Dallas Eakins 7

Like it or not, Dallas Eakins will be back for a second season as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers despite some well-documented bumps in the road during his rookie campaign as an NHL bench boss. That much we know.

Those wanting a continuation of a coaching carousel that’s seen Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger come and go after watching the Oilers go 29-44-9 for 67 points and a 28th-place finish won’t be happy about that. Understandable on a lot of levels.

Those of us, and there are many, who believe sacking Eakins on the heels of running off MacTavish, Quinn, Renney and Krueger doesn’t address the real problem with this team – that the player personnel isn’t good enough and the mix of that personnel isn’t right — are happy the failures of another season aren’t being heaped at the feet of yet another coach.

That’s not to say Eakins was without fault in a season where he obviously needed time to adjust and made some mistakes, but I don’t think it’s difficult to argue, as many of us long have, the focus is slowly shifting, and should, to the players for a season that fell well short of expectations.

Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, who will have a significant say in the future fortunes of this franchise, weighed in on the question of continuity and the return of Eakins in 2014-15 before exit meetings, and both gave their coach a vote of confidence.



“There’s no doubt that coaches grow just as much as players do,” Hall said. “When you have someone that has only coached in the AHL, you come in here and there’s a lot of room for growing. I think you’ve seen that with Dallas.

“You guys aren’t in the room like we are, but the way that he has grown over the course of the year is really something that we can look forward to. Our team, we’re young, and we made some mistakes this year. We’re going to make up for that, hopefully, over the course of the summer and we’re going to learn and we’re going to get better.

“I’m looking forward to having a coach coming back next year and really knowing what to expect. Hockey players, they like comfort and they like stability and having Dallas back next year, knowing what to expect, for me personally is something I’m looking forward to.”

Jordan Eberle

“It’s huge. It’s nice to have that,” Eberle said about starting a season without having to adjust to a new coach. “I’ve only had that once so far. We can kind of just pick up where we left off.

“Like I said, we were playing well at the end of the season and if we can just play that way there’s no reason why we can’t be there. I think starting the year like we were talking about before – we really struggled to find that defensive game that the new coach was bring and I think that’s why we struggled early.”


Dallas Eakins 11

Whatever side of the “Eakins isn’t going anywhere” debate you come down on, talk, as fans have come to know around here these past eight seasons, is cheap. With a season of adjustment behind him, Eakins will be, and should be, on a shorter leash in 2014-15.

Continuity won’t matter a bit if the player personnel and the mix doesn’t change. It falls to MacTavish and the rest of the front office to give Eakins and his coaching staff better pieces to work with. It then falls to Eakins and his staff to make better decisions with the pieces they have at their disposal.

I believe this is going to be an off-season of significant change in terms of player personnel – it has to be. Likewise in hockey-ops and behind the bench, where I think Eakins will get some help in the form of an experienced associate/assistant coach. I suspect some of the incumbents will be gone.

Stay tuned.

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

  • The Soup Fascist

    I am not sure if this is good news or bad news, but I am surprised a lot of people, including yourself, Mr. Brownlee, appear buoyed by what Hall and Eberle are saying in support of the coach.

    I am not sure what else anyone expected them to say.

    Eberle: “Eakins stinks and has lost the room, he should be shuttled out on the next train”?

    Hall: “Of all the half-assed coaches I have seen run this team, Dallas takes the cake”?

    No player is going to sell out el jefe and be branded a coach killer. At least no smart ones.

    I assume you were in these guy’s presence when they were making their statements and clearly I was not. This is not your first rodeo.

    Robin, do you think their votes of confidence were sincere or were they biting their collective tounges and towing the company line? Because to me, at many times during the season this looked like a group that were not buying what Dallas was selling.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      Exactly, these guys were so well schooled in PR by the time they got to the NHL there is no way they are going to ruin there careers by speaking what they really feel. To put complete faith that they are actually saying what they feel is naive IMO

    • mesa

      if they do not like their coach they would have said :it is not my call it is mac T’s.and that it.i really believe they want him back .having a new coach every year is embarrassing.

