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article imageOp-Ed: At what point might the Edmonton Oilers fire coach Dallas Eakins?

By Marcus Hondro     Oct 18, 2013 in Sports
Yes it's early in the 2013-14 NHL season, too early to talk of firing coaches (unless you're the Philadelphia Flyers). In particular new coaches, such as Edmonton Oiler coach Dallas Eakins, who signed his first NHL contract, for 4 years, in June.
Only the Oilers, with flashy young players like Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and a goalie, Devan Dubnyk, whose save percentage of .921 was 11th amongst NHL starters last season, are a woeful 1-6-1 under Eakins. That's not just bad, that's the Toronto Maple Leafs...of old, bad.
Should they keep losing when might GM Craig McTavish worry enough about his own job that he'd fire Eakins, and replace him with himself? Way back in the 1984-85 season the Vancouver Canucks waited 22 games to fire first-year coach Bill Laforge; Vancouver was 4-14-2 before Harry Neale let Laforge go, getting behind the bench himself. Those Canucks finished that season well back of the playoffs.
Oilers losing with undisciplined play
Edmonton has 2 games left on a six-game road swing in which they've lost all 4 thus far. After Ottawa Saturday and Montreal Tuesday, they return home to face the Washington Capitals Thursday. They could easily, given the opposition (both the Sens and Canadiens are playing well and winning) make that return to Rexall Place at 1-8-1.
Eakins' team has shown a penchant for giving up quality chances. He preaches aggressive hockey, but for the Oilers it has lead to players not finding their check when the play moves into their own zone. Again it's early, but so far aggressive hockey in Edmonton isn't working out.
Under Eakins the Oil appear undisciplined and break-downs and turnovers are common. In Washington earlier on this road trip they looked strong - except for a span of under 4 minutes in which they allowed 3 goals and lost 4-2. They can't get a lead and when they do they can't hold it.
In some games (a 6-2 loss in Vancouver, a 4-1 home-ice loss to Montreal) they've looked badly outmatched. Their only win, 5-4 on home-ice, came against the New Jersey Devils, the only NHL team that still hasn't won this season.
Eakins: leadership lacking
If the losing does not soon end they'll be in danger of another season out of the playoffs and Oiler fans, who haven't seen the postseason since 2006, are not in a mood to miss out again. Yeah, too early to call except that it's a very competitive league and playing catch-up, especially with three points being awarded so often, is a tough road to hoe.
If they were to go the next 10 games with only 2 wins and a couple of single point games to show for them that would be 3-12-3 and recovering from that would be all but impossible in today's NHL. Let's suppose that happens. Does Eakins survive?
Does Craig MacTavish?
Both were hired despite the fact their predecessors either hadn't done anything wrong (previous GM Steve Tambellini) or had little time on the job (coach Ralph Krueger had just one 48 game season, in which they improved from 28th overall to 24th).
The firing of Tambellini two years ago and Krueger last year cost ownership money and they'll be loathe to do it all over again. But at some point if it doesn't get turned around someone will have to do something and more often that something is to fire the coach. The question is - how many losses will it take?
It's early, but it appears the Edmonton Oilers, who came into the season with such promise, are determined to find out.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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