. You can read my story on him here.
     
  • I don’t believe for a moment the Penguins will trade Evgeni Malkin. Even if he gets a raise to $10 million/season, that is only a $1.3 million increase on his cap hit. Why would the Pens trade him, that small of a raise won’t impact their cap moving forward? It makes no sense, and it makes even less sense to do it when your number 1 centre, Sidney Crosby, hasn’t played a full 82-game season without a concussion in three years.
     
  • The Bruins would like to re-sign Andrew Ference, but they likely won’t have the cap space to do it, plus they have some very good young D-men who can replace him next year. Would the Oilers be interested in signing him, and would he want to go from a perennial Cup contender to a team just trying to become competitive. He knows what it takes to win, competes hard and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind and challenge his teammates. The Oilers could use a veteran like him.
     
  • If the Oilers retain some of his cap hit, could we see a possible trade with the Red Wings. Horcoff wants to go to a contender, and he’s worked out with Wings’ players for the past few summers. If they can’t re-sign Filppula they could use Horcoff in their bottom-six. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock love having veteran players on their 3rd and 4th lines.
     
  • Only eight current NHL head coaches have been behind the bench for more than 200 games with their existing teams. Barry Trotz (1,114), Mike Babcock (622), Claude Julien (456), Todd Mclellan (376), Joel Quenneville (352), Dan Bylsma (318), Dave Tippett (294) and Peter Laviolette (269). It might be down to six if Tippett doesn’t re-sign in Phoenix and Pittsburgh elects to fire Bylsma.
     
  • Currently only six GMs have fewer than 200 games with their team.  Jim Nill (0), Craig MacTavish (7), Jarma Kekalainen (35), Dave Nonis (48), Marc Bergevin (48), Kevin Cheveldayoff (130) and Jay Feaster (130 as GM, and another 45 as interim GM). 
     
  • Being a GM has always had better job security, but lately blaming the head coach has become even more popular. It is ridiculous how easily teams discard the head coach, when in most cases the GM didn’t supply him with enough talent to win.
     
  • Here’s a good read by Thomas Drance at Canucksarmy.com on the different approach of Craig MacTavish and Mike Gillis in hiring a head coach.
     
  • Congratulations to all the riders who completed the MS Bike Tour yesterday. Riding 95 KM into a brutal headwind wasn’t easy, but good on you for finishing. A big thank you to all those who volunteered on the course and at the dinner. You make the day much easier, and of course a big thank you to all of you who donated. Those battling MS are grateful. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • A-Mc

    The Edmonton Oilers have hired Eric Bana!?!

    Sweet! i thought he did a good job in that movie Troy. Deserts, swords and boats dont have much to do with hockey, but atleast he won the battle of troy!

    … no wait… Nm

  • A-Mc

    I haven’t seen much of BOS the past couple year, but by the BTN stats Ference doesn’t look all that promising. Anyone who’s seen a bunch of the Bruins, what’s your take on Ference?

  • I can see both Hemsky and Horcoff being a fit for the Red Wings, will the wings be willing to trade there first overall for both players?

    I don’t understand why you change one rookie coach for another rookie coach when you clearly know the problem wasn’t coaching?

    Change the players, then see what the coach is capable of.

    Having said that I’m in different of the move to replace Kruegar.

    • Renney shouldn’t have been fired in the first place, let alone replaced by Kreuger.

      It was one of the last moves of a GM drowning and flailing his arms hoping to grab onto something to keep his head above water.

      But either way I’m excited to start anew with Eakins and think he’s got the most potential out of the last however many coaches this team has been through in the last 5 years (I lost count at about 18 or so).

    • A-Mc

      “i don’t understand why you change one rookie coach for another rookie coach when you clearly know the problem wasn’t coaching”

      I Agree completely. I Respect MacT for going after what he wants and not being afraid to pull the trigger, but this move specifically doesn’t make much sense to me.

      I thought for sure they’d give Krueger 1 full season, after MacT had acquired some new horses, to prove he can get the team into the playoffs. I remember krueger talking about lots of things he wanted to institute into the organization that had nothing to do with on Ice practice/skill. He was talking about getting the guys on strict diets and sleep plans to be sure that thier bodies were performing to the max. They also talked about revised off season training programs to get players to a fitness level that would allow them to play the tight gap, high pressure game that krueger wanted out of them.

      Instead he got 48 games, very few practices, no training camp or exhibition games, and no off season development (which might have proved to be the most beneficial addition to the coaching strategy).

      Dallas Eakin might be a good coach. He might be the right guy for Mac T. But IMO the timing was all wrong and the human element was grossly ignored in all of this. I feel bad for Ralph.

  • 15w40

    Would the Blues entertain a trade involving Horcoff??

