Anaheim Ducks Head Coach, Dallas Eakins, has been shown a lot of disrespect and animosity after a rough season behind the bench, and it’s not okay.
After the Anaheim Ducks were swept by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, one thing was for certain; Randy Carlyle was skating on thin ice. Despite the fact that Bob Murray was reluctant to pull the trigger and fire his dearest friend, we all knew it was coming. It was no longer a matter of if, but when. With the prospect that GMBM would have to hire a new head coach, all eyes were on San Diego Gulls head coach, Dallas Eakins.
During his four year tenure with the Gulls, Eakins had led the team to three playoff appearances extending past the first round. The team made it to the Conference Finals in 2018-19, the furthest in their short franchise history. Eakins had developed a special bond with the group of young talented prospects he had been trusted with. This became the focus as to why he should be hired as the new head coach.
He was praised by the fanbase, despite his failed attempt in Edmonton from 2013-2014. After a long-drawn-out interview process, the Anaheim Ducks finally announced him as their new coach on June 17, 2019. Everyone was ecstatic. The fans got what they wanted, the players were hopeful, and Bob Murray, who might have seemed skeptical at first, seemed rather content with his choice.
However, fast forward just a few short months, and the fanbase is now calling for the dismissal of Dallas Eakins. A 19-24-5 record at the halfway point of the season is not what fans were expecting. With coaches like Peter Laviolette and Gerard Gallant now on the open market, there has been a lot of disrespect and animosity shown towards Eakins, and it’s not okay.
Cleaning Up Carlyle’s Mess
When Bob Murray hired Dallas Eakins as the next head coach of the Anaheim Ducks, there were not very many people who expected the team to be any better than they had been the season prior. Of course, as fans, seeing improvements in the team was a must. Nevertheless, the first few games of the season fooled us into thinking Murray’s on the fly rebuild was over. It was just a few weeks later, however, that the other shoe dropped, revealing the underlying issues still lingering from the previous year.
Not only was Dallas Eakins tasked with coaching the team back to, hopefully, some semblance of relevance. He was also inadvertently asked to clean up the mess that Randy Carlyle left behind. While there is no question that Carlyle was one of the winningest coaches in Anaheim Ducks history, the tactics he used during his last few seasons behind the bench caused issues that certainly needed to be addressed.
New values needed to be instilled into the team, especially into the veterans, who had spent so much time under Carlyle. The atmosphere in the locker room was toxic, which was not necessarily all Carlyle’s fault, but it needed to be fumigated. Getting everyone on the same page after spending so much time in the same mentality is not an easy task.
For some teams, it’s easy for a new coach to come in and clean up shop, but we can’t expect the entire team to be on board with Dallas Eakins’ values, morals, and systems from the get-go. Essentially, the unexperienced NHL coach had to tear things out from the foundation and rebuild what was broken. That doesn’t happen overnight, and even with half a season gone, there will still be some kinks that still need to be ironed out.
Growing pains hurt. That’s just the way things work. However, they’re essential if a team (or person) wants to grow. For the Anaheim Ducks, the 2019-20 season has been chalked full of growing pains. After several years of being playoff contenders, falling to the bottom hasn’t been easy; for either the fans or the players. Currently, the team is in a transition period. The young guys are coming up, and the older guys are just a few years away from skating into their blissful retirement years.
Under Carlyle’s leadership, players such as our Captain, Ryan Getzlaf, have spent the past few years playing dump and chase hockey. With the way the NHL is going, physical hockey is more or less becoming a thing of the past, and skill and speed have become more prevalent. It takes time for players who have been used to a certain system for so long to catch on, catch up, or even accept a new style of hockey.
While the younger players have spent significant time under Eakins’ leadership already, it can be difficult for his unconventional style that worked in the AHL to translate on NHL ice. They too are learning and growing. The rookies won’t become NHL sensations overnight. We have to give them, the veterans, and even Eakins a little bit of patience. Sooner or later things will start to either fall into place or fall apart. Many of us are probably already thinking the latter, but Eakins needs much more than half a season to prove that he’s changed from his days in Edmonton.
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Give it Time
Is Dallas Eakins the best option for the Anaheim Ducks considering who is currently available? Probably not. Gallant and Laviollet’s resume speak for themselves. Gallant coached an expansion team, who was seemingly a group of misfits, to the Stanely Cup Finals in their first year. Laviolette, as much as we hate to see it, made the Nashville Predators a relevant team. Dallas Eakins’ NHL resume doesn’t stand up in comparison to theirs.
However, Bob Murray and the Samueli’s both believed that Eakins was their guy (even if it took Murray a little more time to come around to the idea.) That doesn’t mean that Eakins should be considered the team’s savior. Nor does it mean that he is the most qualified. Nevertheless, we still need to be respectful of the man behind the bench, whether you think he’s doing a good job or not.
There are still a lot of flaws in his system that need to be worked out not only in his own time but with his players. Still, as mentioned earlier, Anaheim is in a season of transition. We’re transitioning out of the Getzlaf and Perry era and into a new one. With his dedication to his players, he could be the right coach to lead them through what could be a painful rebuild. His coaching style on the ice may leave a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, his tactics off the ice might be what the team really needs right now.
Will Eakins spend several years behind the Anaheim Ducks bench? More than likely not. But he deserves time. How long will that be? No one knows for sure. But half a season behind the bench, despite his time in Edmonton, is not an accurate amount of time to judge what he can do for this team.
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