Edmonton - August 11, 2014 - While the Edmonton Oilers organization might not say publicly, one has to think head coach Dallas Eakins will be on the hot seat in 2014-15.
After leading this team to as disappointing a season that has been seen in this neck of the woods for some time, and that is saying something, the former Toronto Marlies bench boss surely could not survive another year of under achievement when it comes to the National Hockey League standings.
After watching this lineup struggle to the degree that it did in 2013-14, anything outside of pushing for a playoff spot during the coming season would have to be deemed as a miserable failure. Unfortunately for Mr. Eakins, this roster still has three major flaws:
1) Absolutely zero depth down the middle
2) Nothing that even comes close to resembling a top pairing defenceman
3) Uncertainty in goal
With that being the case, is it even realistic to expect this coaching staff to turn this thing around in such short order? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t but one thing is very evident, Dallas Eakins will need to be a lot better than he was during his initial kick at the can behind a National Hockey League bench or this could very well be his final season in charge of the Orange and Blue.
There were more than a few whispers last season surrounding players who were not big on the way the first year head coach did things, both on and off ice. His inability to run an engaging and high octane practice was brought into question by nearly every player who left town via trade and one would have to think there are still more than handful of guys who felt the same way that are still in that dressing room.
It is no secret that nearly every player on the roster regressed under his tutelage in ’13-’14 and as much as the vast majority of Oiler fans would love to pin all of that on the recently departed duo of Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith, that would be ignoring the obvious issue. The most glaring decline in performance came from youngster Nail Yakupov and that simply cannot be allowed to continue.
Clearly the organization is banking on the addition of Craig Ramsey to this year’s staff as a major addition and it may very well turn out to be exactly that. With that said, he is an assistant coach and at the end of the day, the final call is up to the head coach and Dallas does not appear to be one who lacks in his ability to make decisions…no matter how odd some of them appear to be.
Be it trying to implement the now legendary “swarm system” on a team that was clearly unable to grasp it or an unwillingness to change things up on a power play that was among the worst in the league, after being one of the best over the previous two seasons. Eakins has to be able to change his approach on the fly and to this point we have yet to see it.
Funny thing is, when he was brought on board one of his supposed strengths was the variety of different looks he forced opposing coaches to deal with on a nightly basis in the American Hockey League and that clearly hasn’t been the case at the NHL level. In fairness, some of that clearly had to do with the lack of quality pieces he had at his disposal but recognizing your audience and what they are capable of is must for any coach at this level and as of right now, Eakins has yet to show he has that ability.
One would hope having a guy like Ramsay around will keep the head coach from making a mountain out of a mole hill as he did with Taylor Hall in the now infamous exploding water bottle episode but will it be enough to help him change his approach to both his players and plan of attack? These are not AHL players that need to have their physical fitness as well as their hockey smarts brought into to question on a near daily basis…be it in a one-on-one setting or via the media.
There is no question that with the talent on this roster, the Edmonton Oilers should not be battling to stay out of the basement of the Western Conference standings and yet that is exactly where they found themselves in 2013-14. Expecting a complete 180 would not be fair to ask of Dallas Eakins in 2014-15 but like it or not, there will need to be a marked improvement when it comes to wins and losses or the forty-seven year old could find himself on the unemployment come next summer.