Dallas Eakins 18

If nothing else, Dallas Eakins is giving critics who roasted him during his rookie season as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers pause for thought this summer with what looks to me like a very productive off-season.

I touched on Eakins 10 days or so ago by writing about his visit to the training camp of the Dallas Cowboys – he also paid a visit to the Mizzou Tigers – in an exercise to better understand the working dynamics between coaches. Coaching isn’t just X’s and O’s, it about relationships.

That came after taking the opportunity presented him by GM Craig MacTavish to make changes to his own coaching staff – Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger are out and Craig Ramsay and Rocky Thompson are in – which I also touched on.

When you add to that Eakins also had a significant say in the hiring of advanced stats and analytics man Tyler Dellow and that he’s apparently taken steps to mend fences with Nail Yakupov, with whom Eakins had a strained relationship last season, it looks to me like he’s checking off a lot of his own boxes in the “be better” message he’s been delivering.


Dallas Eakins 11

If Eakins came off like something of an arrogant know-it-all who was often in over his head during his first season behind the bench – it seems almost unanimous he did if you go back through the comments sections of various fan websites like this one – this off-season has been a stark contrast.

While Eakins started last season with too much strut in his step for a guy who’d never been a head coach in the NHL, he finished the campaign by admitting he’d made some errors in judgment and promised he’d be a better coach when the puck dropped for the upcoming season.

Saying it is fine and good, and it likely wasn’t easy for somebody who’d walked in as confident as Eakins did when he was first hired, but in a city where hockey fans haven’t seen a playoff game for eight seasons, actions do the real talking. In that regard, Eakins has said a mouthful.

Fans wanted changes to the coaching staff. They got it. People put off by the over-the-top confidence Eakins showed early wanted to see some kind of humility and willingness to at least consider that he might not have all the answers. I think they got that with the trips to Dallas and Mizzou.

Now, we have the addition of Dellow and word from Yakupov that Eakins has reached out to him.



Regarding the hiring of Dellow, Eakins told James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail:

Tyler just seemed like the perfect match for me. He’s sharp. He’s more than the one-trick Corsi wonder. He understands everything fully. We think there’s going to be a great opportunity to look at our team in a number of different ways that Tyler can help us.

A coach’s job is not to sit there and say, ‘I already know it all. I don’t need anybody else’s opinion.’ I want to hear everybody’s opinion. Then it’s my job to make that final decision.

I’ll listen to Craig Ramsay and Keith Acton and Rocky Thompson and Craig MacTavish. And we’re going to listen to Tyler Dellow, too. He’s going to have a voice in our room on certain matters. We’ll see where this goes. I’m excited by the hire.”



For a lot of people, how Eakins handles Yakupov this coming season is going to go a long way in determining his success or failure. To understate, Eakins and Yakupov have had a less-than-harmonious relationship.

My understanding is Eakins and Yakupov have talked more than once this off-season. Yakupov discussed one conversation with Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer in a recent interview.

“I remember my chat with Dallas, we had a pretty good conversation. I talked to him during the summer … we weren’t even talking about hockey. We were just talking about life and how my foot (injury) goes and about families and stuff.

“I think it’s a good thing, because in the summer you gotta refresh your health a little bit and don’t think about hockey too much. There are other times you have to work and think about it. I know what he wants because we talk about it during the season, but in the summer we talk about different things. We try to be a little bit closer to each other.

I think that helps, first because a team needs to be closer to each other, the team, the staff, equipment manager, doctors, we need to be together and we gotta be a team and I think it’s going to be easier to play that way.


Whatever we thought of Eakins during his first days, weeks and months running the bench, you have to admit, unless you’ve been plugging your ears and covering your eyes, these are not the words and actions of a coach without an interest in upping his game, just as he demands from his players.

We’ll see soon enough how it plays out.

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

  • Eakins cannot be any worse of a coach than he was last year. Hopefully he is a little better this year but even if he is 100% better he is still the worst coach in the NHL. If MacT keeps signing Eakins old Marlie players we will have a true AHL team. This team needs a proven NHL coach and GM, neither one of the clowns they have in those positions now are going to cut it in the long term

  • Leef O'Golin

    Granted, it seems like he’s saying and doing the right things this summer. Bottom line; by Christmas we won’t need fancy stats to tell us if he’s walked the walk.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    SPECULATION : As per Journal article for J.Schultz – No deal and no training camp for Schultz without contract . Trade coming as Schultz value high ? What could we get in return ? Like to see what defence might look like without Schultz ?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ^i like the offense that Schultz brings, lord knows we need it, but he’s only marginal defensively and not very physical. what indeed could he bring? (Braydon Coburn?).

  • 2004Z06

    Fun fan facts:

    Fans criticized ON writers for drinking the kool aid, not asking the tough questions, not calling it like it is…..Brownlee does and now he’s chastised for being “Doom and Gloom” all the time.

    Fans select a new whipping boy every year….They all go on to success elsewhere

    Fans criticize the coaching….5 coaches and counting….same results.

    This isn’t about the writers, the coach, the players or the organization. It is about any monkey (no disrespect to monkeys)with an internet connection thinking they know more than the folks that have been doing the aforementioned jobs all there lives.

    That aside, there are a few individuals here that do post well thought out, reasonable and educated comments. Recommendation for the rest…..get off your phone/laptop/desktop and get some fresh air. You need to blow the stink off of you. Oh and if you need me, I will be outside working on my Corsi!

