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)

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

3 Comments

The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

3 Comments

It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

19 Comments

You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

84 Comments

Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.