Dallas Eakins is the latest in a long line of head coaches that have walked through the Edmonton Oilers’ revolving doors in recent years. He’ll be the fifth bench boss this team has had in just six years after Ralph Krueger was fired following a mere 48-game stint.
This is a team that’s desperately trying to move away from rebuilding after missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons. With that in mind, Eakins wants people to start looking at the Oilers in a different way.
“I’ve asked the media here to stop referring to our team as a young team,” Eakins told the Toronto Star. “You do that and really you’re just talking about a few individuals and alienating a bunch of the other guys. Usually when people talk about a young team its means it’s OK to lose. Well, it’s not OK.
“We’re an NHL team with expectations.”
Of course, the core of this team is still relatively young, but not devoid of NHL experience. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are gearing up for their fourth campaign. Years of poor showings have allowed them to draft a great group of skilled forwards, but Eakins’ team still has plenty to prove when it comes to defense and toughness.
He’ll also have to deal with injuries early on as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is projected to miss the first month of the season. To that end, he’s asked Hall to practice taking faceoffs in the hope that he can at least temporarily shift from the left wing to center.
“If it doesn’t work, it won’t be Taylor’s fault,” Eakins said. “Maybe it’ll work or maybe the coach is just crazy.”
Either way, Eakins is “all in” and determined to end the cycle of losing.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.
Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.
Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.
Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)
Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.
But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.
They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.
Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.
Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.
Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?
So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.