Edmonton Oilers’ coach Dallas Eakins got a vote of confidence, and then some, from his best player Friday in St. Louis during an interview Taylor Hall did with Ryan Rishaug of TSN.
With the Oilers in the throes of a nine-game losing streak as they prepare to host the Arizona Coyotes at Rexall Place tonight and some fans and critics suggesting Eakins is the wrong man for the job and that he’s “lost the room,” Hall shot those opinions full of holes in a 53-second clip with Rishaug.
History tells us, of course, such a vote of confidence is often a kiss of death. Likewise, critics are quick to counter with, “What else is Hall going to say to a reporter?” It’s not like he’s going to say, “The coach sucks.”
Fair enough. What makes this bit of chin-wagging different, though, is Hall not only extolled the virtues of Eakins on the record with Rishaug before a 4-3 loss to the Blues, he’s apparently done likewise in conversations with his boss, GM Craig MacTavish.
WHAT HALL SAID
“He has our whole room,” Hall said. “There’s no doubt about that. I’ve heard stories about what it’s like to play for coaches that just aren’t respected. That’s not the case in Edmonton. We fully respect Dallas and we like having him as our coach.
“He’s got the systems in place. He’s got the right tactics for our team and for our group. Right now, it’s about us going out and playing as well as we can and just doing as well as we can.”
Rishaug then asked: “Is it important that message is out there, whether it’s the fans or Craig knows or whoever that knows you guys have this guy’s back?”
“Yeah, for sure, I think,” Hall said. “Craig and I have talked on a number of occasions and a couple of times I’ve mentioned it’s not Dallas’ fault at all. I think that he’s the guy for our group. He’s the guy to lead us out of this and I made sure that he knew that and that a lot of guys in the room feel the same way.”
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
I’m not going to call Hall a liar or accuse him of being generous with positive spin, given that there’s nothing in it for him to say the same things to MacTavish if it just isn’t so. Hall need not suck up to the coach.
“Losing the room” gets tossed around frequently as a catch-all for many issues when a team struggles as mightily as the Oilers have on the way to a 6-14-4 record. Losing the room means is the message is lost and that the players no longer respond to the coach. Of course, many fans point to the countless awful starts to games by the Oilers as being a sign of that. Hall says it isn’t so. Fine, Good.
That doesn’t mean the message is the right message, that the strategies and systems being employed by the coaching staff are the right systems, that personnel is being deployed to the greatest advantage. It means the players aren’t rolling their eyes and shrugging their shoulders when Eakins speaks.
Saying “He’s got the systems in place. He’s got the right tactics for our team and for our group,” is one thing. Going through the gate and proving it is, obviously, quite another. With the playoffs out of the question for a ninth straight season with December barely upon us, what fans need is more of that and less talk about it.
Gum-flapping doesn’t sell here. It shouldn’t.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.