    • Buoyed?

      Until the player personnel improves, it doesn’t matter who coaches this team. For that reason, I see no purpose in continuing to rotate head coaches. While I saw flaws in the approach taken by Eakins in his defensive and power play strategies, I also recognize there is an adjustment period for any head coach that impacts how he best utilizes his players.

      Hall and other players have said on more than one occasion that starting a season under a new coach year in and year out presents challenges. I’m not surprised they voiced approval at keeping Eakins because I believe that’s what they think.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Fair enough. For the record I don’t think a new coach is the answer either. Starting with a new coach and system would be a handicap this group does not need. Or as another poster indicated, if for no other reason it is just plain embarrassing.

        My question was if you thought Hall and Eberle’s comments were sincere or not. And you answered that question. And that is good news because if your cornerstone players are not on board the Oilers are definitely screwed next year.

        They might be anyway if they can’t upgrade their D core and a couple of key forward spots. Over to you Mac T.

      • Oiler63

        I completely agree with soup facist,ive been thinking that all year when I heard players talk about Eakins. Of course they’re gonna say nice things about him in public, he’s their coach they have no choice. Have you ever heard of someone call out thier coach in the NHL and not get blasted by media and organization for it, it’s how things go in this politically correct day and age. Plus they know that Mac T wont fire eakins in off season so what else are they going to say. Eakins did make rookie coach mistakes, many many many of them. It appears Patrick Roy didn’t make nearly as many. Does that mean it was best choice to hire Eakins? No, the oilers records proves it. Not only did Eakins make bad coaching choices but he did them at the absolite wrong time. All this led to where we are today, 28th very close to 29th. We will never know how much wasted development with Eakins at the helm and even if we improve next season it makes me wonder how much better (this year and next) we could have been with a better coach. By trying to teach the failed swarm system Eakins killed any confidence our goalie (dubnyk) had and then it all spiralled from there. Stubborn eakins then let it go on wayyyy to long and brought down confidence of whole team, pissing off the fans and adding pressure on the players because the fans and city were so mad. Then he played our top players too many minutes (nuge 24 etc..) and killed thier confidence. Then he swapped the 1st 2 lines so much that chemistry was impossible to build (should have kept kid line together duhhhh). All this while talking arrogantly all the time and getting yaks all up in arms ruining his season as well. Im not saying Eakins didnt try to fix his mistakes, he just waited too long to:
        A) realize his systems werent working
        B) admit to eveyone else, they were not working systems
        C) actually change the damn failed systems in the first place

        How many games did we watch as oiler fans where the anmouncers kept saying “the team seems so confused, like they dont k ow what to do” (defense, offence – all parts)

        Yes we will do better next year becasue we cant do mich worse but it will not be due to Eakins, it will be due to a better roster from MacT and I pray that eakins at least doesn’t screw the new roster up as well….

      • Spydyr

        An adjustment period? How long should that be? I’m sorry, but I don’t think anyone should accept an adjustment period of more than a half season.

        In the NFL, systems and playbooks are much more complicated, but a franchise would never accept an explanation like: “Well boss, I really need two seasons to get this thing going.”

        Now I’m all for giving Eakins a second chance with a better roster and better assistants, but please don’t tell me it’s because he needs a longer adjustment period. It didn’t take very long for Ted Nolan to make Latvia look much better than they should have.

  • paul wodehouse

    If Eakins gets the goaltending save % in the high 920’s..like maybe 928 save% I bet he will be a coach of the year candidate. Just look at Varlamov and Patrick Roy. Show me the top goaltenders and the coach of the year candidates are usually not far behind.

