It’s Not Your Fault

It’s not your fault.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

It’s not your fault, Dallas, that your goatenders couldn’t stop a thing all year. 

Last year the Oilers got .916 goaltending from Ben Scrivens, .914 goaltending from Viktor Fasth, and .894 goaltending out of Devan Dubnyk. The play of Dubnyk was brutal the year before. So bad, in fact, that the team was done before the clock struck midnight on Halloween. MacT spent assets to get Scrivens and Fasth and they looked at least average if not capable of doing even better with a lightened workload.

This year the Oilers have gotten .890 goaltending from Ben Scrivens and .891 goaltending from Viktor Fasth. Those are sub-Dubnykian numbers from both goalies and I didn’t even think that was actually possible. The team is not getting any kind of help from the most critical position and there’s no question it has played a large role in the coach losing his job.

Last season the team was allowing 32.9 shots per game and Eakins had the Oil tighten that up to just 28.9 shots against per game. They cut out 4 per game against them, went from 26th in the NHL to 13th in the NHL and the lightened workload still couldn’t stem the bleeding. 

Based largely on the goaltending the team’s PDO is 96.7, dead last in the NHL. That number will eventually start to rise. When it does the new coach will look great and the last one will be mocked.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

It’s not your fault, Dallas, that your General Manager refused to acquire by any means enough centers to compete in the Western Conference. 

Edmonton under Craig MacTavish fell in love with recent Draftee Leon Draisaitl and projected onto him the man he might be in the future. The GM saw the massive and intensely talented 25 year old that Draisaitl will be when he hits Unrestricted Free Agency and believed he was inserting that player onto Eakins’ roster. That player would have been exactly what the Oilers needed: a faceoff winning, 220lb, offensive centerman with the ability to match up against Thornton, Getzlaf, and Kopitar every night. 

Sadly that man is a figment of MacTavish’s imagination. He doesn’t yet exist and may never. Leon Draisaitl today is just a kid, still highly skilled but a babe among wolves. But MacTavish cut a hole on the roster so big that the big German making the team was inevitable. The belief being that Arcobello could easily do what Gagner did and Dr Drei would dominate.

Is it Eakins’ fault that Draisaitl hasn’t produced? No Oiler forward on the team has a higher percentage of offensive zone starts than Leon Draisaitl at 46.3%. He plays with relatively highly skilled players every game in prime starting position. His minutes have been carefully managed all year but he only has 7 points (2-5-7) to show for it. That’s not good enough for a player who the coach needed to provide real secondary scoring.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

culture of losing

It’s not your fault, Dallas, that the losing culture of this team goes deeper than you as a coach are able to address. 

There is something rotten with this franchise and it has been festering since long before coach Dallas Eakins came aboard. The Oilers are a team who sold themselves as a franchise that would lose for a significant time and then magically flick a switch and start winning. Well the plan was flawed from the beginning and we are seeing now, four coaches later, that “The Rebuild” was predicated on a formula that eats out the competitive spirit of the players from the inside and leaves them hollow. 

The Owner wanted a loser. The President of Hockey Operations wanted a loser. The General Manager wanted a loser. They got what they wanted. The Oilers are losers. It’s what they are. It’s who they are. No coach, hired to be fired, can step in and wave a magic wand that fixes this problem.

The natural order of things has been subverted and professional athletes, whose entire lives have been built around competition from the time they were old enough to skate, were told it was OK to not be competitive. The fire that burns inside them that makes them special was allowed to flame out.

That isn’t on Dallas Eakins. It’s not his fault that Jordan Eberle spent the first 25 games of the year under the impression back-checking was optional. It’s not his fault that Justin Schultz couldn’t care any less about his own play in the defensive zone. It’s not on him that the captain of the team had to address how a bunch of millionaires spent their days moping about the locker room.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

NYF2

It’s not your fault, Dallas Eakins, that the biggest problems with this team have not been addressed sufficiently during your tenure as head coach. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things to blame Dallas Eakins for, but those big three won’t magically become better just because there’s a new coach behind the bench. Dallas Eakins needed to be let go because the team could not justify that many losses, but this isn’t all on him. This bad team is the roster that MacTavish put together. This pathetic culture is the one Lowe crafted. There’s enough wrong here that there need to be more casualties than just Eakins.

