Monday, December 15, 2014
Heading into the 2014-15 season, Dallas Eakins was walking a very fine line. While no one within the organization was publicly talking about this team as one that “absolutely had to make the playoffs”, there was no doubt the Edmonton Oilers needed to show real signs of improvement after taking a major step backwards in 2013-14.
Unfortunately this team got off to a horrendous start for a second straight season and it cost the head coach his job on Monday morning. As much as Craig MacTavish wanted no part of showing “his guy” the door, he was ultimately forced into doing exactly that after watching his team fall to 7-19-5 with Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers.
While one could argue whether or not Eakins was given much to work with during his brief stint behind the Oilers bench, there is no question he was given more than any of his recent predecessors. At the end of the day, this team is still nowhere near good enough and to his credit, MacTavish wasted little time in placing the blame for that upon himself after announcing the organization had decided to go in a different direction.
“There is blood all over my hands in this as well because I put the lineup together and the roster. I am not here to absolve myself of accountability for the situation we are in, nor am I here to solely blame Dallas for the job that he did. In my mind, he did a lot of really good things for our group. This group had a long way to go and he brought them a significant distance towards getting the bulk and core of this group to mature and get their games to a level where it allows us to have more success than we have had to this point. It was just the compounding of all the losses that led me to this decision.”
That does not sound like a guy who feels he gave Eakins a full deck of cards but in the end, none of that mattered. While the organization was hoping their general manager’s “state of the union” and firing of goalie coach Frederic Chabot would have bought them a little more time before having to decide on what to do with their head coach, they simply could not wait any longer. This team was essentially dead in the water and something had to give.
For the time being, MacTavish will take over behind the bench in hopes of getting a vibe for this group tick but it will not be an experiment that will last very long. Outside of sending a clear message to his players and helping with the transition of handing over the reins to Todd Nelson for the remainder of the season, MacT will have his work cut out for him as a general manager.
With fifty-one games remaining on the Oilers schedule, Nelson will be given an opportunity to show what he can do at this level but it will likely be for an audition in another National Hockey League city. The chances of this organization not bringing in a veteran coach prior to the start of the 2015-16 campaign would appear to be highly unlikely and makes the appointment a rather sensible one.
While they could have just as easily turned the team over to Craig Ramsay for the rest of the year, rewarding Nelson for his four plus seasons in Oklahoma City was the right thing to do…especially since the organization passed on him when they decided to bring Eakins on board in the summer of 2013.
Add to that the fact he has already coached a number of these players at the American Hockey League level and it likely made the decision that much easier. In the end, this move probably won’t make much of a difference when it comes to the standings but hopefully it gives this group some sort of spark because god knows they are in dire need of something.
If nothing else, the one thing firing Dallas Eakins will most certainly accomplish, is quieting a rather large portion of an extremely frustrated fan base. While it may not be the exact solution many were hoping for, it is one that will buy the Edmonton Oilers more time and this stage of the game…that is about all this organization can hope for.
Oilers: Sorry but the numbers don’t lie
Audio Craig MacTavish Press Conference (Courtesy - EdmontonOilers.com)