Dallas Eakins 11

Not long after the Edmonton Oilers closed out an eighth straight season out of the playoffs, GM Craig MacTavish told us head coach Dallas Eakins has hiring and firing say regarding his assistant and associate coaches.

Seeing MacTavish and Eakins sitting together watching the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Memorial Cup in London Tuesday, I couldn’t help but wonder if MacT and his rookie bench boss had broached the subject of the coaching staff as it pertains to the future, or lack of same, of associate Keith Acton and assistants Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger. Who should stay? Who should go? Who should be brought in?

MacTavish empowered Eakins by saying decisions about the coaching staff were his, although he qualified that — not at all surprisingly, critics would suggest — by adding: “But my sense is we have the right people. We have the right coaches in place.”

I wrote about the coaching situation earlier this off-season, as have others on this website. David Staples wrote about it again today in a timely piece at The Cult of Hockey in the Edmonton Journal. You can read it here.

Eakins has the hammer. Does he have the good sense and the brass to swing it to address one of many organizational areas that need improvement? The way I see it, a better question is: how can he justify not doing so?


Dallas Eakins 7

Eakins was quick to overhaul the dressing room, gutting it of photos and plaques and memorabilia paying homage to Edmonton’s glory days, not long after the ink on his coaching contract was dry. As we close in on June, will he do likewise with his coaching staff, each and every one a former Oiler?

From where I sit, he must. Whether it’s addition by subtraction, as in handing Acton, Smith or Buchberger their walking papers, or, failing that, adding an experienced coach to the staff, he absolutely must. Status quo, given what we’ve seen and what Eakins himself has said? No way. Right?

Nobody on the existing staff should be shown the door just because they’re former Oilers. They should be assessed and bid farewell based on the glaring weaknesses we’ve seen from a team that’s failed to show significant improvement since the playoff drought began – lack of knowledge and execution of fundamentals Eakins talked about as this last season wore on.

As Staples mentioned in his item, the St. Louis Blues answered their playoff exit by retaining Ken Hitchcock, but sacked assistants Gary Agnew and Corey Hirsch, who goes back with Hitchcock 25 years, when they played goal for him with the Kamloops Blazers. Friends? Sure. Pink slips? Yes. Results matter in the Show Me State. Here?

In terms of possible additions, I mentioned Craig Ramsay this off-season. I’ve respected Perry Pearn since I met him 30 years ago when he was running the program at NAIT and wondered if he’d fit. I think former U of A coach Rob Daum, given the bum’s rush his first time through, has the technical and teaching acumen needed in spades. Staples mentioned all three today. What about Todd Nelson, who did a bang-up job in OKC?


Mike Babcock

It goes without saying the Oilers have to get better from top to bottom. That means assessing management, coaching, scouting and player development and personnel. Firing an assistant coach or two and bringing in one or two new faces behind the bench isn’t going to remedy the futility and ineptitude we’ve seen this past several years.

Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock, pick a name, couldn’t turn this group of players into a Stanley Cup contender. The roster mix is wrong. The Oilers need more size, more grit, more experience. It’s all been written and talked about countless times before. The many issues we know.

That said, upgrading the coaching staff by adding more experience, technical know-how and ability to teach is one piece of the puzzle, just like finding a big centre or a legit top-pairing defenseman or adding more size and grit is.

Eakins, we’re led to believe, has been granted the ability to do that. He’s got the hammer. Swing it.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Team defence should be the coaching priority so any hire should be an extremely good with defensive systems and communication with the players and other coaches.

    Eakins will have a huge role in developing team defensive acumen, but it’s important to have somebody else to do this as well. Another set of eyes and a different voice. Imagine the same guy telling you the same stuff over and over again. It gets tired.

  • Micbilly99

    When you look at the coaches you have to ask yourself, have the players advanced in their development or not? The answer in goal, is a resounding no. Who was the last goaltender that improved under the Oilers system? Bill Ranford? It has been years since the Oilers have developed a goaltender. It’s time to change that system because it clearly has not worked.
    As for the defense, in the past two years not one defenseman has taken steps forward. Petry has regressed, Schultz has leveled out and Gilbert is gone. We have several young defenseman that need a good teacher. Steve Smith maybe a nice guy but he has not been a good teacher. If the Oilers are going to improve defensively and they need a far better coach for Nurse, Klefbom, Fedun, and Marincin.

    It’s time to change the whole assistant coaching group. When you are 30th or 29th every year, you need to make changes and the Oilers simply have done the necessary changes.

  • Oiler63

    Excellent columns by both Robin and Dave Staples. The fact that MacT thinks the current coaching staff is doing a bang-up job is the most frightening aspect. Can’t anybody here play this game?