  • Zarny

    Starting 4-15-2 last year caused many to lose perspective. Their record for the remaining 61 games was identical to the year before but starting in such a black hole distorted the entire season.

    Much of the criticism about Eakins was simply about tone. He is confident, has an ego and made some bold comments. None of that is a bad thing but there will always be those who are turned off by it and prefer the “golly gee, aw shucks” approach. And when you’re sitting in 28th little things like that get blown out of proportion.

    Eakins certainly made some errors in judgement last year but that wasn’t why the Oilers finished 28th. The roster simply wasn’t good enough. Systems aren’t the reason Petry and Schultz weren’t top pairing D or why the G let in beach balls for 1/4 of the season.

    What I like about Eakins is there isn’t a lot of BS. MacT says Eakins isn’t going anywhere but Eakins has stated if the team doesn’t improve he’s gone…simple as that. When asked about Tyler Dellow’s criticisms Eakins was candid in saying the Oilers were in 28th place…how could he not be critical. You have to be honest with yourself if you are going to improve.

    Actions speak louder than words. It’s good to see Eakins walking the walk and hopefully it pays off with results. If not, he’ll be gone. Simple as that.

    • Serious Gord

      okay, lets throw out the first 21 games. at the rest of the season clip they would have finished with 76-77 pts – just behind calgary and if my math is right – exactly in the same position in the standings as they finished in real life.

      and you would have been happy with that? and you would have given eakins a thumbs-up?

      he was a disaster last year – a net negative on the team. Arguably THE worst coach in the league – certainly in the bottom five. And the other four were FIRED.

      If Eakins isn’t going anywhere than the person who’s saying that needs to be removed.

      • Zarny

        Perspective is a funny thing isn’t it Gord.

        Whether you throw out the first 21 games out or just pretend their record was 9-10-2 to start the season (matching their final 61 game clip) your math is correct; the Oilers would have finished tied with Calgary at 77 PTS.

        Would I have been happy with that? No. Would I have given Eakins a thumbs up? Unlikely.

        Interesting how you describe Eakins as a disaster last year yet don’t describe Bob Hartley the same way even though by your measure Hartley was clearly a net negative for the Flames since…you know…they only finished with 77 PTS. You do remember the Flames had 90 PT a few seasons ago right?

        Back to perspective. What were realistic expectations for the Oilers last year? Playoffs? 91 PTS?

        No, the overwhelming consensus by most was 20-24th ish which last year would have been 83-88 PTS. Now clearly the 77 PT pace over the final 61 games is lower than those expectations but not by much. We’re talking about 3-5 wins over the course of the season.

        Had the Oilers not started with a face plant and if they had finished with 77 PT no one would have called the season a “disaster” when 83-88 PT was the expectation. Fans certainly wouldn’t have been throwing jersey’s on the ice or driveling on like it was the end of days. The Oilers would have missed expectations by about the same amount as Phi did last year. Disappointing perhaps but it certainly wouldn’t have been characterized as the Apocalypse you and some others like to portray.

  • Zarny

    It’s good to read that Eakins is trying very hard not to be the male version of Allison Redford.

    We all like humble……… and this guy last year was clearly in “love with himself”……here is hoping for a little Ralph!

  • Zarny

    What remains to be seen is whether Eakins has the tools to deal with elite talented players in a positive direction leading to better results . How’s he going to handle that challenge this year ? I have little doubt he is a good coach on a more established veteran team but see no history of top stars other than AHL youngsters in Eakins history . With a new core perhaps things might change . Eakins eager , learning and seemingly more flexible this season . Schultz holding out certainly complicates matters .

  • Interestingly, in the NBA, brand new NBA coaches have a better winning record over the next 2 seasons after taking over a team than new hire coaches who have previously coached in the NBA. When you realize that the list of retread coaches even includes names like Phil Jackson and Rudy Tomjanovich this is eye opening.

    I don’t know if this holds in the NHL, and I have no interest in taking the time right now to find out,but I definitely see it as a piece of evidence that hiring a guy just because he has coached in the NHL before is not necessarily beneficial.

  • I am indifferent at this point on Eakins, although I like that he is making some adjustments in his approach. The one time last year that irked me was his outward displeasure during the water bottle thing. I had never seen him rip a referee like he ripped on Hall. Do that to a ref once in a while…. Players are well paid professionals/big boys but I am sure they would like to know a coach has their back.

  • I am indifferent at this point on Eakins, although I like that he is making some adjustments in his approach. The one time last year that irked me was his outward displeasure during the water bottle thing. I had never seen him rip a referee like he ripped on Hall. Do that to a ref once in a while…. Players are well paid professionals/big boys but I am sure they would like to know a coach has their back.

  • 2004Z06

    I had to check the header a couple times.

    A nice positive article by Brownlee.

    I propped Serious Gord a couple weeks ago.

    Madjam is starting to make sense at times. At least I think I understand what he’s saying.

    Maybe the Oiler’s will still be in it at Christmas!!

  • Zarny

    What a great place for Eakins to go to learn about coaching dynamics, DALLAS, ha ha This is a team that has coaches fighting with each other and routinely changes the entire coaching staff on a yearly basis. Now if he went to study the dynamics thing with New England or New Orleans then perhaps he may learn a few things.
    It’s amazing that an NHL team would hire a Head Coach that has to learn about coaching dynamics? Did MacT just like the color of his suit the day he hired him.
    It is quite clear that this organization is as DYSFUNCTIONAL as it appears.