Fleming’s Media Tour, Dallas Eakins, and OKC

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New Bakersfield Condors head coach Gerry Fleming recently made a quick media tour around the city, and one of the first questions he was asked seemed peculiar in its own way.

It didn’t intend to sound like a ‘we don’t know ‘nothin’ about this here ice hockey game’ but at first blush it definitely had that effect.

Fleming was forced to handle the query “So, what exactly does a head coach in hockey do?”

Without so much as a bewildered glance, Fleming was able to form a fine retort.

“You wear a lot of different hats,” he told the local NBC affiliate. “You oversee practice, run the bench, send game reports back to Edmonton.

“The bottom line is that you’re managing people. You oversee strength and conditioning, medicals, equipment. Some days you’re dad, some days you’re best friend, and some days you’re disciplinarian. You need to be prepared for whatever challenge the job faces you with that day.”

Fleming could have one of the most-talented lineups in the AHL this coming season, though of course, that will all depend on who the Oilers keep stationed in Edmonton after training camp and pre-season games. The Condors could have former first-round picks Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse plus an array of notable prospects including Bogdan Yakimov, Iiro Pakarinen, and Anton Slepyshev.

Whoever the Condors have coming for opening night and beyond, Fleming will have a dual-purpose role.

“The Oilers have invested a lot of money, time, and resources into these players so it’s paramount you develop them. That’s the primary goal but at the same time, you have to put a good product on the ice,” said Fleming.

Fleming added to the subject in speaking with the Bakersfield Californian, and highlighted the fact the Oilers and the rest of the AHL’s California contingent will play eight fewer games than the other teams in the league (68 compared to 76): 

“We’re going to have a young team here this year,” he said. “(The Oilers) want us to develop. That’s why we’re playing fewer games this year. There will be a lot more practice time, there will be a lot more teaching time, there will be a lot more focus on video, (the) individual aspect of teaching the game. It will be more of a development basis this year than a go-go structure.”

Other tidbits from Fleming’s meet-the-media tour:

On his coaching style: “I want to see us get better every single game. That’s been my philosophy throughout my career.”

On retaining former Condors head coach J.F. Houle as his assistant: “We’ve got history together and that’s just made the transition much easier.”

Houle himself seemed eager for the new task considering how tough the final year of the ECHL Condors was. Injuries and call-ups to Oklahoma City played a big part in Bakersfield finishing 26-38-3-5, leaving the Condors with the second-worst record in the Western Conference and sixth in the seven-team Pacific Division.

“I’m not a big ego guy,” said Houle. “I’m good friends with Gerry and I’m here to support him with whatever he wants me to do.”

No. 1 or No. 2?

Dallas Eakins was run out of Edmonton when it seemed the entire team was ready to stick a knife in his back.

Although Eakins has landed a new gig with the San Diego Gulls, the top affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, he might want to keep peeking back over his shoulder.

An AHL source revealed that Eakins was not the Gulls’ first choice for the job, and got it only after the guy that Anaheim wanted for the job was not allowed to take it.

The source laid out that the Ducks/Gulls’ wish was to have Travis Green behind the San Diego bench, but Green was still under contract to the Vancouver Canucks to coach their AHL affiliate in Utica. The Canucks denied a request to let Green out of his contract thus forcing the Ducks and Gulls to go to Plan ‘B’ – Dallas Eakins.

Green played in the NHL for the Islanders, Bruins, Maple, and coincidentally the Ducks, and also won a championship with Team Canada at the 2007 Spengler Cup. As a coach, Green has built a significant reputation in a short period of time. He started out as an assistant with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and was promoted to interim head coach when Mike Johnston was suspended by the league for player-benefit violations. The Winterhawks didn’t miss a beat, however, as Green then led them past the Edmonton Oil Kings to claim the WHL title and a berth in the 2013 Memorial Cup where they finished second.

Following the Memorial Cup run, Green was named the head coach of the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ top farm team located in upstate New York.

OKC not DOA?

Blazers

Back when the Central Hockey League was somewhat of a decent-sized deal in the world of minor-league hockey, the Oklahoma City Blazers were one of the most popular clubs in the circuit.

The team lasted from 1992 to 2008 – virtually an eternity in double-A hockey. In their second and third seasons, the Blazers averaged more than 10,000 per game, and from 1995 thru their second-to-last season, the average attendance per year was in a range from 8,200 to 9,700.

With numbers like that, it’s hard not to imagine someone trying to reincarnate the Blazers in the wake of the Barons demise.

Brad Lund, the former CEO of the Blazers, recently told OKNews that there is preliminary interest in reviving the Blazers and getting an ECHL expansion franchise by the 2016-17 season.