    • Patrick Roy was one of the best goalies in all of hockey history, of course the goalie on his team would be great or at least drastically improve. You got the greatest goalie that played for the Avs giving you tips on how to be in net. Oddly, all our good net minders tend to flounder the longer they stay on the team…

  • paul wodehouse

    …I’m wondering what Eakins’ OWN assistant staff hired by him with Kevin and MacTs’ blessing would look like…Robin…would you comment on whether Eakins identity as a head coach would be bolstered by his OWN hand picked staff…would his confidence as a NHL head coach be better? …could this team start all over again and deal with new voices in their heads or is the status quo to your liking?

  • Rusty Patenaude

    I wouldn’t be too sure that MacT’s vote of confidence is as good as gold. Who knows? Someone might come in for an interview as custodian and totally blow MacT away. The next thing you know the custodian applicant is being offered the head coaching job just to make sure no other team snaps him up. Then Eakins gets Skype fired in Switzerland (or wherever Eakins goes in the summer). I’m just sayin’.

  • Eakins is fortunate that Edmonton can’t play their ‘fire the head coach to hide that fact we have terribly mismanaged this franchise’ card. He’s fortunate MacT as a rookie GM was itching to make a move and took out Krueger prematurely therefore allowing Eakins to have way more slack than he normally would have. He’s lucky the team’s owner is a super fan rather than an owner who demands accountability and results. He’s also lucky that 6Rings ran the team into the ground after 2006. Hopefully, Dallas can capitalize on all of this and finally turn this team around.

  • D


    I’ve run my fair share of businesses that have failed and others that started as failures and turned around after making adjustments.

    When it comes to making those adjustments, there’s usually that “elephant in the room” that everyone suspects is the cause of problems, but no one wants to believe or address. So you end up trying to change all kinds of other areas in the business hoping that those fixes will lead to success, and you won’t have to deal with the elephant. But that very rarely (if ever) works.

    For the Oilers, it seems that the problem elephant (that many didn’t want to accept) is the players on the ice. So although I was not a fan of his first season, keeping Eakins behind the bench sends a very strong message that the Oilers are targeting the elephant.

  • I think it would be prudent have Nelson on the big league coaching staff. He knows the players & has had proven success at the AHL level.

    No surprise to anyone but I’m sure MacT will bring in at least two defencemen through trade or UFA while they work Klefbom & others into the league. I suspect they will re-sign Fraser as the 6/7 d-man & that doesn’t hurt my feelings. I think Pinizzotto could be re-signed as well. I see 4, maybe 5 new faces on the roster to start next year.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I agree that Nelson would do a great job and probably deserves a shot, but I have to think this would be less than ideal for the organization.
      I’d rather add an experienced assistant coach from somewhere else in the league, rather than at the expense of our AHL team and development system that seems to be working.

  • If that is what the players are saying then it is hard not to give Eakins another shot. I am ok with that…but…I am quite certain that if the oilers start out even remotely close to what they did this year, Eakins will be relieved of his duties and we will see MacT behind the bench. Count on it. My guess.. he gets 12 games..I believe this conversation has already taken place between Mact, Lowe, and Katz…

    • The problem is if he is sacked after 12 to 25 games, Barry Trotz and the other good candidates will be long gone. MacT, as you said, will have to do the honors himself, untill he finds his new candidate in the 2015 offseason. It will translate into 9 years out of the playoffs. So here’s hoping Eakins get it right this time around.

      • Agreed. Like you I really hope Eakins is the oilers coach for the next ten years. If that happens we will be contenders for years to come. I do believe he is on a short leash though.. Eakins is not to blame for the way a lot of these players mailed it in this year. I have a lot of faith in MacT getting the right type of players to fill out the roster next year. Players who know how to compete. Plus if we get the goaltending to have a save % in the 920″s…Eakins is gonna look like a genius…

  • “Hockey players, they like comfort and they like stability and having Dallas back next year, knowing what to expect, for me personally is something I’m looking forward to.”

    HHMMMM INTERESTING…………. *welds revolving coaches door shut*