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Dallas Eakins Hired as New Head Coach

Dallas Eakins has been hired as the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

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Earlier today, the Edmonton Oilers announced the hiring of Dallas Eakins as the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, signing him to a four-year contract. When Alan wrote about Ralph Krueger being fired over the weekend, he noted that there were already rumors about Dallas Eakins coming in. As details surrounding Craig MacTavish's decision to fire Krueger started to come out, it became increasingly obvious that Eakins was the man who has going to serve as Krueger's replacement.

Craig MacTavish began the summer looking for an associate coach (apparently at Ralph Krueger's request), but after interviewing several candidates, MacTavish decided that Dallas Eakins was a guy he needed to have. At today's press conference, MacTavish further explained that the only way he felt he could get Eakins was to hire him as the head coach. The tight timeline meant that Ralph Krueger, who was in Switzerland, would learn about the decision in a brief call over Skype. That certainly isn't ideal, but honestly, it was likely the best option available considering the timeline (i.e. Eakins had done other interviews and needed to be offered the position quickly, which meant the only options were letting Krueger know over the phone or through the media), though as MacTavish himself noted, the process "hasn't been fair to Ralph".

But what's done is done, and MacTavish seems convinced that Eakins is the better coach. The new hire did a fine job at the press conference today, but Eakins didn't delve too much into the nuts and bolts of coaching that we've come to judge people on. No one asked him about matching lines, using zone-starts, the importance of set plays off faceoffs, his tactics around TV timeouts, or other things of that sort (though he did mention wanting to run his best players for big minutes). No, his introduction was mostly spent speaking in the sorts of generalities you'd expect from any modern coach (character, fitness, tactics, competitiveness are all important!), and that's fine. Eakins was quite articulate, and we'll come to know more about him through observation once next season starts.

But I just can't help myself when it comes to looking for hints. Eakins named both Roger Neilson and Paul Maurice as his biggest influences. Neilson, I like. He was famous for breaking down the game in detail, and seeing beyond what others could see. Maurice, on the other hand, doesn't seem as innovative. Maurice has been a head coach in the Behind the Net era in Carolina, which means we can know a bit more about him (and how he might have influenced Eakins). He's not a poor coach, but his use of zone-starts was pretty conservative relative to some other modern coaches (like Alain Vigneault). Jonathan Willis's recent article also gives us some indication about his strengths (penalty killing, overall shot differential) and weaknesses (power play), while confirming that the Marlies have been an excellent team at the AHL level under his tutelage (shot differential, goal differential, overall record).

I don't think we have enough information to know whether or not Eakins will be an upgrade on Ralph Krueger. But we certainly have enough information to know that Craig MacTavish believes he will, and that he was willing to take decisive action when he came to that conclusion. That alone is good reason to be encouraged.