Dallas Eakins

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers hitting turbo button on rebuild; Ducks confident in Eakins

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Ottawa Senators didn’t need an overpaid Erik Karlsson. (Toronto Sun)

• The New York Rangers have accelerated their rebuild by acquiring Jacob Trouba. (USA Today)

• The Anaheim Ducks have confidence that Dallas Eakins can make an impact in his second go-around as an NHL head coach. (Los Angeles Times)

• Things cap-crunched NHL GMs don’t need to hear: The cap could come in under the projected $83 million this year. (TSN.ca)

• A re-tooling of the NHL’s Metropolitan Division teams. (The Score)

Phil Kessel doesn’t want to be a Minnesota Wild, so he’s likely staying in Pittsburgh now. (CBC)

• How is Marc Bergevin going to improve the Montreal Canadiens? (Montreal Gazette)

• Five teams who should trade for Nikolaj Ehlers. (Puck Prose)

• Alex Trebek and John Hamm will be among the presenters at the 2019 NHL Awards later this week. (NHL.com)

• Pierre Dorion expects a busy weekend at the NHL Draft. (Ottawa Sun)

• Here’s how the Detroit Red Wings owned the 1989 NHL Draft. (Detroit Free Press)

• An NHL draft prospect at the 2010 combine was asked about defecating on a car. (Yahoo Sports)

• Potential sweeteners for the most unenviable trade. (The Canuck Way)

• The Blues could inspire some weird decisions this summer. (Yahoo Sports)

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Eakins gets another NHL shot as Ducks head coach

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A favorite from the start, Dallas Eakins has finally been named head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.

The 52-year-old Eakins replaces Randy Carlyle, who was fired in February, though technically he takes over from general manager Bob Murray, who assumed the head coaching duties after Carlyle was canned.

“Dallas is an outstanding head coach who has worked well with our players since joining the organization four years ago,” said Murray in a statement. “He is a tremendous leader and strategist, and deserves this opportunity.”

Reportedly also in the mix for the position were New York Islanders assistant Lane Lambert, Dallas Stars assistants Rick Bowness and Todd Nelson, and University of Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin.

Murray took his time in finding a replacement for Carlyle. The Ducks were the last team to fill their coaching need and the GM eventually decided to keep it in-house, hiring Eakins after he spent the past four seasons coaching the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego.

Eakins’ chance in Anaheim comes nearly five years he was fired by the Edmonton Oilers after a season and a half behind the bench. The Oilers were 36-63-14 during his 113 games in charge and the disastrous results of that 2014-15 NHL season helped the franchise win the draft lottery and select Connor McDavid No. 1 overall.

While coaching the AHL Gulls, Eakins guided the team to three playoff appearances in four seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2019. This season’s job was an impressive one when you consider the amount of injuries the Ducks had to deal with and how often Eakins’ roster was affected by NHL call-ups.

The transition phase will continue into 2019-20 with a Ducks roster in makeover mode. Ryan Kesler is out for the foreseeable future and Corey Perry could be on the move. It’s time for the kids to take over and many of them — like Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Jones — have been coached by Eakins at some point.

It’s clear by the results with the Gulls and the player development that’s happened that Eakins has been nothing but a positive influence on the franchise’s youth.

“If I was stressed out or something was going on or I was having a hard time, I wouldn’t hesitate to go talk to him about it,” said Terry in March via the OC Register. “He’s just very approachable. He just served as a mentor. I owe a lot of the success I’ve had this season to him.”

With their situation being what it is, Eakins is the right choice to shepherd the roster forward as Murray attempts to further a youth movement.

MORE ANAHEIM DUCKS COVERAGE:
Examining the Ducks’ options with Corey Perry
Kesler ‘unlikely’ to play next season after hip surger

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Who should coach Sabres, Ducks, Oilers, Senators?

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When you look at the four conference finalists remaining in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, you’ll notice a variety of coaching stories.

There’s quite a mix with a midseason replacement (Craig Berube for the Blues), a rookie breakthrough (Rod Brind’Amour for Carolina), someone who’s been effective with an established team (the Bruins’ Bruce Cassidy), and a veteran running a star-packed squad (Peter DeBoer with the Sharks). There are many ways to skin the cat, and that point becomes clearer when you zoom out to other success stories, such as Barry Trotz’s fantastic work with the New York Islanders.