  • vetinari

    I’ve been advocating for Eakins to be replaced since about January of last year when it was obvious that things just weren’t working.

    Here are the things that I’m sure of:

    1. MacT thought that Eakins had better coaching credentials than Krueger and since Krueger was Tambellini’s hire, he’d upgrade and replace Krueger with someone who had head coach, but not NHL, experience.

    2. Eakins honestly thought that he knew what he was in for, had a read on the team and would push them into a contender. Working with young players in the NHL, he thought that he could relate and work with the core of this team and watch as they take control of this team and make it an yearly contender.

    3. Eakins was over his head from the start. New coaches always have growing pains and things to learn themselves but Eakins mismanaged training camps, mismanaged games to questionable starters, questionable scratches, killing the special teams play, to giving playing times to those who did not deserve it.

    3. Based on Renney’s earlier comments about being told to feature and play the kids, I have no doubt that Eakins got similar instructions because Schultz, Eberle and some of the others were making too many mistakes to have earned their minutes.

    4. MacT further hamstrung his coach with suboptimal signings and free agents, and rather than correct the core’s flaws through tough love ad ice time, he had to try to get free agents who had to cover for the faults and deficiencies of the core than complement them.

    5. Frankly, the core needed to be support players first and earn their ice time than to be gifted it and set a bad example for the others. If I was a player and I saw that the core was rewarded night after night with premium ice time despite mistake after mistake, I would stop caring as well, put in my time, collect my paycheque and move on when my contract was done if I wasn’t traded first.

    Katz messed up by leaving in charge a gatekeeper like Lowe who was more concerned about helping his friends out (such as bringing MacT on board after his stint as an AHL coach for the Vancouver affiliate; or bringing Howson back after driving Columbus into the ground); Lowe messed up by installing rookie GM (Tambellini) after rookie GM (MacT) to manage a franchise in crises; MacT messed up by overestimating the state and quality of his roster, firing the previous coach (Krueger) who was finally breathing some life into the team and installing a new coach (Eakins) with no NHL experience, who could talk a big game but did not know how to properly use the tools available to him (such as ice times, demotions and scratches) to extract the best out of his players, and Eakins, was, well, Eakins.

    Like Lao Tzu said: “if you do not change course, you may end up where you are heading.”

    Katz: please change course.

  • Doctor Smashy

    It *is* his fault that the players have regressed from Renney/Krueger. And it *is* partially his fault that Edmonton’s goalies have a low save percentage because his system forces a bunch of shots to the outside at the expense of CRAZY breakdowns in front of the goalie.

    It is his fault no one seems to know how to play together. I’ve long maintained the problem with the players isn’t really the players in terms of their skill (we’ve changed lots of those but the team still has the same weaknesses it had 3 years ago) or the goaltending it’s the fact that collectively they *don’t know how to play hockey together*. Constantly cycling through coaches will do that. We’ve got a bunch of guys who know 75% of about 5 different systems, each with varying degrees of quality.

    The team could use a great goalie, a legit number 1 d-man, and two clones of Boyd Gordon. A lot of teams could use the exact same pieces. The Oilers from the early 2000s could have used those things too. The catch is that lots of teams have those problems but can still find a way to win more than 1 game in 16 tries. The Oilers are as bad as they are because they collectively can’t use a system that emphasizes their strengths. Eakins had them playing a system that was full of (mostly) conventional hockey wisdom and tactics. Unfortunately he didn’t have a traditional hockey team built from the center out.

    He had a team with good, offensive wingers and not much else. At the very least they need to find a way to emphasize that strength, and Dallas’ system of teaching the team to play on the periphery of the offensive zone yet try to gain the zone by skating up the middle… it was crazy. And that was absolutely his fault.

    He had a team that used to rip it up on the powerplay with wicked cross-crease passes for one-time tap-ins. He replaced it with a traditional blast-from-the-point powerplay, on a team where Brad Hunt had the only powerful slapshot.

    He had Justin Schultz, who used to have an effective stick and an offensive instinct, taking the body and entangling with opposing players, playing up every weakness in Schultz’ game and negating every strength.

