“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the Edmonton Oilers, we pick…head coach Dallas Eakins.
After spending the past four seasons as a head coach with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League, Dallas Eakins is in the midst of the jump to the NHL.
The Edmonton Oilers took the chance hiring Eakins as the new head coach in June. The announcement came after yet another season had come and gone and the Oilers watched the playoffs from start to finish, having finished out of the race yet again.
In fact, they haven’t made the playoffs since making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, the first season back since Lockout 2.0.
As this rebuild continues to its next phase, the Oilers have had the benefit of some high draft picks over the last few years, including three consecutive years in which they had the first overall pick – which turned into Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.
All three forwards are playing into their super star potential, and with Jordan Eberle, Edmonton is loaded with talent up front.
(In fact, earlier this week, the Oilers locked up Nugent-Hopkins to seven-year, $42 million deal.)
But young, talented and exciting don’t mean much if there isn’t playoff success down the road. In order to have playoff success, you have to have a playoff berth.
“In pro sports, winning is the bottom line,” Eakins told reporters back on June 10, as per NHL.com.
“From this moment forward, everything that we do will have that final product in mind. What we’re going to do here is put a plan in place to maximize our full potential. This is about putting a foundation a place.”
One philosophy Eakins has implemented has been a new commitment to fitness.
“I think there may some big adjustments for the players, with me coming in here,” Eakins said in August.
“I want players to be so fit that a forward, if I ask him to play 26 minutes that night, he’s going to play 26 minutes at a high level. If we’re in a Stanley Cup playoff game and we’re in quadruple overtime, he will still be firing on all cylinders.
“That is something that I’m passionate about that will be probably a bit of a challenge on the buy-in. But it’s non-negotiable, and there will be buy-in.”
Eakins was also on the Vancouver Canucks’ radar before that club hired John Tortorella.
Eakins has experience behind the bench in a Canadian market – in fact, the largest Canadian market in Toronto.
But he’s now the boss. Everything the Oilers go through this season will fall back to him. It’s not just the media, but the fans, too. They want a winner.
So does Eakins. It’s his job to coach one.
“We’re not building, we’re not a young team,” Eakins recently told NHL.com.
“Our expectations are to prepare to win every night and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
“We can’t move forward without looking at what’s gone on in the past, but saying that, I don’t care what happened here last year, the year before and the year before that. This is a fresh start for this team with a couple of new coaches, new players, but most importantly, different expectations.”
For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.