Dallas Eakins

Columnist: Next Leafs coach should come from within

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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)

Mumps outbreak hits Canucks, five players to miss Sharks game

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11: Troy Stecher #51 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on February 11, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The mumps are back.

Three years after a league-wide outbreak sidelined a slew of players, the Canucks have announced that d-man Troy Stecher has been diagnosed with mumps, while four other players — Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund — have presented symptoms.

More, from the club:

The team has worked from the outset with the Vancouver Health Authority, NHL, NHLPA and BC Centre for Disease Control to minimize transmission of the illness.

In keeping with BC Centre of Disease Control and Vancouver Coastal Health guidelines, players presenting symptoms are immediately being tested and quarantined in isolation for a five-day period from the onset of symptoms or until test results prove negative.

Vaccines are also being administered to minimize further risk of contraction along with universal preventative hygiene measures as recommended by Vancouver Coastal Health including disinfecting all dressing room areas.

Vancouver’s in the midst of its bye week. Saturday’s home date against the Sharks will be its first since a 3-2 loss to Philly on Sunday.

Given that Stecher’s out and the other four are being quarantined, the Canucks project to be severely undermanned tomorrow. There was no immediate announcement for AHL recall plans, or emergency roster replacements.

Following Saturday’s game, Vancouver is back in action again on Tuesday, when it hosts Detroit.

Stars trade Patrick Eaves to Ducks

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Patrick Eaves #18 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2017 in New York City. The Stars defeated the Rangers 7-6.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks have acquired winger Patrick Eaves in a trade with the Dallas Stars. The cost was a conditional second-round draft pick in 2017.

Eaves, 32, is enjoying a career year with 21 goals in 59 games. A pending unrestricted free agent, his cap hit is just $1 million. It was expected that he’d be traded prior to next week’s deadline.

Eaves join a Ducks team that could use a few more goals. Of note, Corey Perry has struggled offensively, scoring just 11 times in 62 games.

Below is the condition on the draft pick, which could turn into a first-round selection.

Based on draft position, Dallas will receive the middle pick of Ottawa, San Jose or Toronto’s second-round selections in 2017 per the conditions in which Anaheim acquired the pick from Toronto in a previous trade. Should Anaheim advance to the third round of the postseason and Eaves plays in 50% or more of their games in the first two rounds, the selection becomes the Ducks first-round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Related: The Wild have options in search for forward depth

Bickell to play first game since MS diagnosis

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 13: Paul Postma #4 of the Winnipeg Jets and Bryan Bickell #29 of the Carolina Hurricanes head to the Carolina zone during NHL action on October 22, 2016 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell is expected to skate in his first hockey game since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

The Hurricanes assigned Bickell to their AHL affiliate in Charlotte on Friday and say he’s expected to play for the Checkers on Saturday night.

The move came a day after he was placed on waivers in a procedural move that allowed the team to send him to the minors.

Bickell, 30, has been out since October, was diagnosed with MS in November and was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 11.

The three-time Stanley Cup winner with Chicago has been practicing with the Hurricanes for the past month.

Rutherford says Schultz extension ‘definitely a priority’ this summer

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 06:  Justin Schultz #4 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on before a face off against the New Jersey Devils on March 6, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Justin Schultz‘s career has done a virtual 180 since joining Pittsburgh at last year’s trade deadline, and the Pens have made it clear they’d like to keep him around beyond this season.

“We have not [discussed an extension with Schultz],” GM Jim Rutherford said, per the Post-Gazette. “But he will definitely be a priority for us in the offseason.”

Acquired for a third-round pick last February, Schultz proved to be one of Rutherford’s best moves (part of the reason why Rutherford captured NHL GM of the Year). The former Oilers rearguard had seven points through 18 regular-season games and then thrived once getting into the playoff mix, helping Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup.

He was signed to a modest one-year, $1.4 million extension last summer, which has turned out to be another Rutherford masterstroke.

Schultz has been vitally important for a Pittsburgh defense decimated by injury. His TOI is way up — 19:15 per game — and his offensive contributions have been outstanding. The 26-year-old has nine goals and 39 points through 56 games, putting him tops among all Pens d-men (and tied for seventh among all NHL blueliners).

Schultz is a pending RFA, and in line for a pretty big raise. The Post-Gazette suggested it could cost Pittsburgh $4-$5 million annually to keep him around, meaning Rutherford will have his work cut out. Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Trevor Daley are all pending UFAs, while fellow d-man Brian Dumoulin is also restricted come July 1.

Rutherford will also need to deal with the Marc-Andre Fleury issue, specifically how to mitigate Fleury’s $5.75 million cap hit.