    He taught Taylor Hall to stop driving the net and start chipping it into the corner to set up a cycle: a solution that replaces the danger of driving the net with the danger of being boarded, but moves the puck to the outside instead of the inside.

    Sorry man, Dallas Eakins was the worst coach since Pat Quinn. Some day he may be great, but we took a young coach just at the beginning of his journey and gave him an NHL franchise full of young players at the beginning of their journey. Is it any wonder we got AHL results?

  • 24% body fat

    I got the impression Eakins was more hat than cattle. There were a lot of decisions about player combinations, strategies, ice time and who played in what situations that puzzled me. e.g. Not playing the full line-up in the last one or two pre-season games. The first two games, Calgary and Vancouver, were there to be won, but they slipped away. That set the tone for continued failure There are a lot of gaps in this team, but I am encouraged by what we’ve seen Nelson do in OKC and it will be interesting to see who gets called up and how much playing time various players get in the next while. It will be interesting to see the level of player engagement when we get to the dog days of February. Overall, it’s a good move, but a lot more needs to happen.

  • Burnward

    Five criteria for evaluating a coach (in my mind.)

    1. Command of the room. Does the team play for their coach.

    2. Do the 5v5 systems best reflect the skill set of the team.

    3. Special teams execution.

    4. Continued improvement of youth.

    5. Inspires confidence in the fan base.

    Dallas may have been dedicated and a great guy. Went 0/5 in my books though.

  • 24% body fat

    Is it not Eakins Fault for playing Hunt and Aulie ahead of Marincin. It is his fault for putting physical fitness above hockey ability. Maybe huis hads were tied with Nikitin, but you are the coach. Have the balls to set your line up the best possible. You didnt so either way you have lost your job.

    I would say it is Eakins fault that Yak is not producing. The former coach had him producing. Trying to break down a first overall pick that was drafted to score and not for defense to get him to play defense was stupid. Considering the ice time Eberle gets, why was he not broken down to play defense.

    Eaking made to many stubborn errors and it is his fault as well as managements.

    • oilerjed

      Maybe Im a conspiracy theorist(which I dont think I am) but I think the whole Yak thing is a bit of contract control on a team with no intentions of winning anyway. They dont really need him to break out until after he is resigned to a none RNH/Hall/Ebs contract. In the meantime a little defensive acumen isnt necessarily a bad thing to learn.

      EDIt: Is my computer broke or did this thread die quicker then an Oiler winning streak?

  • BlazingSaitls

    I wish I knew how to quit you Oilers…

    MacT has become Mcconaughey.

    “Sometimes you gotta go back to actually move forward. I don’t mean going back to reminisce or chase ghosts…I mean going back to see where you came from; where you’ve been, how you got here—see where you’re going. I know there are those who say you can’t go back…but yes, you can. You just have to look in the right place.”

    One problem, MacT does NOT know where to look in the right place…

    What have you done to Draisaitl!!!???? Stop it, Stop it now! Let him play the world juniors, let him have fun with hockey again.

    • Hemmercules

      Haha, how do you quit them indeed. I went from not even knowing when a game was on to actually looking forward to tonights game. Mact behind the bench should bring back some memories. Should see some fourth liners on the the first line tonight.

  • taz115

    How can all these Oilers managers step out and say they are on the right track… we are still 30th. I am blind or are they?

    Eakins bets MacT will lead us out of this, I’d be willing to bet he will suck for another season or two more before our next 5 year rebuild begins under new management.

  • Doctor Smashy

    Draisaitl starts 46.3% of his shifts in the offensive zone…and that is the softest % on the team? I don’t have a PhD in math but does that mean we start most of the time in our zone? Not that I’m surprised but the overall number in that regard must be staggeringly bad……

      • Doctor Smashy

        How am I supposed to be reading this sentence in the article then?

        “No Oiler forward on the team has a higher percentage of offensive zone starts than Leon Draisaitl at 46.3%.”

        Is the cited number wrong or am I missing something very basic about English?

      • Sorry, I use the stats.hockeyanalysis.com number that accounts for Neutral Zone Starts in the total. There are other places that omit NZ starts completely. I don’t support that.

        EDIT: He is still the most sheltered player on the team

        • Zarny

          That makes sense. Always helps if everyone is using the same point of reference.

          And yes, regardless of the number used Draisaitl is most sheltered player on the team.

