Dallas Eakins can breathe life into an Anaheim Ducks team on life-support
The San Diego Gulls season ended when they fell 3-1 to the Chicago Wolves, ending their run through the Calder Cup Playoffs with a six-game loss in the Western Conference Finals.
About 90 miles north, the Anaheim Ducks season has been over for quite some time.
The Ducks battled through injuries and poor play for most of the 2018-19 season. Anaheim ended the season with a 35-37-10 record. Anaheim finished sixth in the Pacific Division. The 35 wins in 82 games in the fewest in a full season since 2011-12 and they missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
Randy Carlyle, in his second stint behind Anaheim's bench, was replaced 56 games (21-25-9_into the season. At the time of his dismissal, the Ducks were mired in an extensive slump, losing 19 of 21 games, they were plummeting in the standings and there was no end in sight.
General Manager Bob Murray finally pulled the trigger and completed the season behind the bench with a 14-11-1 record of his own. It's believed he took on the coaching role in order to get a better feel for his team. This is going to be a big offseason for the Ducks and the coaching search should be the first of many dominoes to fall over the next several weeks.
Even before Carlyle was relieved of his duties there were rumblings of a Dallas Eakins promotion. Former NHLer, former Edmonton Oilers, and current Gulls coach, Eakins is believed to be the natural successor to the Ducks bench.
Murray is expected to do his due diligence and interview several other candidates before making his final decision, but for me and many others, the choice should be an easy one.
Eakins has redeemed himself for his disastrous tenure with the Oilers. He went 36-64-14 in 113 games behind the bench before he was fired. Eakins received a lot of criticism for the way he handled his time north of the border. He too admitted that he tried to do too much and as a result, he damaged relationships and burned a few bridges. Not an ideal way to have a long career as an NHL bench boss.
Eakins says he's learned from his past failures and his success in San Diego is a testament to his growth as a person and a coach. He's earned another crack at the NHL.
Is four-seasons with the Gulls, Eakins proved himself more than capable behind the bench. San Diego went 154-95-23 with Eakins on the bench has made headway in the playoffs in each of his seasons. Over that time, he developed strong relationships with his players. Eakins mentored the young crop of talent and aided in their development by using a healthy mix of analytical decision-making and in-game, shift-to-shift adjustments.
The Ducks are attempting to rebuild without actually "rebuilding." The core is on the wrong side of the hourglass, but they still have a few ticks left in the clock. But, if Anaheim is going to get back to being competitive, they must get younger, faster and hungrier - on the ice and behind the bench.
Carlyle was a dinosaur behind the behind and his coaching style no longer suits the high-scoring and more uptempo NHL. Additionally, he seemed to mismanage the youngsters in favor of the veterans.
Eakins, on the other hand, was humbled by his last stint in the NHL and he's ready to prove that his past failings were just a blip on the radar of his career. Now is the time to change the recycle-first mentality in Anaheim. Bring in the new blood and help breath life into a franchise on life-support.
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