Dallas Eakins and the Toronto Marlies

Dallas Eakins 2

When a coach or manager is hired by an NHL organization, they bring with them a wealth of connections to other players and managers and coaches and often those networks are used to determine who an organization adds. For example, the signings of Denis Grebeshkov and Brad Hunt added players who Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish knew from his coaching days.

This season, the Dallas Eakins connection to the Toronto Marlies has at least informed a number of the Oilers’ decisions, with varying results.

Ben Scrivens


Scrivens spent large chunks of three seasons tending goal for the Toronto Marlies. He was an excellent AHL goaltender for Eakins, with 0.924, 0.926 and 0.917 save percentage seasons for the Leafs’ farm team.

One of the fascinating things about Eakins is his use of Scrivens since the goalie’s arrival. Scrivens has history with the head coach and has been excellent since joining the Oilers, but Eakins has made a point to balance his workload against that of Ilya Bryzgalov. Whatever his reasons for that decision, he’s been rewarded not only with strong play from Scrivens but with a recent rejuvenation from Bryzgalov.

Here are the numbers for both since Scrivens’ first start:

  • Scrivens: 3-3-0, 0.948 save percentage
  • Bryzgalov: 2-1-2, 0.920 save percentage

This is a case where not only has the acquisition of a former Marlie paid off, but Eakins’ subsequent use of him has been remarkably balanced (and also appears to be working very nicely for Edmonton).

Mark Fraser


Fraser played a total of 67 regular season/playoff games for Eakins’ Marlies, and was part of that team’s run to the Calder Cup Finals in 2011-12.

He’s been a mess for the Oilers. In the four games that Fraser has played – during which time he has exclusively occupied the team’s third pairing – the Oilers have been out-chanced 24-8 with him on the ice at even-strength and out-chanced 46-34 with him off the ice. They’ve been bad in both situations (owing in large part to that lopsided loss to Boston) but never so bad as when Fraser has been on the ice.

Still, it’s been four games. Presumably Fraser isn’t this bad, and if he is one imagines he’ll be out of the lineup in short order.

Will Acton


One of the reasons we can say with confidence that Fraser will find himself on the outside if his play continues as it has is the case of Will Acton. Acton, an undrafted player, worked his way up the Marlies depth chart under Eakins and got his first legitimate NHL chance when Eakins was made the Oilers’ head coach.

Acton was given the fourth line centre role out of training camp. He did a decent job of keeping the unit a low-event one, but contributed extremely little at the other end of the ice; it was a line designed to hit things and not get outscored too badly and it lived up to that mediocre goal.

He got a long run in the role, but by December the coaches had seen enough. He was replaced by Anton Lander, and then when Lander failed to deliver as hoped for Eakins turned not back to Acton but rather to Ryan Smyth as the team’s fourth line pivot. Acton got an honest chance, but was sent out once the Oilers determined he wasn’t ready to help.

Ryan Hamilton

Hamilton, like Acton, took the hard road to the majors. He was never drafted but first forced himself into the consciousness of professional hockey before developing into an offensive player at the AHL level, the kind of guy an NHL team might have time to look at.

His chances with the Oilers were confounded by a knee injury; he ended up playing just two games with Edmonton through November, not looking particularly good in either, before being demoted to the farm. He’s been decent for the Barons but not so good as to make a call-up inevitable, and so the call-up hasn’t come.


Dallas Eakins 9

I think it’s difficult, based on the evidence we have, to fault Eakins for how he’s used the AHL guys who came over from the Marlies. Obviously he expected that Acton and Hamilton would be able to compete for NHL jobs; Acton brought some good things but not enough of them and was sent out, and Hamilton never really got on track thanks to injuries and suffered the same fate.

As for the mid-season additions, in short runs Scrivens has been exceptional and Fraser pretty terrible. But while Eakins can speak to the character of those players and how he saw them, it would have been up to Edmonton’s professional scouts to gauge the suitability of those guys for NHL work based on what they had done this season, so it doesn’t make sense to me to hang the responsibility for those trades on Eakins.

In any case, I find it pretty hard to fault a coach who has made tough decisions on players that he must have vouched for. If the Oilers are over-focused on ex-Marlies, that strikes me as a problem with the scouting staff having a one track mind, not a coach who can give the team some inside information on the players being considered.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • This is solid.

