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.
- 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.