After an epic finish in 2006, Craig MacTavish’s team quickly began to purge itself of talent. It only took a few days for Chris Pronger to flush the past seasons success and start the exodus of talent. By the time the next season was set to start MacTavish was left without many of his key contributors. To make matters worse the team traded the team’s heart and soul guy Ryan Smyth during that year. For MacTavish it had to be tough. After several years of building to come so close and then to be yet again so far, it had to be deflating. MacTavish soldiered on and still had the team in a position to compete for a playoff spot for the next couple of years. However, many fans felt it was time for MacTavish to go. And so he did. One GM and three coaches later there is a possibility that MacTavish may not have been the problem.
Pat Quinn really never stood a chance. The lack of skill and depth he was dealt was glaring. After a difficult season management decided that the team did not have the talent to compete. Queue the Oiler’s rebuild phase. Quinn was let go for the nurturing values of Tom Renney.
Tom Renney really never stood a chance. With the probable mandate to play the team’s youth at risk of results a divide may have been created between the veterans and the rookies. With this possibility and two seasons of hellacious injuries the Oiler’s success under Renney was not impressive and ultimately he was replaced by Ralph Krueger.
Ralph Krueger never really stood a chance. With high expectations Krueger had to overcome many obstacles. A lockout. Two rookies in key positions. Limited practice opportunities. Compressed schedule. To his credit, Krueger almost got the Oilers to the playoffs. But a disastrous finish to the year, coupled with the firing of GM Steve Tambellini, would ultimately lead to Krueger being relieved of his duties.
Enter Dallas Eakins. New philosophy. New direction. New style. Is Eakins going to more successful than Quinn, Renney and Krueger? Maybe. Maybe not. Eakins will be given a longer leash though. Craig MacTavish has made the hiring of Eakins a big production. It is apparent that MacTavish strongly feels that he and Eakins share the same vision for what needs to happen for the Oilers to be successful. The two are now tied together.
So, what will make Eakins more successful than his predecessors? Better understanding of the game? Superior systems? Not likely. In today’s world of technology every coach has the ability to review and dissect reams of information about systems and strategy. Instead, a few other things may lead to his potential success. The obvious, he is taking over a team with more skill and experience than what the others were handed. But aside from that, the biggest thing that may determine his success is his coach to team compatibility. Yes, compatibility. As fans, we have to accept that players look for positive work environments the same way we do. No longer is the crest on a player’s jersey the biggest motivator. Eakins not only needs to find what makes each player tick but he needs to get each player’s buy-in to achieve success.
Let’s hope this time Coach Eakins in this answer.