    I don’t think there’s that much of a concern over the Marlies-centric building of the team. Acton and Hamilton were low risk low reward camp choices, and familiarity is always going to play into those.

    I feel like Scrivens’ low cost and solid performance in Los Angeles would’ve made him a viable target either way. Familiarity and being a “local boy” helps I’m sure, but it may have happened regardless.

    No defence for Fraser though. They managed to give up nothing, burn contracts, and probably still lose on this one.

    In any event, I wouldn’t worry about this connection unless others come and Eakins starts giving and forcing heavy minutes on guys with no NHL reason to back it up.

      • nullterm

        Jonathan, to a certain extent, I disagree with your opinion. I think it’s happened that some Ex-Marlies played in favour of others.

        In the beginning of the season it was Acton (alternativs: Lander, then Arcobello…or even a wild card which the Oilers did not sign) and the last couple of games it was Fraser (alternativs: Potter and Belov).

  • nullterm

    If pro scouting was better, we possibly wouldn’t be in a situation where we have to look at Marlies second chancers in hopes that there’s a player yet to take the next step.

    Except Scrivens, he’s been a miracle in contrast to what we had.

    Pro scouts haven’t provided better options. Which is a indictment on them.

    • That’s how I see it, too.

      If Eakins’ opinion is valued more than the pro scouts because the pro scouts aren’t trusted due to incompetence, that’s on the scouts.

      If Eakins’ opinion is valued more than the pro scouts because the pro scouts aren’t trusted because MacTavish just doesn’t trust them (for reasons other than incompetence), that’s on MacTavish for not having scouts he trusts.

      Either the scouts aren’t finding better options (which is on them) or they are but MacTavish doesn’t trust them (on MacTavish). Neither of those are Eakins problems; a good organization has room for a head coach who offers his views of guys he knows.

      • nullterm

        MacT gets the benefit of the doubt. Pro scouting has been bad prior to MacT. And he’s only had one window based on a month or two of actually being GM to retool the dept. so pro scouts are to blame today.

        But next season if it’s still bad, then it’s MacT’s responsibility for not ensuring he had good scouts after this summer reevaluation.

        • v4ance

          I’ve come around to the belief that the Oilers pro scouting has been an issue for almost a decade.

          How many trades or UFA signings have looked good in hindsight over that span? The Perron trade? Smyth’s trade (largely forced on Lombardi)? Gordon?

          Conversely, how often have we had an adequate player and replaced him with downgrades? Gilbert? Visnovsky? Hedja? Roloson? Brodziak? Glencross?

          If the scouts aren’t replaced, I’d hope that analytics are used to filter player decisions more strenuously than in the past. A brief look at the underlying metrics would have indicated that Fraser wasn’t a good trade bet.

      • Gordie Wayne


        I think MacT realizes (after working with them) that the pro scouts aren’t doing their job properly and/or he doesn’t trust them.

        Either way, he will fix this problem before next season. He is probably already compiling a list of potential pro scouts that he will be going after this summer, just another thing on his long “Clean Up After Tambellini” list.

  • **

    This feels like a filler article, not much going on in it. I think Eakins gave his guys a fair chance, and they just didn’t deliver. Now, seeing how the team as a whole is terrible, one might be tempted to give those guys some lenience, but looking at their record with the Barons, there is really not much there to make the case for them.

    This season is what it is, the beginning of the rebuild of the rebuild. And as such it has been choke full of experiments (grebs, ex mariles, Eakins, LaBarbie, the mighty swarm, etc…).

    It is sad and frustrating, but the reality is this is year one of a new project for the Edmonton Oilers.

    PS: Maybe that billboard on the yellow head, instead of asking for Lowe to go, it should say “pro scouts must be kicked out into space”. Just my opinion

  • Quicksilver ballet

    There’s been no measureable amount of progress with this team since Eakins took over. How anyone could call this an acceptable first season is beyond me. When he’s struggled, he’s done nothing but point fingers at players making minor mistakes and stood by and even brought in more of his career AHL’ers this season. He’s done nothing but single players out who made mistakes when it’s his job to support and teach them how to avercome these hurdles. He comes across as a quitter when he uses a players mistake as the reason they lost yet another hockey game. Crap like that needs to be talked about in the film room. Not paraded around in front of the media. How can he continue to publically embarrass a kid who obviously struggles with the English language and still come across as progressive? Do your bloody job Eakins.

