Stop Blaming The Coach | By Josh Connauton

Well….this feels familiar.

On Monday, the Edmonton Oilers fired Head Coach Dallas Eakins, their fifth head coach since 2008. Déjà vu. The long awaited appointment of Oklahoma City Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson is finally in full swing with GM and former Head Coach Craig MacTavish helping to ease the transition behind the bench.

This is so infuriating.

I am in no way, shape, or form defending Dallas Eakins. His lack of ability to, frankly, do anything effective behind the bench was simply ludicrous at the National Hockey League level, and is what got him fired. The many memes of his blank stare into the abyss behind the bench have proven quite amusing, however — and this is a big however — during this Era of Losing, since 2006, the Oilers have failed to make any major player acquisitions (i.e. trade for or trade away assets to improve the team.) As much as Eakins is to blame for the Oilers’ current situation, you have to put most of the blame on the players, plain and simple. To quote our Editor-in-Chief Blue Knox: “they look like human pylons out there.” And its true.  The Oilers are NOT a good team and no matter how good of a coach you are, if your players don’t play, you will fail.

The rationale being used by people crucifying Eakins and defending the players is completely dumbfounding. Saying that “Eakins lost the room and the players lost the will to play for him” is so ridiculous that I can’t even fathom it. If you are a pro athlete and getting paid millions of dollars a year to play a game that you love and you need motivation to give 100% each night, then you do not deserve the privilege of playing in the NHL.

At some point, when teams are firing coaches and management, there has to be an assessment of the team as a whole, not just the third and fourth liners, but everyone. The Oilers need to do this. With rumours flying that Taylor Hall is being shopped around, Oilers fans shouldn’t be freaking out. Management is shopping him around to see what they can get for him, teams do this a lot with star players, sometimes just for the heck of it. If they trade Hall, they will likely get more in return for him than what he is worth.  Oilers management and fans need to realize that a MAJOR shakeup has to happen behind the bench. No one should be safe. If trading a star like Taylor Hall gets you a first line centre, or a first line defenceman, and some players that give the Oilers some depth, then they need to do it. The lack of depth the Oilers have at centre, and on defence, and pretty much everywhere besides on the wing (since that’s where they drafted their entire team), and their refusal to trade anyone on their top two lines, is causing them to stay in this stagnant state of depression.  Something needs to happen.

The Oilers need to think outside the box when it comes to management. They need to get away from the 1980’s “Boys on the Bus” generation and move into new management entirely in order to create a cultural shift in the organization. Kevin Lowe may not have an impact directly on day-to-day hockey operations, but he is literally the only Executive to be a part of eight years of failure and keep his job in NHL history. He needs to go, not just to simply appease fans but, more importantly, to change the culture of the Oilers. Daryl Katz, like any overbearing Owner, needs to change his management tactics. Owners need to leave hockey decisions up to the hockey personnel that are hired. Coaches, GMs, any kind of staff on an NHL team, cannot thrive with an overbearing Owner who demands to have his own way (anyone else remember back at the 2012 NHL Draft when Katz wanted to draft Nail Yakupov while Oilers scouting wanted to draft Ryan Murray? I wonder who won?)

There are so many things wrong with the Oilers that I cannot possibly list everything in this article. I think Monday’s decision to fire Eakins before the half-way point of the season exemplifies the sad state that the Edmonton Pylons… sorry, Edmonton Oilers, are in. You cannot keep blaming the coach. You can’t. You need to look at other parts of your organization and think to yourself “what haven’t we tried?” You need to really think differently than before because if you don’t, you can expect another 8 years of the same garbage from your “beloved” Edmonton Oilers.

For the time being, it looks like it is not going to get any better.

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