Dallas Eakins was set up to fail as coach of the Edmonton Oilers and he most certainly did, prompting the Oilers to fire the second-year bench boss 113 games into his tenure with the team this morning.
Eakins, who had a 36-63-14 record dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season, will be replaced on an interim basis by the man who hired him, GM Craig MacTavish. Todd Nelson, head coach of the AHL Oklahoma City Barons, has been summoned to join the staff.
The move comes on the heels of a 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers at Rexall Place Sunday, a defeat that leaves the Oilers with a 7-19-5 overall record and a mark of 1-11-4 in their last 16 games.
Given the holes on the roster, most notably at centre, lack of depth on the blue line, the inconsistent goaltending the Oilers have suffered so far this season and the flawed make-up of the team, the abysmal record certainly isn’t all Eakins’ fault, but it became his problem with the team about to miss the playoffs for a ninth straight season.
VOTE NOT ENOUGH
Eakins, who was initially interviewed as a candidate to be an associate coach to Ralph Krueger, apparently impressed MacTavish so much he was offered the head coaching job while Krueger as dismissed. Eakins received a vote of confidence from Taylor Hall less than two weeks ago.
He has our whole room,” Hall said in an interview with TSN’s Ryan Rishaug. “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.”
“ . . . 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.”
Vote of confidence or not, with seven wins through 31 games and just 19 of a possible 62 points, actions spoke louder than words. This last stretch, 1-11-4, likely isn’t something even an experienced and proven NHL coach, which Eakins clearly was not, could survive. Something had to give.
PLENTY OF BLAME TO GO AROUND
Eakins, as is the NHL business, is the fall guy.
While Eakins was far from blameless leading up to his demise – there has been plenty of reasons to question his on-ice tactics, communication and motivational skills and his deployment of personnel – he joins a carousel of coaches, including Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Krueger, who have failed to find success with the rosters they’ve been provided.
The roster Eakins had to work with in large part has been assembled by MacTavish and assistant GM Scott Howson over the past 20 months. Kevin Lowe was GM from 2000 to 2008 before being moved to president of hockey operations.
Save for Steve Tambellini, who took over from Lowe and was fired to make room for MacTavish after his return to the Oilers and the addition of Bob Nicholson as vice-chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group, the names at the top of the decision-making hierarchy remain much the same.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.