  • Oiler63

    The problem with this team is expectations. See I expect the oilers to finish dead last every year. They exceeded me expectations last year so I’m not disappointed at all! Job well done in my eyes!

  • Derian Hatcher

    Lowe: “Hi Adam, thanks for coming in for an interview – We like some of the things you did with the Capitals. Let me introduce the old boys clu…I mean the boys around this old table. This is Craig MacTavish, the second smartest guy in the room. This is Dallas Eakins, he is very fit and he is the third smartest guy in the room. Over there is Daryl Katz, he is the happiest guy in the room cause his building is always sold out no matter what we do. And if there is ever a concern, I’m Kevin Lowe, the smartest guy in the room. Welcome to Edmonton, Adam!”

    Oates: “Umm I think I left the oven on back in Washington..gotta run”

    MacT: “What a bold move by Adam – dashing out of here like that. Oh well, my sense is we have the right people. We have the right coaches in place.”

  • Derian Hatcher

    The frustration here is seeing what needs to be done and also seeing that Mact lacks the drive or creativity to address what is obvious to everyone else.

    Does Eakins have the personality to work cooperatively with any assistant coach who is bound to have more experience and knowledge than he does? This dude seems to have a monstrous ego.

    Mact’s end of season comments were just as disturbing as it pertains to future growth of the team.

  • Derian Hatcher

    Like much of the fanbase, I’d have a lot more respect for Eakins and what he’s trying to do if dumped the assistants. First, it would say to the fanbase and his players that cronyism isn’t acceptable to him, at least to the extent that he can control, which is through his coaching staff. Second, it would show accountability to everybody by removing 2 guys who should have been swept aside during one of the 3 coaching changes made the last few seasons. Lastly, it would be an acknowledgement that he is open to seeking assistance (ie power play etc) in helping him build this team into a winner. Like Brownlee said, we need more experience, technical ability and the ability to teach.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ^but now he’s supposedly a good assistant, not a crappy one like when he was here the first time. on a related note, Bucky has been an assistant coach since the 08/09 season…..yikes!! he has more lives than a cat!!

  • What about bringing Adam Oates in as an associate or assistant coach? I’m sure he could upgrade our power play and when he played his last year in the NHL with the oilers he made players like Stoll and Horcoff better. He taught them the tricks on taking face offs and rounded them into 200 ft players.

    Also I think it’s long overdue the oilers give okc bench boss a promotion. He seems like an extremely good coach and I wouldn’t want to loose him to another organization.

    Also the head couch of the Oil Kings could be a good upgrade over any of our assistants. It’s time our assistants were let go especially Smith and Buckburger.

  • CMG30

    I’ve been seeing the comment that Eakins has an oversized ego for a while now but I missed where it comes from. Is this a thing? Or is it just something that the fire-the-coach crowd likes to run with?

    Other than that, at least bring in an assistant coach with a proven PP track record. I’m sure Eakins can do many things, but not that…

  • a lg dubl dubl

    coaches Id like to see come in to replace Smith, Bucky, Acton and Chabot



    Curtis Joseph

    Nelson and Oates can easily replace Eakins if the team starts like it did last season

    Someone asked why many people say Eakins has an ego problem, I think its his hair lol.

  • CMG30

    If the current assistance were to be fired it would have happened by now! There is only 4 teams left in the NHL action, and surely no one from those teams would come to the Oilers. They can’t be waiting for some one in the AHL play-offs, meaning that they would by pass Nelson.

    There is nothing happening here folks.The CRONYS, stay in play, because Katz likes the wiff of the old jock straps hanging on his bedroom wall.

    Me thinks at the end, mr MAcT, is in for a big big fall in all of this. He is tied to Lowe and Katz with a double rope. He is only the messenger.

    PS. Dont be fooled by the MBA, correspondence diploma.

  • PSinghBSc

    I’d be a bit surprised to see any substantial coaching change. This organization is so dysfunctional, I just expect every situation to be bungled. But, it would be really nice to see the Oilers fire Bucky & Smith, and bring in a few experienced non-Oiler alums.

    I think Eakins will end up being a good Head Coach next year. If he can improve his performance and if MacT can manage to shore up a few weaknesses on the roster, this team might actually win more than 30 games next year.

    I hate that I’m going to be naively optimistic in September.

  • The real minnow

    Remember when our coaching staff included Charlie Huddy? And we had the best teacher of defensemen in the entire National Hockey League?
    Remember when Tambellini gave him the axe?? Yeah me too.

    I only bring this up because I still sharpen the pitchfork over the ways that tambo destroyed this team.
    Have a happy summer!

  • Do what Weight did?

    Man. I am so jealous of all the inside information so many of us posters have.

