Dallas Eakins said he’s learned from mistakes made during his first NHL coaching job and is excited about the future of the Anaheim Ducks.
Eakins was fired 31 games into his second season with the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 15, 2014. He went 36-63-14 as their coach.
“It was a tough place to go in. There were a number of challenges,” Eakins told KLAA 830 on Thursday. “Instead of going in and planting seeds, I went in with a blow torch and I torched the place. In the end, what that accomplished was there was me and there was them. There was never, ever we.
“I’d like to go back and do that over again. What’s interesting, that wasn’t something I’d ever done before like what I had done in Toronto (of the American Hockey League from 2009-13) and places like that. It was always kind of a ‘we, we, we’ culture. My thought process on that other job was just to go in there and get this right right away and kind of wake that room up and the organization up right away, and it was a bad plan. And so that led us here and we’re back to the ‘we, we, we,’ and that’s why I’m excited moving forward here.”
After being fired by the Oilers, Eakins returned to the AHL and coached the Ducks’ affiliate in San Diego for four seasons. He went 154-95-23, and San Diego qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs three times.
Eakins was hired as Anaheim coach June 17, 2019. The Ducks were 29-33-9 when the NHL season paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. They trail the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks by 11 points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.
“In a single word, I thought it was good,” Eakins said. “But my competitive side, even though you understand you’re a team in transition and you think you know when you’re going into a season where you’re going to probably finish, your competitive side still is when you go out there every night, you expect to win.
“I thought it was good in the fact that we got our younger guys that are going to be key for us to have success moving in the future, I thought they got some really good reps in. I thought a number of them learned some great lessons, a couple of them got much, much better. And then the nucleus of our team, I thought they played well; the Cam Fowlers, the [Jakob] Silfverbergs, kind of that group.”
Between veteran players such as Fowler, Silfverberg, defenseman Hampus Lindholm and center Ryan Getzlaf, and younger players including forwards Max Jones (21) and Sam Steel (21) and 22-year-old defenseman Jacob Larsson, Eakins said he’s confident the Ducks have the talent and the culture he’s helping create in order to contend.
“The one thing I did learn for sure is that I can’t understate what great men we have in that room,” Eakins said. “That locker room was a tight one. They stayed even keeled when maybe the coach was not so even keel some evenings. I truly believe that they really loved each other, and that’s what you need when you’re trying to build a new culture and a new dynamic in the room.
“I thought we were OK on the ice, but I thought in that dressing room — and that has little to do with me, it has everything to do with our leadership group and our players that are in the room — but that locker room is a very, very solid one, and I’m excited about that.”