    MacTavish has to ask himself two questions after this season concludes. Did the team progress under his tutelage? Did Dallas improve in his decisions as the season went on?

    The answer is obviously no on both counts.

    It matters little how many coaches have been hired and fired in recent years when the results of this current one is perhaps the worst of the last half dozen coaches. All hat, no cattle. Fire his arse. Get someone in here the players are willing to go to bat for, because Eakins sure hasn’t stood upon for many of his players this season. All eligible players will be racing for the airport at seasons end after his efforts his first season. The results of the coaching and management has been epic fail all around.

  • Toro

    One of Mac T’s worse moves as GM trading a player that could possibly be an NHL player for us next year in Hartikainen for a player who probably won’t be in the NHL ever again after this year.

    • Spydyr

      Listen Dallas, stop writing in to ON pretending to be something. We know that you love the sound of your own voice, but really you are fooling no one!

      You are a one dimensional coach who has just learned who plays where. We know that you are a great motivator, just look at where the team is. You have ruined our PP. You have ruined our PK. You have ruined our 5 on 5. None of the players are listening to you any more. Once you realize there is more to hockey than just being fit, you will make a great assistant coach.

      Now please just go away and ride you bike up a mountain.

      • Zarny

        Are you really so stupid as to think I’m Dallas Eakins.

        Good grief, get a grip.

        Unlike sad sops like you, I simply haven’t completely lost touch with reality.

        • Gordie Wayne

          Here is the reality Zarny……..we are in second last place and trending in the wrong direction in all departments.

          Eakins has done nothing except fumble his way through the first 60 games. His systems are not working but stubborn people like you refuse to believe he has anything to do with it.

          His only claim to fame is that he took a unfit Khadri and turned him into a fit Khadri……..no real genius required there.

          • Zarny

            Here is the reality Rama Lama…this team was no where near as good last year as people like want to remember them as.

            Trending in the wrong direction? The Oilers started last year 8-8-4 over the first 20 games when all of their core players were in game shape and half the league was fat and out of shape following the lockout.

            They ended up 19-22-7…3 games under 0.500 including a 10 game losing streak where Krueger literally did nothing but look goofy.

            So spare me your drivel about trending in the wrong direction. Had they played a full season last year the Oilers would have finished 29th or 30th.

            The Oilers started this season 4-14-2 mostly due to Dubnyk letting in beach balls from the blue line. 4 wins in the first 20 games is essentially the difference between last year and this year.

            Since then the Oilers are 16-19-5…3 games below 0.500. Sound familiar?

            Did you ever play competitive hockey? “Systems” are general and require a high degree of ad-libbing.

            Don’t believe me? Go read the Garry Galley interview. Systems provide a base foundation so everyone knows what to expect.

            Success is predominantly reliant on the players executing properly and most often ad-libbing based on what the defense actually gives them. The onus is on the players not the coach.

            Systems aren’t the Oilers problem just like systems weren’t Columbus’ problem when Hitchcock coached them to missing the playoffs year after year.

            Did Hitch’s “systems” magically improve when he went to StL? Umm no. He simply has a much, much better roster including a top pairing D.

            On every SH goal against this year the Oilers’ players have been in position. They simply scr*w it up by making bad plays. Often missing both the man and the puck entirely. Again, not coaching. That’s the players.

            You want to know what happened to the PP and PK? Shawn Horcoff. Best PK on the team and maybe the only guy who would go into the tough areas on the PP. He also has lots of experience to ad-lib based on what the defense gives.

            By all means though keep driveling about coaching and “systems”. You could fire Eakins and hire the entire team Canada coaching staff and it won’t make a difference because they’ll still have to put Petry, Ference or Schutlz on the ice for 20+ min every game against the best F in the world and no “system” is going to protect you from that I’m afraid.

          • Joy S. Lee

            So, Paul Maurice is the new model for hiring a coach mid-season? Okay, so they’ll all work out this way, right? Hmm…I love everything being definitive, it makes life so much easier…

          • Tikkanese

            I’m going to defend the statement just because I already hopped over the boards on his bench. So here goes…

            In WPG they have the right people, they had the wrong system, and they also had a lot of disdain for their coach. They tossed in someone who wasn’t completely useless telling them to do the wrong things and they succeeded.