“It is a significant investment,” said Lund of the $2-million fee. “I know that there are some people out there who assume this is a done deal but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“I do want fans to know that we’re working on it and I’m optimistic there will be a Blazers Part II.”

However, it’s highly unlikely there’ll be a bizarre twist of the new Blazers becoming the Oilers’ ECHL affiliate since the Oilers Entertainment Group has purchased the Norfolk Admirals to be their double-A squad.

  • sportsjunkie007

    “So, what exactly does a head coach in hockey do?”

    *gives disbelieving look

    “You aren’t a sports journalist, are you?”

    “No, I normally do the weather on the weekends.”

  • Randaman

    Not hard to believe that Eakins was not the first choice for San Diego.

    That picture just brings back all kinds of BAD memories!

    Good luck to the Condors and keep the articles coming.

  • ubermiguel

    In 1988 I can see having to educate Californians about hockey, but two new teams and three Cups later? Smooth answer from Fleming.

    How did the Blazers have better attendance than the Barons? Probably something to do with the Thunder showing up.

  • Spydyr

    Dallas Eakins will have them in last place……..you can bank on that. He will sit in the stands with the one media guy covering the team, while his team practices without him.

    Worst coach in the history of the Oilers…….thank goodness he is gone!

  • ubermiguel

    OMG seeing Eakins photo was like a lighting bolt tom the eye…can it be thats what we had for a head coach just one year ago…..my how things have changed in Oilerville.

    • bradleypi

      Yes it was. And the best was how you all bought into Eakins as the answer. Before you all turned on him. Oiler fans are hilarious. .like sand thru the hourglass

      • sportsjunkie007

        That was not the case . Most had reservations about Kreuger getting let go . Oiler fans were forced to endure Eakins with reservations throughout his tenure here . You must have been one of the few that did buy into by the sounds of it . Enjoy your fantasy world .

        • bradleypi

          Even I as an Oiler fan have to call bull**** on this comment. If I remember correctly everyone on here was calling dubnyk “dumbnyk” and were heaping HEAVY loads of blame on dubie. And gags. Even I was a fan of the Eakins hiring. He was saying everything oiler fans wanted to hear. And then I watched the first game against the Jets and quickly realized Eakins had no clue. But I clearly remember oilersnation hated dubnyk that year and no one was “alarmed” by Eakins “systems”. And non existent power play. And horrendous penalty kill. You get the point. It’s just like this year with everyone blaming jultz, nikitin and ference for the bad year. Oilersnation always needs to blame someone, it’s just always the wrong someone lol

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  • Oilerz4life

    I’m going to get dislikes for this no doubt, but in all fairness to Eakins (and I hate to say this because of what he did in Edmonton), he was a good AHL coach previously and I hope this new assignment will rejuvinate his career. I wouldn’t have wished the Oilers on any coach and they destroyed the NHL opportunities of a few good coaches, Krueger and Renney (both were bad mouthed in EDM while they were coaching).

    The tabloid gossip is always fun to read but honestly, hockey is supposed to be the classy sport, where you shake hands and leave your differences on the ice, when it’s all said and done. The Oilers rebuild is hardly Eakins fault and there is still a lot of work to do, despite the optimism surrounding the current roster. So good luck to Eakins and his power mullet, hopefully after years of counseling you will be able to put the whole boys on the bus mess behind you.

      • Oilerz4life

        I know, I know, but when I think of something like that I think of Gretzky, the all time Oilers example of class and you know what, the Oilers were hardly a good team last year.

        In all fairness to Eakins, he didn’t have the advantage that Nelson had in having worked with many of the Oiler’s prospects for years in OKC. Who knows if it will work out for the Eakinator and I don’t know if the Condors play his team or not. If they do I hope the Condors clean Eakins clock. But in all fairness he was dealt a pretty crappy hand and I hope it works out for him.

        Don’t forget that while Nelson turned things around somewhat last year, there were some roster changes as well and some of the Oilers late season success can be attributed to that.

    • bradleypi

      Not sure what Eakins has over you but thd oilers were trending up until Eakins came along. He was a good coach in the ahl because the Marlies just beat the crap out of everyone. He is the reason everyone on oilersnation thinks yakupov is a career 3rd liner and Justin schultz is a bum. Guy doesn’t have a clue how to coach skill players.

      • Dan 1919

        Not sure who sold you the coolaid, but the Oilers weren’t trending up. They ran out of time in the shortened season to show us how terrible they were going to be that year.

