“San Diego Gulls get winner as Coach-despite what record says”
All coaching jobs in sports are tough.
Pressure to win, dealing with player problems, hoping to develop talent, wishing no-one ever got hurt.
Same thing in the minor leagues, and the newly minted San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League, will welcome a battle tested coach to their bench in October when they start the season.
Dallas Eakins comes with credentials. He comes with success. He comes in having also been fired. He knows what the profession is all about, first as a journeyman player, then as a coach in the AHL who won, and a coach in the NHL who lost..
He comes credentialed, having done well as a Toronto Maple Leafs assistant. Even better when he took over the AHL-Marlies, the Leafs top farm club.
He did so well, he was hired by the Edmonton Oilers to take over the youngest team in the NHL. Sadly there was no Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier nor Grant Fuhr around in Edmonton.
Instead, a host of really young players, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakopov and more. Congrats, these are all our number one picks, play them and win with them, at the NHL level, where it is dog-eat-dog every night.
He had little defense, garbage goaltending, and kids who got overwhelmed up front. 15-losses in 16-games got him fired at midseason last winter. Oddly, his players spoke out on his behalf of the job he did, trying to teach them to survive, much less win, when they were lining up against superstars like Sidney Crosby-Penguins, Alex Ovechkin-Capitals, and the Sedin twins in Vancouver. Oh by the way, good luck too against the Pacific Division brutes like the Ducks and Kings.
Eakins comes to San Diego to work for a really good Anaheim Ducks organization. Frustrated by not getting to the Stanley Cup finals themselves, the Ducks GM-Bob Murray, went out and wheeled and dealed. He added goaltending, got bigger and tougher in the corners, and decided to rent a few AHL vets along the way.
End result, the Ducks will be even tougher to play against this winter, and that means the San Diego Gulls will get the benefit of some gritty veteran talent to put on the ice with the young players Anaheim sends into the Valley View Casino Centre.
Yes Eakins employed lots of ‘coach speak’ yesterday. Words like commitment and pride, discipline and urgency. He is a teacher first, a motivator after that. He’s also dedicated to succeed.
Knocked off the horse in Edmonton, he didn’t take a cushy assistant’s job in the NHL, but wanted back into a head job again, to re-prove himself.
He talked about learning how to put out the ‘fires’ of coaching, knowing how to cope with the ‘white noise’ at places like Edmonton and Toronto. He knows the Ducks top farm club last year, the Norfolk Admirals lost 14-of-15 at one point last season. He also knows the Ducks called up six young players from the AHL-Admirals to strengthen their run to the NHL playoffs..
So he enters the Gulls job with his eyes wide open. He knows what he has to do is teach and groom to get guys to Anaheim. He knows he wants to instill a winning culture. He knows injuries can wreck a team, understanding Norfolk went thru 54-players with a revolving door roster last season.
But this season should be different. The Ducks, and the Gulls GM-Bob Ferguson, went out and got veteran goaltending. They signed veteran NHL toughness and a couple of proven AHL veteran defenseman. So the foundation is there, and now all the Ducks have to do is give Eakins some sniper goal scorers and see how quickly he can make the chemistry come together.
Coaching in the AHL is really tough. Players coming and going. Molding older players, who want to be in the NHL, with younger players, hoping to get a phone call to go up. It’s also jelling players from all backgrounds, Russia, Scandinavia, the Canadian junior leagues, and college players. Many are about to enter a culture zone and will be in for culture shock. Learning to be a pro, wanting to be a success.
The only one who won’t be surprised is the Gulls coach, who has been to the top of the mountain-the Oilers, the bottom of the valley-unemployed, and has seen it all.
He subscribes to the axiom, ‘if it doesn’ kill you, it makes you stronger’. Nothing should phase this guy, whom people in Edmonton and Toronto called a ‘passion play’ type of person.
Tough guy, toughened by what he has been thru as a head coach.