Dallas Eakins

Columnist: Next Leafs coach should come from within

9 Comments

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star knows where Brian Burke should look for his next head coach:

Toronto!

(And yes, we’re all now working on the assumption Ron Wilson is a dead man walking.)

The Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, is currently guided by a highly-regarded coaching candidate in Dallas Eakins.

Eakins, 45, has coached the Marlies for the last three seasons and impressed many by grooming several current Leafs (James Remier, Tyler Bozak, Jake Gardiner, Joey Crabb) and implementing a rigorous fitness regime, which you can read about here.

As such, Cox thinks the Leafs should give Eakins a shot at the NHL level, rather than bring in a veteran coaching retread.

If you know Eakins at all, you know he was a journeyman player who bounced around the league, and one who took copious notes along the way. That’s helped him put together a first-place Marlie team, a team with an excellent defensive record despite so-so goaltending, a team with a chance of a playoff run this spring.

If he’d done this in Rochester or Norfolk, you might wonder how it would translate to Toronto. But he’s done it in Toronto, obviously not with the scrutiny that comes with coaching the Leafs, but in the same media and hockey market.

Again, Burke may not wish to go with a rookie, and Randy Carlyle is another name that will come up, although it’s worth noting that Carlyle won a Cup with Burke in Anaheim in his first NHL coaching job.

Moreover, surely Wilson himself has disproved the notion that only a seasoned hand can deal with coaching in Toronto. It’s hard, over four years, to imagine a coach with less competitive success who has generated a more negative image.

Cox also makes an interesting point: In 1994, the Leafs had both Marc Crawford and Joel Quenneville working for their AHL affiliate in St. John’s. But with Pat Burns entrenched at the NHL level, both Crow and Q left the organization…and both went on to become Stanley Cup-winning coaches.

There is something to be said from promoting from within — the Penguins (Dan Bylsma) and Canucks (Alain Vigneault) have enjoyed great success while others like Colorado (Joe Sacco), Dallas (Glen Gulutzan) and Minnesota (Mike Yeo) have seen positive signs as well.

Of course, Burke has never been one to promote from within. He hired Paul Holmgren (ex-Flyers coach) in Hartford, Crawford (ex-Avalanche coach) in Vancouver, Randy Carlyle (who coached Vancouver’s AHL affiliate when Burke was the Canucks GM) in Anaheim and Wilson (ex-Sharks coach) in Toronto.

(Photo courtesy Toronto Marlies)

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
AP
Leave a comment

Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
AP
Leave a comment

Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP
3 Comments

For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.

Video: Mika Zibanejad’s check to Tyler Bozak’s head

1 Comment

Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).

The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.

You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.

It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.

Update: It didn’t get much better going forward; the Senators beat the Maple Leafs 6-1.