    We know what the coaches are like behind closed doors
    We can evaluate the assistan coaches’ ability to teach and communicate without ever watching them do so.
    We know D Katz’s motivations behind every decision, and how he feels about the team.
    We know Eakins better than MacT, because he was too quiet during games.
    We can say that if management does ____, it’s conclusive proof of incompetence! even though that contradicts other posters equally decisive proof of incompetence.

    I mean this completely seriously. Can we have two seperate forums on this site? One for people with things to post about articles, and a seperate one to act as an echo chamber for all the fire Lowe spammers? Maybe just a permanent-link to a fire Lowe or keep Lowe debate/poll. We all know who wins, but I’d love some middle ground between actually discussing the team and the articles, versus the brainless, repetitive, monotonous fire Lowe ritual that overpowers the comments of every article.

    I’m not happy about the state of the Oilers either. I just don’t need to create a fantasy world where D. Katz spends his days sniffing jocks and counting money.

    I’d prefer a comment section that relates to the articles. Thanks to the 5 or 6 posters with legit suggestions; Oates, Nelson (I disagree, and would rather discuss why than read 60 fire Lowe comments) and Huddy were all on topic and worth reading or debating, if you can force your way past the self-congratulating garbage that many of the fire Lowe comments keep repeating.

  • Spydyr

    IMO Eakins will remain coach until late November.When the OIlers are out of the playoff race yet again he will be fired.At that time all the excellent coaches available this summer will be with other organizations.

    What a mess this once great franchise has become.

  • Derian Hatcher

    @Oilers need Ogie Ogilthorpe!

    I disagree…and here is why

    (I know I’ll probably get trashed big-time but here goes):

    The Canadian retail stores Target fired their CEO this week. If you read the articles, he basically did a poor job of running things in a profit-driven industry.

    Retail analyst Doug Stephens had this to say about the situation (I have provided Oiler comparables in brackets).

    “Stephens says Target ran into a Canadian consumer base (OILER FANS) eager for the type of a shopping experience (OTHER HOCKEY ORGANIZATIONS) it had heard about in the U.S., but the company (OILERS) was quickly plagued by avoidable problems in their supply chain (DRAFTING, SCOUTING, SYSTEMS, REBUILDS, PLAYER DEVELOPMENT…etc..etc.).

    “These aren’t problems you run into two days before your launch,(OR FOR 8 YEARS AND COUNTING)” he says, “and the question is why has it taken them so long to recover? (WHY INDEED)”

    Call me crazy, and I realize that the Oilers have no issues with profit, like Target does, but I certainly see the similarities between how Target was run and how the Oilers are run.

    Simply not good enough….but status quo remains.

    • #ThereGoesTheOilers

      Excellent comparison.
      In the real world, if you don’t compete and deliver results, “You’re Out”.

      Personally; one month end, in my career, I was over budget and I had to write an explanation to head office why I was over budget and why it won’t happen again. The other 35 months were exceptional.

      No one gives a damn what you did 10 years ago or in the 80’s. It’s all about today and tomorrow.

      Kind advice to the Oilers management, Deliver the product or move over for someone else who can.

    • SuntanOil

      While your comment is well thought out and well made it still illustrates ONOO’s original point as what does it really have to do with the original article? I get that KLowe runs the Oilers organization, but just like ONOO I hardly ever come here anymore because it’s just a big bitchfest about how Katz needs to fire Kevin Lowe.

      Personally, I have been on the fire Buchberger train for over three years now, but unless the article is specifically about what to do with the Ass’t coaches, and maybe even just coaching in general, it is off topic to even bring it up.

      Just look at any of the comment sections from any of the articles from the last two months and you will find that regardless of the topic of the original article they just turn into a bitchfest about one of a short list of things:

      – Fire Kevin Lowe
      – Katz only cares about hanging with the old boys and making money
      – Sam Gagner has negative value and we need to dump him for a bag of hockey pucks NOW
      – Oilers drafting sucks. Fire MacGregor
      – MacTavish hasn’t done a single thing to prove he can turn this team around. Fire him

      I’m maybe missing one or two, but the point is that it gets tired after a while. Doesn’t it affect you to be so negative all the time? I get in a bad mood reading it which is why I rarely come to this site anymore. Oilers fans deserve the Edmonton Oilers sometimes

      As for Robins article, I would like to see Rob Daum back, and if you could get Craig Ramsay here I would drive to his home and pick him up if that’s what it took. This would give you two good teaching coaches who also are known to be good systems coaches as well. If you can’t get Adam Oates to join them then look at a Todd Nelson or maybe (my longshot) Bob Boughner out of Windsor.

  • Derian Hatcher

    If the Oilers get off to a poor start in October/November, they are going to fire Eakins. So hire his replacement right now as his assistant. The message should be obvious to everyone.