  • taz115

    MacT and Eakins really really like each other, groupthink, everyone thinks everyone else is doing a great job. MaCT says Eakins did a great job coaching, Eakins says MacT doing a great job building the team… all is good.

  • WTF2

    Agreed, “there is something rotten with this franchise”.

    Actually I think MacT is aware of that yet he intentionally ignores the fact. He seems to have convinced himself the route he is taking is for the good of the team. A combination of ego and fear makes him believe he can turn this thing around and climb out of this mess.

    Failing to succeed is a part of life, it is not the end of the world. Anyone who cannot admit failure, fails to face facts. Think of it as a learning experience then pick yourself up and move on in a different direction.

    It takes a man to take that step. MacT has the ability to do the right thing. Is he man enough?

  • DoubleDIon

    Sad to see Hall getting smeared, though you do have to wonder if there isn’t some substance to the rumors. Can’t necessarily blame the kid for getting fed up with 4 straight seasons of absolute suck, and starting to lose his work ethic.

    I could see him going East–not sure the West would fit trade-wise, in terms of what we might get offered back.

    Interesting to think about a Washington trade. We send Hall + [supporting player], they send us Alzner, Green, and Brouwer/Ward, whichever you’d like. We get a solid, top-pairing D, another D whose got the NHL experience to actually help the younger guys, and a gritty forward to stick up for our players who apparently refuse to do so themselves. I dont hate the idea of it the more I think about it

  • Kevwan

    One thing I learned coaching youth sports is that the teaching opportunity is best right after a play has happened. Whether something positive or negative happens the feedback should be right away.

    To me this was Dallas’ biggest problem. He just didn’t interact with the players. I can’t remember him talking to the players on the bench. How can you teach or motivate if you don’t communicate?

  • ubermiguel

    “There is something rotten with this franchise and it has been festering since long before coach Dallas Eakins came aboard. …The Owner wanted a loser. The President of Hockey Operations wanted a loser. The General Manager wanted a loser. They got what they wanted. The Oilers are losers. It’s what they are. It’s who they are.”

    This is it, this is the core of the problem. Fix this and the little things will fix themselves. Winners backcheck. Winners hustle. Winners stand up for each other. Winners go to the net. Winners fight for the puck. Act like winners, not losers. Unfortunatey this is also the hardest thing to fix.

  • ubermiguel

    Wow, Debby downer. We just got rid of the worst coach in hockey, let us be happy for at least a day.

    Sure more may need to be done and that will be the next step if its required. Let’s give Nelson at least a week or two to see what he can do, I think his philosophy of getting the players to play for each other is the right tactic.

    Four player moves I would like to see:
    First and foremost Drai to world juniors,
    Lander, Pak and Marincin to the big club.

    Gut, then bolster the amateur and pro scouting departments.

    Don’t trade Hall, wait for a couple years and hope Nurse becomes a top pairing dman. Put Yak in a position to succeed, bolster his value then trade him for d or center help.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    The swarm was his fault, that’s enough for me.

    Fire and trade everyone but Nuge, please. And maybe Hall. I’m a huge Hall fan, but if he really is part of the problem, he’s gotta go. Plain and simple.

  • Zarny

    Why are oilers fans soooo in love with taylor Hall? ? Is it the cool moves he does when he adjusts the stick to male it shorter? Or the phenomenal go to toe drag shot he does that never works??? Maybe it’s the way he skates away from scrums and doesn’t back his teammates? …I know! It’s because he won 2 memorial cup mvps right??? Cuz that transfers over to the NHL and makes him an instant superstar.
    At this point oiler fans, everyone should be in play. Especially because we have such a surplus on wingers. The centres shall not be discussed in trades. But taylor Hall is NOT the answer for this team. I have said it before.. no body wants to play for a guy who does not back his teammates but expect his teammates to back him up. Look up halls turnover stats…it’s horrible. He refuses to play the right way people. And he thinks he can dangle through everybody and toe drag shoot it at the goalie every time! !!! How has he not figured out that it doesn’t work?!!! He’s a one trick pony at this point. And then to make things look even worse he’ll cry like a little baby throw things and try to break his stick while sitting on the bench… if you’ve ever played any type of sport this behaviour seen by teammates is unacceptable.