With Joel Quenneville readying his sunscreen for Florida, Alain Vigneault leading a band of former head coaches in Philly, and Todd McLellan landing his second California gig with the Los Angeles Kings, you’d think that the game of musical chairs that is coaching hiring would be mostly done for the NHL, but that’s not really so. As of Tuesday, the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, and Ottawa Senators are still looking for new head coaches.

Let’s take a look at the decisions these four teams face, from a broader look at what type of coach they should look for, to a more concrete set of targets they should prioritize.

Anaheim Ducks should seek: An innovator

GM Bob Murray needs to face reality: “old-school” just isn’t working so well for the Ducks any longer.

This team ignored warning signs that Randy Carlyle’s work was behind the times, and those warts really sprouted up during a pretty disastrous 2018-19 season. If you look at the Ducks’ salary structure, you’ll see some troublingly aging core players like Ryan Getzlaf and the injured Ryan Kesler (both 34) and Corey Perry (33).

We’ve seen teams face a slump where they miss the playoffs before getting back on track, though, and there’s a chance the Ducks could join that group if thing swing back in their favor.

That’s especially true if John Gibson remains an all-world goaltender. Combine Gibson with a still-solid group of defensemen and decent forwards (Getzlaf’s getting old, but he can still move the needle), and maybe the Ducks’ outlook can go sunnier quickly.

Ducks targets:

  • Dallas Eakins – The breath of fresh air Anaheim needs could be right with the AHL’s affiliate, as Eakins seems forward-thinking when it comes to resting players and analytics. He’s also had success basically everywhere he’s been … except Edmonton. Even there, it’s not as if he had a lot of time to fix all the leaks for the Oilers.
  • Todd Nelson – Another briefly-former-Oilers coach who’s had success basically everywhere else he’s been. Nelson’s both reasonably young and well-traveled, making him a worthy consideration for multiple teams, really.
  • Sheldon KeefeIn Elliotte Friedman’s latest edition of “31 Thoughts“, he reported that Keefe wouldn’t leave the Toronto Marlies, unless it was for a better situation. Maybe the young coach wouldn’t view the Ducks as an upgrade, although you rarely see perfect teams making coaching searches, right?

The Ducks could also go for an older coach if they believe that bench boss would drive immediate results in a way that a fresher face wouldn’t … but personally, I’d lean toward youngsters.

Sabres should find: Structure

For years, there’s been an uncomfortable question lingering for Buffalo: is this team underachieving, or is the talent simply not there?

Either way, the optics haven’t been great, as the Sabres have often looked rudderless. They’ve really struggled to find stability since the lengthy Lindy Ruff era ended, and it sure feels like Buffalo needs to find this year’s version of Barry Trotz: an experienced coach who can install systems that won’t collapse under the pressure of competition.

Sabres’ best target:

  • Dave Tippett – At 57, Tippett has already coached two teams (the Stars and Coyotes) for a combined 1,114 regular-season games and 74 playoff contests. His squads have been structurally sound, and Tippett often found ways to get the most out of limited Coyotes rosters. He won a Jack Adams Award in 2009-10, and while he hasn’t had a head coaching job since 2016-17, Tippett remains focused on the game.

There are other options, with Friedman reporting that another former Oilers coach Ralph Krueger possibly being the frontrunner but … frankly, I just really like the fit for Buffalo. Maybe Tippett wouldn’t view the Sabres the same way, though.

(UPDATE: The Sabres have decided to hire Ralph Krueger.)

Oilers need: An exorcist

Just kidding. Plus, you could argue the same for the Senators, and to an extent, the Sabres.

My impression is that the Oilers could use optimism and positive, forward energy as much as anything else. It says a lot about their organizational dysfunction that you can almost forget that they have Connor McDavid, as well as some other key pieces.

Yes, the roster has issues, but maybe a more offensive-minded coach could get things going in a more modern direction, rather than trying to squeeze every drop of defensive potential out of this mix, as both Ken Hitchcock and Todd McLellan generally aimed to do? Considering how grim the atmosphere seemed to be, these players may benefit from a pat on the back after being barked at for some time.

