A Look Back at Dallas Eakins and the Anaheim Ducks Season

Dallas Eakins

“I think that the thing people will always remember you by is how you made them feel” (Fox Sports West, 2019). Dallas Eakins preached the fundamentals of being a good person, as well as a unique approach to leading a NHL team briefly after being named head coach of the Anaheim Ducks. The new era of hockey is here. With faster and younger players, how could that change the aspect of coaching?  Here is the Dallas Eakins 2019-2020 season recap.

Rough Start For New Coach Dallas Eakins

The Anaheim Ducks finished third to last in the Pacific Division and had the fifth worst record in the National Hockey League.  Realistically, Eakins was not the most qualified person for the position. With coaches dropping like flies in the NHL, they could have scooped up someone with a more impressive resume. But his experience coaching the organizations AHL affiliate for four years will no doubt help him understand the team’s potential. The Ducks organization looked inward to someone who understands what they have in their farm system.

Eakins also made an effort to get to know the veteran players as well before the beginning of the 2019-2020 season. Being aware of players like John Gibson, Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg on your team shows that he is cognizant the Ducks imperative players.  The key is Eakins being able to incorporate and develop young talent.

Edmonton To Orange County

Dallas Eakins was at once an NHL coach. When he reflects on his time in Edmonton, it is not bitter or heartfelt. “I didn’t even unpack all my things”. Edmonton’s continued struggles lead one to believe that their situation in 2013 was not Eakins’ fault.

The organization does expect Eakins to take his experience in Edmonton and build on it though. Head coaches tend to fall on the sword when upper management is looking for a reason to shake things up. Eakins served as head coach with the Edmonton Oilers in the 2013-2014 season. The team finished last in the Pacific and with the third-worst record in the league.  In the 2014-2015 season, Eakins was relieved of his duties after a rough 31 game start (7-19-5).

Dallas Eakins then landed himself a job in Southern California as the head coach of the Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls.  Dallas found significantly more success in San Diego, finishing in the playoffs three of the four years.  Over the four year stretch, the team maintained a healthy record (154-95-23). And for General Manager Bob Murray to fire long time friend Randy Carlyle following the teams first round defeat (swept by the San Jose Sharks) in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, it makes you think.

Do the Ducks Have Their Man In Eakins?

Probably not. But when Eakins was with Edmonton, they were a team that did not include Connor McDavid. The Oilers were a team led by Taylor Hall, who finished with 80 points in 75 games played (27-53-80) and Jordan Eberle who finished second on the team with 65 points (28-37-65). Both players are in their mid-twenties and producing.  The average age of this team’s 20-most-seen players was 27.5 years old. This team is clearly not in any sort of “rebuild”.

Coaching A Team In A Rebuild

One would guess that couching a team in a rebuild is a much different assignment. The Ducks were famous for their dump and chase style of hockey accompanied by heavy hitting​ guys who could put the puck in the back of the net.  This style worked well enough for some time.  After Anaheim’s Stanley Cup Championship in 2007 and excluding the teams past two unsuccessful seasons, the franchise has made it to the playoffs 9 out of 11 years. ​

Eakins will be responsible for changing the style of his team in its entirety and hopefully find a way to pick up the pace of the Ducks game.  Already distributing ice time differently than his predecessor, Eakins has also sparked a flame in Sonny Milano. Milano before being traded had 18 points (5-13) in 55 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and 5 points (2-3) in his 9 games with the Ducks.  If the Ducks can continue to find bargains, Eakins coaching style might be able to revitalize their work ethic with positive reinforcement and getting in great shape, which hopefully will bring the best out of them. Young players like Sam Steel and Max Comtois are athletes whose ceiling is still under discussion. How Eakins utilizes their young talent at this level is still yet to be seen.

Eakins Sets By Example

Besides his open personality, Dallas Eakins’ enthusiasm about the fitness of his players is also an asset. This aspect of hockey is vital in today’s NHL (though interesting it has not always been the case). The newer generation of hockey is not only faster but more skilled. Players are not scoring from the same areas of the ice and at times it appears the structure of the game has completely changed.  Being able to depend on your body is more important than ever.  Dallas Eakins shocks players with his own work ethic and in doing so has been able to lead by example. At 53 years of age, you can catch the fitness-obsessed coach running back and forth from hotels to rinks on road trips and even completing a 100-mile bike ride through the rocky mountains. Hockey is science now. Coaches and players are becoming aware of that. If you can delete the x-factor, that is if a player is conditioned as well as his opponent, it will lead to more predictable and positive outcomes.

Can The Ducks Be Hopeful?

The word ​mentor ​comes to mind when reviewing the coaching style of Dallas Eakins. But we still have a lot to learn about this young coach and if he is capable of coaching a team back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  With two years left in his contract and the team he has, that seems doubtful. At least with Dallas Eakins and his young group, a 6th overall pick in the 2020 draft, the potential trading of familiar veterans and maybe even signing some players on the free market (Dylan Strome and Alex Pietrangelo for example), the Anaheim Ducks will be entertaining to watch sink or swim.

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