    Wake up oiler fans. Taylor hall is not the answer, he’s barely the question. Trade him at the deadline for the 2nd overall pick. This way we get MCDAVID & EICHEL.

  • Zarny

    You have to think it’s getting awkward in the men’s washroom at Rexall.

    Eakins certainly made mistakes but MacT was 100% correct when he stated “To think that this is a coaching issue would be naive…It’s deeper than that.”

    It’s ironic that MacT continues to make the best case for why everyone in Oiler management should be fired:

    “I had no real good reason to (fire Eakins) outside of performance. That’s really the bottom line that we’re all judged by is the performance level of the hockey club and certainly their record. I would point to those things solely as the reason for this change.

    The Oilers record speaks for itself. Those who have called for Lowe to be fired and a house cleaning of Oiler management have been completely and utterly vindicated this year.

    Those, like myself, who have on occasion pointed to other maladies in the franchise or suggested firing Lowe won’t address the real problems were wrong. Full stop.

    Regardless of whatever respect some may or may not have for Lowe and MacTavish, the Oilers rebuild is a failure from top to bottom. So much so, that there is no other option but a house cleaning now. The culture and atmosphere at Rexall is toxic and beyond repair. It is impossible for the coaches or players to perform anywhere close to their best in such a toxic environment.

  • Derzie

    Eakins is a snakeoil salesman. He was smooth as silk today but what really sealed it for me was when he went on about how many teams he was on (he says he lost track) or how many times his mentor was fired or how many times he will be fired. Says he always looks forward. Never looks back. Well Dallas, here’s a newsflash: if you never ask why, you will never know why. Perhaps you were a terrible hockey player? Don’t know. Never asked. Perhaps people hated you in the room? Never came up? Perhaps you were a lousy coach for the Oil? Not your concern? A coach that had proper self awareness would have dissected what went wrong and be working extra hard to make things better. Today confirmed that Mac T is as gullible as they come. Maybe he’s not big on looking back either, unless it is all the way to the 80s.

  • Anton CP

    The only thing that I am hoping for is for that Dallas wasn’t fired too late by severely damaged the already fragile team. It wasn’t Eakins’ fault that he got hired, and that is the only fault not on him for almost everything else.

  • 24% body fat

    @ Matt

    “That isn’t on Dallas Eakins. It’s not his fault that Jordan Eberle spent the first 25 games of the year under the impression back-checking was optional. It’s not his fault that Justin Schultz couldn’t care any less about his own play in the defensive zone. It’s not on him that the captain of the team had to address how a bunch of millionaires spent their days moping about the locker room.”

    Really?

    Gone are the days when the coach opened the gate and pointed to Line 1, 2 or 3 etc. and said “let’s go boys”. With the penultimate of few words Darryl Sutter can say so little, both in the media and in the room, to get people moving in the right direction and to set the tone. Choose not to go Darryl’s way and I think everyone in LA would rather not have Darryl say more as I am sure more means a scathing response.

    The Coach is the room. He get’s it going, he relaxes it, he refocuses it, he calls people out, he teaches . . . he coaches. He had to be the worst line-up choosing, call-up players decision-making and dman pairings coach in the NHL – stats show this team clearly was out coached game in and game out. Heh Dallas when an 18 year vet referee asks you twice to take a time out maybe you should listen.

    He was in over his head and people who don’t get help (maybe ask Asst Ramsay for his perspective maybe nad his 30 years of experience) they are arrogant and think they are the “smartest guys in the room” they will eventually get buried. Check out Dallas’ last 3 press conferences – that guy got buried.

    Not his fault? He’s got a big piece and I think others have a fair share as well but he had a big hand in things.

  • 24% body fat

    As bad as I feel for Dallas he still wasn’t the right coach for the job. He made mistakes but in my opinion they were ROOKIE coach mistakes because he was a ROOKIE. How can management be surprised by this outcome?

    Dallas may one day be a good coach but he needed more NHL coaching experience before taking on this total disaster called the Oilers. A good NHL coach would barely fair any better.

    So now they throw another rookie NHL coach in Nelson into this mess. Wonder how this will work out? Probably like the last two coaches. Management is crazy to think they know what they are doing.

    Go Islanders….