I have a friend who once worked for a manager he couldn't stand. The manager, we'll call him "Dave", thought rather highly of himself. He believed in leadership and knew all the platitudes that went with the leadership training he had read about. He saw himself as a motivator and a mentor to the people who reported to him. He employed numerous strategies, tactics and philosophies to keep his staff performing at "their best".
Dave used to be one of the worker bees. He wasn't a high performer, but he did manage to impress some of his bosses with his management-speak and management philosophies. He was promoted to team leader, then a manager of about 20 people.
According to my friend who worked for him, Dave was not well liked by his staff. Even though he had a high opinion of himself, he didn't come off as arrogant or domineering. He wasn't a ruthless backstabber and he wasn't a complete jerk. He seemed to mean well, but for some reason no one respected him. No one on the team seemed to like him and despite all his efforts, his words often fell on deaf ears. After a while, his staff could hardly stand him.
Fortunately for the team, they had an assistant manager, we'll call him "John". John had always had credibility with the staff. He had a certain quality that people liked. They came to him with complaints, but he always focused them on solutions - which they willingly implemented. They sought his advice and worked well under his direction. It wasn't that people loved John, but he was respected and he was a good leader.
Every so often, an employee or group of employees would express concern or dismay to John about something Dave had done. Staff often sneered and made fun of Dave's valued platitudes that were meant to motivate them. John would simply say, "Nothing lasts forever. Let's figure out how to make this work so we can all move forward." Inevitably, John would re-focus the staff towards their goals, while never disrespecting Dave in any way.
Dave's team consistently performed well and exceeded their targets almost every month. It didn't take long for Dave to be recognized for the performance of his team. He was offered a new position in another location and another manager was brought in to replace Dave. John continued to do a great job of leading his team (as assistant manager) and despite the fact the staff thought John should have been promoted, they continued to follow his lead, regardless of what the new manager said or did.
So why is this story on a hockey blog? Because I'm wondering if Dallas Eakins is "Dave" and Gord Dineen and Derek King are the "John's" who are big reasons for the Marlies' success. I don't mean to diminish the contribution of Steve Spott (as head coach of the Marlies), but having seen Eakins operate for almost a full season, I really wonder whether the Edmonton Oilers inherited "Dave" from the Marlies. Were the Marlies players indifferent to him? Did he really have a significant impact on the success of the team? Did he bring his disciples with him to Edmonton (Acton, Hamilton and Fraser) because they were the few who liked him and believed in him? Does he have the respect of the Oilers' players? Does he have the charisma to be a leader?
Of course Dallas-as-Dave is just a theory, but it seems pretty plausible.