Oilers’ options:

  • Sheldon Keefe – Would Keefe value having McDavid and Leon Draisaitl enough to risk leaving the Marlies for the Oilers? If so, what better way for Edmonton to show that its not some “old boys club” than to hire such a young head coach?
  • Todd Nelson– Ken Holland observed Nelson’s success with the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate for years, so maybe that would inspire Holland to allow Nelson to get another, more “real” shot with Edmonton this time around?
  • Scott Sandelin/Nate Leaman – I’d be surprised if the Oilers went bold with Keefe or either of these two NCAA coaches, but I also think they’re worth mentioning. Rather than going for a retread in the form of a former head coach (who’s had more legitimate chances than a Nelson or an Eakins), why not see if one of these coaches has a higher ceiling?

Tippett seems to be a rising choice for Edmonton, and the Oilers could certainly go in worse directions. It feels a bit more of the same, though, as bringing in Hitchcock. Maybe Nelson would be the best compromise between bringing in fresher ideas and appeasing … well, that old boys club?

Senators should look for: An optimist … and a stopgap

In the above cases, teams are hoping to finally take big steps forward, or in the case of the Ducks, to reverse a downward spiral.

Honestly, the Ottawa Senators are better off tanking in 2019-20, and probably for a year or two beyond that. They purged a ton of talent by trading away Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Mike Hoffman, and others in recent seasons, and it’s tough to imagine overachieving doing much for the team’s bigger picture outlook beyond messing up their draft lottery odds.

With how dark things have been for the Senators, they could use a positive presence, preferably a coach who’s patient enough to help develop the Brady Tkachuks of the world. Put some smiles on some faces … just don’t win too much.

Ottawa’s options:

  • Marc Crawford – Becoming something of a coaching journeyman’s likely given Crawford some perspective. He served as interim head coach, so he already has some knowledge of the players and franchise, which can’t be underrated when you consider how … polarizing owner Eugene Melnyk can be.
  • Troy Mann– Carries much of the appeal of Crawford, as he’s coached the Senators’ AHL affiliate. He’d probably be cheap as a first-time NHL head coach too, which is, erm, appealing to Melnyk.
  • Scott Sandelin/Nate Leaman – A more sensible scenario for an NCAA coach to take over. Expectations would be low, so Sandelin or Leaman would get some time to acclimate to the NHL. Theoretically, at least. Might be a tough sell for either one to leave successful programs to try to fix the Senators, though.
  • Lane Lambert – Plenty of experience (and potential?) as Barry Trotz’s assistant, and hey, if you’re going to be bad, at least distract yourself with his amusing hair. (Note: Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Ducks have also shown interest in Lambert.)

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None of these situations feel like easy or obvious fixes, and the best options might not be listed above. Then again, things didn’t seem very optimistic for the Islanders when Trotz took over, or for Berube when the Blues were ranked last during this season, and those scenarios ended up being wild successes.

Who would you go after if you were running those teams?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Oilers relieve Keith Acton and Craig Ramsay

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The Edmonton Oilers front office overhaul continued on Thursday.

The club announced it has relieved Associate Coach Keith Acton and Assistant Coach Craig Ramsay of their duties. The pair were hired by former head coach Dallas Eakins who was fired in December.

Today’s moves could pave the way for Todd Nelson to return to the club.

Nelson was given permission to explore other opportunities following the hiring of Todd McLellan.

However, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported on Tuesday that Nelson has had discussions with the Oilers about joining McLellan’s staff.

Jay Woodcroft, who was an assistant with McLellan in San Jose, is also expected to join the Oilers’ staff.

Report: Oilers’ Nelson given permission to explore other opportunities

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With Todd McLellan taking over the Edmonton Oilers’ head coaching duties the club has allowed interim head coach Todd Nelson to look for a job elsewhere.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Oilers would like to keep Nelson on their staff, but the 46-year-old has a desire to be a head coach.

Friedman reports the Oilers will re-visit the possibility of Nelson remaining with the club in a different capacity in a couple of weeks.

After coaching the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate in Oklahoma City for four seasons, Nelson was promoted to interim head coach of the NHL club when Dallas Eakins was fired in December.

Nelson led the Oilers to a 17-25-9 record.