        Dubnyk let the team down, Petry let the team down, Gagner let the team down, Shultz let the team down, as did Tambi, Lowe etc… It’s been a collective effort

        • bradleypi

          Lol. But in that shortened year, did they not finish higher than the previous? Hall ebs and nuge were lighting the lamp. And the defence wasn’t the train wreck that it turned into under Eakins. Are you still seriously blaming dubnyk for having to go one on one with point blank shooters in the slot because all 5 oilers were chasing the puck around in thd “swarm” defense? Maybe go back and watch tape from Eakins 1st year and honestly tell me that that was all dubnyks fault. And then go ask thd Minnesota wild if dubnyk “let them down”, or saved their season.

      • Oilerz4life

        I’m not trying to emulate some sort of Eakins man crush although he does have a pretty dandy mullet, all I’m saying is that the Oilers sucking ass for the last nine years is hardly his fault.

        The roster is still weak on D and that includes Shultz, who along with Yakupov, will have to prove that as a professional NHL hockey player, it shouldn’t matter who your coach or linemates are if you are going to prove that you can play a hard defensive game.

        Yak shouldn’t need Roy to foster dad and Shultz lack luster play is his own fault. I hope these players can turn their careers around but that is something they can only do for themselves. I don’t agree with your assessment of Shultz play or reputation at all.

        • bradleypi

          What if these guys do know how to play simple defense tho. And Eakins systems just had everyone in the wrong positions all the time?? Why does oilersnation never think of this? It’s not like ANYBODY on the Oilers was a defensive stalwart. It’s always yakupovs or schultzs fault on here. Why didn’t Eakins teach them how to play defence if they were so “bad” at it??? Isn’t that a coach’s job? To teach? Or do I expect too much from a coach. Yakupov was different player under Nelson and will be even better under coach McLellan. As will Schultz. And I will be reminding oilersnation all year long about how they turned on these guys.

          • Oilerz4life

            I can see your point, but at this point they are NHL players and shouldn’t need a babysitter. Yak has a lot to prove, shouldn’t need Roy, but has potential. No guarantees. No way is Shultz worth 4 mil. Going to have to agree to disagree with you on that one.

    • Anton CP

      I questioned the choice of Eakins at hiring, I wondered if he can coach before the season start, I think that he is a mistake after the opening game, I hate him by 3rd game and I want him to be fired by 5th game. Still, It took an year and half for MacT finally catch on and fire him. How can you say a guy knows his stuffs when he learns new trick from football to coach hockey?

  • Randaman

    Wow, just looked at the season schedule and we get NINE back to back sets of games on the road this year.

    I wonder how many Toronto has or any team in the pampered eastern conference.

    What a joke, oh well, I guess it is what it is

    • JackB

      The favoritism shown the East is sickening !!

      And never mind an apparent NHL favoritism for Eastern (and BIG MARKET) Teams. (Did you see Gary Bettman’s face when the balls ended up as one of Edmonton’s assigned number sequences?) (In the taped portion of the Lotto Draw in the “locked”/”sequestered” back room?)

      He actually made feel guilty for God’s sake (BUT ONLY FOR A LITTLE WHILE !!!!) Never mind the NHL favoritism, how about National TV and National news . . . !?!?!!!

      All of the Eastern sports writers are asses! (or at least most of them) I saw an article on Hockey News website, where the sports writer GUARANTEED that Toronto would have Connor McDavid in three years; saying how we are so incompetent that they would be able to get him with an offer sheet !!

      I felt like punching my computer screen . . . (good thing I don’t have a temper haha)

  • Randaman

    @ultrathinbraincells

    I just love your holier than thou comments. Have you read anything on Lamesnation lately? The comment section there is loaded with just as many -if not more- laughable comments! So it may be a good idea to think before you speak. But judging by your previous comment to this site, that may be asking to much!

  • JackB

    I think Dallas Eakins watched way too much Moneyball during his time here. He wanted to reinvent an offense oriented team into some defensive blob. If said player gets 3 shots per shift and manages to keep the other team to 1 shot against per shift then have him go out during the second period of a game during a snowstorm after winter solstice. And he might be able to ahhhhh who gives a crap!!! Its hockey, you go out skate hard and compete. All Eakins ever did was flip his hair and roll his eyes at his players. He will never get another NHL gig. He should have started as an assistant with Ralph Kruger. But with the debacle he put on here maybe we wouldnt have gotten McDavid. So thanks Eakins for your incompetence as n NHL head coach.

  • Serious Gord

    Fleming and Houle are just the ticket for the Condors. The roster looks solid there too.

    McLellan has an entire functioning NHL coaching staff. Gads even the new guy (Herbers) has back to back National Championships!!

    Eakins was instrumental in getting us Draisaitl and McDavid. We could at least CrowdFund a thank you card for him.

  • Anton CP

    Btw, can this be the last time we talk about Eakins? I really want to forget about that he ever coached the Oilers but peoples just cannot stop to talk about him…