            In EDM they have the wrong people, they have a new system every week, and they have/had unknown feelings towards Eakins. They’ve tossed new coaches at this team every year, rotated the same quality of third and fourth line players and 6/7 defenders through the roster and have had no positive results.

            Change the foundation for this team and you can put whoever you want on the perimeter. It’s how teams like Chicago can be successful so often even though they’ve had a huge 3rd/4th line turn over.

            As long as the players aren’t purposefully playing against the coach it doesn’t matter who is leading them.

            Examples: Colorado with Roy, Winnipeg with Maurice, St. Louis with Hitchcock, Pittsburgh with Bylsma

  • I don’t mind MacT and Eakins taking flyers on players they knew or had gut feelings on. You have to keep throwing stuff against the wall until some of it sticks. And hey, looks like we solved our goalie problem doing things this way. Now if only they’ll re-sign at the end of the year.

    At the same time MacT seems to have no problem yanking failures off the big team, so good on him for staying active. Looks to me like Fraser is the next on the fail bus out of town.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    The oilers suck.

    The problem with Eakins is he only seems to think yakupov sucks.

    Be nice to see someone else get benched once in a while, maybe Eberle when he makes a behind the back pass to the tape of the opposition.

    Not sure how Eakins approach preaches accountability.

  • nullterm

    I can’t wait until I forget who Will Acton was. At the start of the season Acton was kept in the lineup despite putting up Belanger level offense.

    Damn it, I guess I’ll never forget these nightmares at “wrecks-all”.

  • Devolution

    I am just re-watching the series, “Friday Night Lights”. I think that anyone who will coach in any sport at any level should be forced to sit and watch this series from beginning to end.

    Connie Britton is OK to look at too.

  • Joy S. Lee

    While Fraser doesn’t appear to possess a great deal of skill (his puckhandling leaves A LOT to be desired), as someone else pointed out when he was dealt here, he DOES bring something else to the table. Something HUGELY NEEDED on this hockey team, in case no one noticed…

    The ability to engage contact. The ability to hit. The desire to hit. The desire to engage contact. The ability to box players out – or drive them to the ice – in front of the net. Might not seem like much, but on this club, those elements are vital because no one else here will consistently do them.

    It’s an element that is required to gain the respect of your competition, so they don’t think it’s a fire drill in your zone and they can wander around at will, don’t you think? So, who else is going to do that here? Hmm. Seems we have a bit of a quandary. One I would suggest indicates we need an upgrade that will perform those duties and more, but we should not toss this guy away until we have the other guy.

    Please…I don’t care that he’s not skilled. I care that he brings a willing physicality to our D-zone, and no fear in dealing harshly with challenges. On THIS team, he’s necessary. On THIS team, he has value, despite the numbers, or analytics, or whatever. On THIS team, until someone like Darnell Nurse brings some nasty swag, we need a guy like this to punish opponents. First time I’ve seen someone consistently punish almost everyone he comes up against.

    Minimize his weaknesses. But if you throw this guy on the scrap heap, remember the San Jose Sharks running our show for 60 minutes to the point where they literally swarmed us in our zone, chance after chance after chance. Or the LA Kings. Or the Anaheim Ducks. Large teams kill us. Until we can respond better in other ways, this guy is a necessary evil.

  • Once there was no realistic chance to make the playoffs it was important to make the players better.not giving yakupov ice time until he looked after the defensive end is part of it.I see most of the skill players improving on defense.even Gagner. Dallas will have winning record next year I am willing to bet on it

  • Spydyr

    Fraser starting over Belov is embarrassing on the coaching staff.

    Unless Belov held Mrs Eakins hand walking across the street or something I just don’t understand it.

      • Joy S. Lee

        I agree that we can’t afford to have more “finesse” d-men, but I don’t think it’s entirely fair to label Belov that way.

        He’s not physically intimidated at all. He’s trying to learn the North American ice. And he may not initiate enough contact for your liking, but he’s not terrified of it like J.Schultz or Larsen, etc. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that he’s made an impression on opponents who dare to challenge him physically. All in all, I think Belov has progressed fairly well, and his upside remains as a complete defenseman. I think he’ll be someone’s great bargain 5-6 D-man in about 9 months time, and am hoping it’s for the Oil.

