The Edmonton Oilers have hired Dallas Eakins as their new coach, replacing the fired Ralph Krueger.
Eakins is the fourth coach in the past five seasons for the Oilers, who have not made the playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup final in 2006.
”This isn’t about winning one game or winning one season,” Eakins said. ”We want to be in the mix every year to win.”
The 46-year-old Eakins spent the past four seasons with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, reaching the Calder Cup final in 2012. That’s when Edmonton general manager Craig MacTavish, who was coaching the Chicago Wolves at the time, first noticed Eakins’ coaching acumen.
After interviewing Eakins at a Toronto hotel, MacTavish said Monday, he quickly realized it would make more sense to hire him as a head coach than an associate on Krueger’s staff.
Eakins was considered an up-and-coming name in NHL coaching circles. He reportedly drew interest from the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks, and MacTavish knew he had to move quickly.
”He had too much polish and pedigree not to land one of the NHL jobs available,” MacTavish said.
Eakins takes over a young roster that includes No. 1 picks Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov along with Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz. His guidance of young players such as Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri in Toronto played a role in the Oilers’ decision.
”(Eakins) relates well to young players,” MacTavish said. ”That was important for us for obvious reasons.”
Eakins recalled being told by a friend, the late Roger Neilson, that his mark in hockey would be as a coach because he wasn’t a very good player. Eakins never scored a goal in 120 career NHL games.