The 2013-14 season hasn’t gone according to plan for Dallas Eakins or the Edmonton Oilers. A quick glance at the overall standings and that is an easy impression to come away with. They are 11-18-3 on the year and are in last place in the Western Conference. They are almost among the worst teams in the NHL with 25 points.
That hasn’t been the whole story recently though. The Oilers are 6-3-1 in their last 10 contests, and have shown flashes of the brilliance that the squad should be capable of on a nightly basis.
Terry Jones of The Edmonton Sun spoke to the first-year head coach about what he’s changed or done differently recently, and Eakins gave several candid and refreshing answers. In an NHL landscape chock full of “hockey speaking” bench bosses that yammer on about “full 60-minute efforts,” Eakins was alarmingly self-aware in his comments:
Well, yeah. I came in and I had a way that I thought this team was going to play. ‘This is how we’re going to play.’ I thought it was important to stick with that. But then, when you get to learn your personnel a little bit better, you can do one of two things as a coach. You can dig your heels in and say ‘We’re going to play this way!’ But if your group isn’t suited to play that way, I think that’s pretty damn stupid of the coach. You have to adapt and go ‘You know what? Maybe this way is a little bit better for the group.’ And as we progress and as we get a stronger group, then maybe you can go back to how you really envision your team. Maybe I was a little bit ahead of myself and where I thought we could go right away.
It isn’t very often that a coach is so open in his self-evaluation. You’re lucky to see quotes like this after a guy is let go and he’s had three or four years to think about everything. Eakins is referring to a state his team was in only weeks ago though, which speaks volumes to his players for one major reason.
The coach is big on accountability. It’s why Nail Yakupov struggled so badly at the beginning of the season and why some of the more talented Oilers wilted in the early goings. For him to hold himself publicly accountable for the mistakes he was making is downright rejuvenating.
Kudos to Eakins for his candor.