        • Spydyr

          Don’t get me wrong, I think Belov has the skills. But it’s pretty apparent since that overtime play where Belov dogged it hard back to his zone and got badly outworked for the game winning goal…he hasn’t been on the roster often.

          If I were to put a pinpoint on why Belov isn’t showing up it’s because he doesn’t have the compete level that Eakins wants.

          I know it’s hard to judge that from an outside perspective but if you watch his style of play and his work ethic during games, it’s different how he plays compared to others.

          Plus one of his major attributes is that he has a bomb of a shot…which he NEVER used when he got the puck at the point.

      • **

        The Oilers need D like FRASER. Dereyk ENGELLAND would also help in the TOUGHNESS and VERSATILITIY departments (Fraser-Engelland 5-6-7 D) and Engelland as 13-14 forward. I hope MACT has room to pick up KYLE MCLAREN when he hits the waiver wire shortly after the Olympic break. The Leafs hace serious cap issues still. McLaren can play a little and will fit nicely on the 4th line with Gazdic, especially against the Canucks and Flames (who recently signed Trevor Gillies to complement McGrattan and Westgarth). TROY BODIE will also be on waivers and could center the GAZDIC – MCLAREN line!

        • Spydyr

          They do also need players who know how to skate…Steve MacIntyre as great as he was at fighting could barely move from the Dzone to the bench.

          While I agree they need toughness they also need guys who can handle the puck. Luke Gazdic is getting better at it, but you can’t load up your 4th line with fighters. Otherwise you’re looking at a very unproductive 6 minutes a night which will probably get scored on most times their on the ice.

  • Spydyr

    I do not blame Eakins for any player trades. He may have input but as you stated its the Pro Scouts and ultimately MacT that would make final call. Having said that, with what I have seen in way of the Oilers pro scouting. I think it’s atrocious the players that have been brought in. Sure there are the one or two shining examples(Perron). But for the most for a very very long time the Pro Scouts for the Oilers have deserved a fail. And a failing pro scout dept will bring any teams ambitions to go further to a grinding halt. This is a major issue.

  • Gordie Wayne

    The whole organization sucks.

    I like how we can point out the problems until we go blue in the face and some people could not be any clear in there opinions, yet nothing changes.

    It’s like i,m talking to my out of touch father who can never get the hint on how to do things right and how it could make his life easier/better.

  • Joy S. Lee

    the debate between Zarny and Rama Lama is interesting. You two like to duke it out, don’t you? Well, what if you were both right, to varying degrees?

    But I have one question for Rama Lama: do you think MacT is an idiot? Do you think he wouldn’t know a coach if the coach kicked him in the face? Because, he was SO SOLD ON Eakins that he did what he did not want to do, which is relieve Kreuger of his duties in order to give the mantel to Eakins.

    MacT strikes me as a smart guy, and a good judge of things, including character. So, I just want to confirm that you are suggesting he is a complete moron for hiring some guy who knows absolutely nothing, according to you. Perhaps he was on something hallucinogenic that week? Spring break, maybe? I recall him saying that he and Eakins truly see the game the same way…

    • Tikkanese

      I really love Mac T. In my mind he made a real mistake in hiring Eakins over Krueger.

      I would have loved it if Eakins was brought in to support Krueger and learn who goes where first, and then if Krueger is failing then maybe, assume the mantle.

      Call it a rookie mistake by a GM with enormous pressure to improve things right away. I feel for Eakins, I will give him credit for hanging in there……..that job takes balls and perseverance.

      My issue with Eakins is his general arrogance and his use of players. The list of his issues of learning which player plays where, how to use them, line combinations, who runs the best PP, who are the best PK players was at best comical to watch? Early in the year his constant preaching about fitness was at best overkill. Exactly how has fitness benefitted the players/team ……….and exactly who was not fit??

      Now that he has eaten a dozen humble pies……..he is much less arrogant. I do not see him in command of the team and just maybe he will prove me wrong? I liked Renny and did not think either Renny or Krueger got a fair shake……….I know that is not Eakins fault, but because of that he has to perform at a higher standard.