Eakins Diet: No Donuts, Lots of Tough Love


Anton Belov came out in the media today with some unkind words about Edmonton Oilers’ head coach Dallas Eakins. Eakins has been a controversial figure this past season. The team seemed to make some headway under the tutelage of Ralph Krueger, appearing in playoff contention for a brief time before going on a skid to end the  lockout shortened season. We are not going to rehash the wisdom of this decision, as it has been debated to death. Eakins is here to stay. However, when players begin to talk negatively about the coach, pointing to his presence as a main reason for not re-signing, it should give Oilers faithful pause. And so, we pause here to assess Eakins in light of the bad press.

The first thought that I had about Belov’s knock on Eakins is that Belov was never a great fit for the Oilers to begin with. He wasn’t a horrible player, and to be sure, he had a steep learning curve. A new coach, bad goaltending, lots of new faces—in otherwords, an uphill battle. However, I would argue that Belov had plenty of chances to show his acumen to the coaching staff. One isn’t hailed one of the best defensemen in the KHL for nothing. Like most of his Oilers brethren, Belov simply didn’t fight hard enough for 60 minutes.

You can chalk up Belov’s reduced ice time as the season wore on to the emergence of Martin Marincin. Marincin gained a reputation as the season drew to a close of being one of the teams’ best and most adept d-men. He pushed Belov down the depth chart, simple as that. With Klefbom’s audition, along with the continued use of Philip Larsen, there simply wasn’t as much room for him to grow as an Oiler.

So, does that mean Belov stunk or that Eakins and him don’t get along? He and Nail Yakupov were out of the line-up more than any other two players, seeing as Ryan Whitney isn’t on the team. Belov could have possibly interpreted the moves as a bias against young Russian players, but the more likely story is that Eakins saw something in his game he didn’t like and pinned his keester to the bench.

There will be much chatter in Oil Country as to whether or not he should be fired after our option as a seventh d-man walked out, middle finger extended to Dallas Eakins. But, he’s our seventh d-man option. Seventh! I would avoid putting too much stock in Belov’s comments. I suspect there is not a rot at the core of our coaching staff (although I still question Steve Smith‘s uselfulness), and that the rot is from years of inefficient management, something that is being remedied.

In fact, today the Oilers hired Oklahoma City Barons GM Bill Scott as Assistant GM for the NHL club. He will be in charge of CBA matters, salary concerns and player negotiations among other things. It’s good to see a little more diversity in the upper office, and youth, too. Scott is 33.

Dallas Eakins is somewhat akin to Barack Obama in the sense that he inherited a mess. Like the POTUS, he is judged based on results, but results can be hard to come by when you don’t have commitment from all sides. Craig Mactavish spoke about the culture change needed to make the Oilers a success. He feels Eakins brings that element. There’s still a lot of negative energy and there’s still not a winning culture. History may look kindly on Eakins, but right now he is the poster child for Edmonton’s woes. I imagine its a title he doesn’t deserve.