Dallas Eakins wasn't Edmonton's sole problem, but he was one of them
Ten days ago Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish called a press conference to reaffirm that Dallas Eakins is the right man to lead the Oilers. He said Eakins is relentless, he said he believes the team is buying into his leadership … and then Monday, he told Eakins that he no longer has a job.
Then - in the most Oilers move possible - he tapped himself to take over the role of head coach in the interim.
Despite there being numbers that show the Oilers as slightly improved over years past, none of those numbers happened to be "wins," and in a results-based business like hockey, that can only continue for so long.
In the wake of Eakins dismissal, it will be easy to find people who point out that the Oilers have had both bad luck (they have) and bad goaltending (they have), both of which are not the fault of the head coach. Those are two things a bad team trying to pull itself out of the basement simply can't be asked to endure, undeniably. But it was more than that.
This is a team that is legitimately bad on special teams, an area where coaches can be hugely influential. This is a team that can't break out of its own zone, another place where actual systems are implemented. This is a team that consistently gets burned in its own zone in fundamental coverage situations - the area in which a coach wields the most influence.
It's quite possible that Dallas Eakins is a good coach and he struggled with a team unwilling to learn. Maybe that bad luck and goaltending really did burn him, and yes, they definitely need some better personnel.
But there were more than enough signs beyond wins and losses to believe he didn't have the Oilers playing as well as they could, and when you lose 15 of your last 16 games, the light is going to shine on shortcomings.
Winning is a good deodorant for a team's flaws, and the Oilers have stunk for awhile. Something had to change, so it's hard to fault the Oilers for making a call many thought would come sooner.