    Horcoff, Petry, Hartikainen, and the 2013 1st round pick

    in exchange for

    Shattenkirk, Stewart, Halak, and Reaves

    That’s a lot of salary for the Oilers to take on but Halak is essentially a one year deal and may work with Dubnyk.

    Shattenkirk and Stewart are going to be in line for pretty big raises.

    It seems a little lop sided for Edmonton but it should free up some $$$ for St Louis to add some higher end scoring.

  • 15w40

    Well Hartikainen’s value just dropped through the floor if what is being said is true.

    Just signed with UFA in the KHL

    Unless of course he has an out clause. But that would imply whomever is signing him is guaranteeing an NHL roster spot.

  • Word to the Bird

    If I’m not mistaken, Ference is from Edmonton, correct? Does that mean that he is more likely to sign with the Oilers? Perhaps Edmontonian Johnny Boychuk (also from Boston) could be acquired via trade?

    • Jofa

      He most definately was from the Edmonton area. I remember him as a kid, knew his bro well, a solid beast.

      He comes from the Golden Triangle of athletic genetic superiority. World Champions of all sorts falling off the trees in the neighborhood. Pro Hockey Players Pro Ball Players, its a real freak show, an American Recruiters dream. There is no place like home.

  • Word to the Bird

    Don’t feel too bad for old Ralphy, he will land on his feet, and is still
    getting paid, most of us whom get fired dont. Has anyone heard any comments by the Players on this change. They should now know, its up to them, there will be no more coaching changes for quite some time.
    Put your work boots on boys.

  • vetinari

    I’m also disappointed that Dallas isn’t picking his own staff. Gotta have his own guys.

    Saw StLouis mentioned in the comments here. I don’t think the Blues will do too much tinkering, but Andy McDonald did just retire. So, the Blues need a skilled centre to replace him. Sam Gagner for Shattenkirk.

  • DSF

    Sounds as if Dallas has the go ahead to change staff under him , after he does due diligence with those below him now. So it should be , as he just came on board in a whirlwind . Could Dallas have performed better than Kreuger last season with the personnel we had ? Doubt we’ll know with any certainty .

    Kreuger did get us going in the right direction with some improvement last season , especially in team play . Wish him well and i’m sure he’ll excel somewhere else under better circumstances . Philosophically Kreuger not on same page as MacT. -good or bad .

    Sounds like Katz , Lowe and Howson all part of this group decision -not just MacT..

  • Jofa

    I’m confused. In today’s press conference, Eakins claimed that hockey teams can’t win by playing offence all the time?! Clearly he has not studied up the rambling theories of NewAgeSys. Mighty Ducks Flying V, all day long baby.

    But seriously, I was encouraged by what Eakins had to say, especially his comments around player fitness. I can see him having a huge impact on the young guys, instilling the kind of work habits and commitment for long, successful careers. You look at a guy like Stamkos and how his commitment to fitness has allowed him to elevate his game. I’d love to see the same sort of focus from a guy like RNH to tap into all the potential there, and I could see him being an eager student under the mentorship of a coach like Eakins.

    It’s unfortunate for Krueger, but I think MacT has made the right call for the team at the right time in the team’s development.

  • Jofa

    Just watched the interview with the new coach on Oilers site, The Worm Has Turned.

    I was afraid it was to good to be true but it is dam well true, this fellow is an Intuitive dynamic manager, everything he has said is bang on to that perspective. Constant Intuitive dynamic managment.

    Now that I have had three minutes to process the interview, mmm we will have some overachievers this coming season to be sure.

    If we stay true to the individual optimisation dynamiclly managed we will do great.

    I like the baseline, he has already shown the players he is a realist and has asked them all to give themselves something they can provide if they want to bad enough, everyone has a back pocket full of compete they can reach down into in times of need.

    I have a feeling that if we develop bad habits in games players will be leaving practice looking like The Soggy Bottom Boys. ha ha ha ha.

    I think the guys will like him and want to work hard for him once they are over the shock and awe of a full dose of integrity driven reality, young men like to challenge themselves and it looks like this is a leader who knows how to ask men to do that for themselves before he asks them to do things for him. Solid honest approach.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I can’t see Eakins taking the job if he couldn’t bring his own guys in. The guy had a lot of calls for his services, only way he keeps those guys is if they fit what he wants to do here.

    I have no idea what our assistants really do and who knows maybe they fit with Eakins. But if they are being forced on him I can’t see why he would’ve taken the job. He has witnessed the gong show that has happened here and one has to think he is smart enough to realize that he needs to do things his way.

    As for Katz. Maybe he should give his head a shake. Like really Smith and Bucky aren’t Messier and Gretzky, why is he so in love with them? At some point he has to realize if he wants this team to make the next step that he needs to stay out of hockey operations. Would’ve thought for a smart guy like himself he would’ve seen this by now.