Around this time last year, I was definitely defending the former head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Eakins. I recall, on twitter, how some people compared him to George Burnett (who I will talk about a bit later.) I stood by our guy; I mean after all, he was OUR guy. I was stubborn, I believed that we needed to stick with Eakins, for the sake of consistency. I already cheer for the Cleveland Browns, a team that changes management and coaches like a pair of dirty underwear. I thought, Eakins could be the game changer.
I was Wrong
George Burnett was the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers in the shortened lockout year in 94-95. Burnett, like Eakins, had a successful coaching stint in the AHL as he was the Head Coach behind the Calder Cup winning Cape Breton Oilers in 1993. He was a young coach too, only being thirty three when coached the Edmonton Oilers.
One of his first moves was to make Shayne Corson captain. This raised some red flags. Corson was, easily, the worst captain in Oilers history. Prior to being named captain, Corson was traded from Montreal due to his constant extra curricular activities and run ins with the law. Naming a guy, who was also known as a cheap shot artist, as captain was terrible. The incident that summed up Corson’s and Burnett’s tenure, was a game where Corson attempted to change an assist in his favor over the guy he was supposed to mentor, Jason Arnott, during a 7-2 drubbing to the LA Kings. Corson would have a temper tantrum and Burnett would later strip the C off the captain, who would later blast Coach George in the media.
Burnett was a young, upcoming coach, that sealed his fate after a disastrous 7 game losing streak near the end of the year, costing a playoff spot. After a lockout shortened year, fourty-eight games in total, he was done.
He was considered the worst coach in Oilers history. Yet, he was about to be outdone.
Hope and Change
When Craig MacTavish hired Dallas Eakins in the summer of 2013, I was over the moon. I heard about all the work he did with the Toronto Marlies. I figured, he was going to be the step in the right direction. When he mentioned how ” The Edmonton Oilers won’t be easy to play against” I was sold. However, during that trying first season, it would a recurring theme, of how Eakins would be all talk….no action.
The First Year
The First Year, I defended Eakins. I was one of the many who blamed the horrible goaltending we had that year, with Devan Dubnyk not able to save easy shots. I also pointed out to David Perron’s career year. Things were going to be fine!
At the end of that first year, the Oilers were not “harder to play against”. They were not “in the mix, to win.”
Eakins did many downright zany decisions with the team, that was head scratching. From the get go, he wanted to focus on fitness and conditioning. So what did he do to accomplish this?
….take out the donuts in the media room and replace them with fruit. Here’s a rookie coach, wanting to make culture changes. Changes, that were way over his head. What was replacing donuts with fruit going to accomplish with the media?
Better yet, was the removal of former players photos from the locker room. “It is to build our own legacy” Dallas said. I was behind that, because Hey! this is our coach! he’s changing the culture! We need to forge our own future!
Again though, how is removing photos from the room, going to help? You do not see teams like Montreal removing their history from their locker rooms because it would be sacrilegious. Yet, nothing was deemed holy by Eakins. A new slogan would be used: Chop Wood Carry Water. Who knew what this meant.
For a guy who was so focused on fitness and conditioning, the practices had more focus on strategy. A lot of standing around as Matt Hendricks would point out after Eakins was fired. Traded players, like Ladi Smid, commented how after his first practice with his new team he would feel like puking.
For advance tactics of hockey, was the introduction of the Swarm defence. Which would often look like this:
Of course, Eakins would adapt, and throw his players under the bus, saying how he was not aware that the team could not play simple defence. Then came his usage of players, most notably Nail Yakupov, who had an awesome rookie year under Ralph Krueger. Yet, Eakins was hellbent on making Yakupov into a two way player. Yakupov’s entire game would dip and is beaten like a dead horse: Yakupov was an awful player with Eakins.
Then came incidents like this:
Yes, more focus on the freaking suit being sprayed by a little bit of water than the game itself. The Oilers would end up being a lottery team. It was a disaster.
I could see the flaws in Eakins game. That said, my stubbornness kicked in: I STILL defended the man. WE needed a coach that would be consistent.
In year two, after winning a whopping seven games in twenty four games, Dallas Eakins was fired. The entire team regressed under Eakins. There was a focus on “advance stats” and according to a recent Eberle quote, a focus of Corsi on the PowerPlay. While the talk for advance stats is for another post (in short, I like them, I just do not like how the people who use them act), it was another mis bundled attempt of a guy who was in over his head. My frustrations for the team came to a breaking point after the Oilers were booed off the ice and in the tunnel in November.
This was the sealing point for me: Dallas Eakins, had to go. I was wrong about him.
Dallas Eakins went 36-63-14 in parts of two seasons. He won only a pathetic 32% of his games. Every single player, under Dallas Eakins, managed to regress. With the introduction of Todd Nelson, we’ve seen guys like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins becoming the highest point getter in the month of March, followed closely by his linemate Jordan Eberle. Nail Yakupov is actually looking like a first overall pick that all Oilers fans hoped he can be.
In the end, I was horribly wrong about Dallas Eakins. I’ve been wrong many times before. Dallas Eakins though, was George Burnett 2.0. He single handily put the franchise back even more.
And I’m sure there were other fans out there who believed in him. At the end of the day though, we were conned by him.