It was an interesting day in Oilers nation on Monday. The new GM introduced the new coach and the verbal sent people in all kinds of directions: the mainstream media appear to feel coach Eakins is going to straighten out Taylor Hall (I can’t explain it) and fans appear to be upset over all the talk about conditioning.
Let’s take a minute and think about Eakins’ mindset. When asked a question about a team you don’t know (the Edmonton Oilers) you’re going to speak in wide terms, in sweeping statements, because specifics are impossible. The big part of yesterday wasn’t Eakins words–he was solid, or his presence–he was impressive, but rather the reaction to his words and his presentation.
I don’t think Dallas Eakins said anything yesterday we can apply righteously to anyone on the Oilers. He isn’t going to bench Taylor Hall or send him to OKC (he can’t btw), and he isn’t going to make people run laps around the Rexall parking lot. He said many things worthwhile–the parts about finding out about players even if he had to call their parents was a gem, and we all love the idea of two or three different options for specific disciplines like PP, PK and breakouts–but specifics will come as he gets to know the 30 or so men who’ll become the Edmonton Oilers to him.
Projecting sweeping statements onto specific players or positions is going to set you on the wrong course, or perhaps more notably confirm something in your own mind that does not exist. One of the really important things for us to keep front and center is this: the words and actions of the Edmonton Oilers hockey club are open to wide interpretation this morning–and no one person has the correct answer. Not even Dallas Eakins. He has to meet the coaching staff, and the players, and they have to build some trust or they have to reach a point where there’s a bridge they can’t gap. That takes time, possibly an entire year of learning. Hoping for a Steve Smith-Kelly Buchberger firing is all well and good, but I don’t believe retaining one or both should be viewed as a sign of weakness/lack of control. On the other hand, if you’re going to do it, now is the best time.
If there’s one thing to take away from yesterday it is this:
- Eakins: “I don’t coach a team. I coach anywhere from 23 to 27 individuals. The way you coach players now is you get them one-on-one. You grab them for lunch, you hit them at the coffee machine. It’s small group meetings, it’s one-on-one meetings and it’s constant. It’s every day. You’ve got to know their triggers. You have to look under a lot of stones sometimes to find out what makes a guy tick. But once you’ve got it, you can really help push him in the right direction.”
Two things: this is a completely reasonable statement about a group of people you’re going to be in charge of in the future but don’t know personally. It’s well placed, and intelligent, but what else did you want him to say? “I’ll have Ebs on the point, and then….” is months away. Months. To borrow a phrase from MacT’s yesterday, he looks good in a suit.
Now, they all get to work.
SAIL ON KALEVAN PALLO?
Remember what we talked about above? Eakins not knowing the players, making wide, sweeping statements? Craig MacTavish is the other side of that coin, he’s made the call on a lot of these hockey players in the Oiler pro system. Teemu Hartikainen is one–and the news isn’t good. During the RE series, there were a couple of items that came up in regard to Harski that suggested dark clouds on the horizon.
- Ralph Krueger: “He’s trying to figure out what a gritty, strong power forward does and what’s connected to that. What’s important for him is to continue to manage the puck in all three zones.”
- Craig MacTavish: “in today’s NHL, even marginally, you have to be a threat to score”
Hartikainen didn’t get much done at evens this year–in fact there were no EV goals for while he was on the ice, known in the trade as a ‘JF Jacques’–and he is now off to the Russian hinterland and we’re down a perfectly useful Finn. Hartikainen’s departure means MacT doesn’t see him as a 4line option–that’s the truth here, folks–and it probably means his rights are heading to another NHL city.
The other thing to keep in mind is that MacT doesn’t have any loyalty to these prospects beyond what they can do for the Edmonton Oilers. I like Hartikainen, suspect he could play a role on an NHL team–but that isn’t the point and really not what we should judge MacTavish on. MacT is aiming higher than Harski for that position, and that’s great. Here’s hoping he gets it done in what is becoming an alarmingly busy summer.
Interesting stuff, and added to Will Fraser’s blog from last night talks about Oilers dealing #7 to Toronto for Jake Gardiner and #21 (Lazar?) at the draft.
THE LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE ON TEAM 1260 (10A-NOON)
- Tyler Dellow from mc79hockey. All Eakins all the time, we’ll talk to Tyler about Eakins, MacT’s approach to the summer and the difference between ‘poise’ and ‘unflappable’ in hockey terms.
- Cody Nickolet from WHL from Above. We’ll talk about the NHL draft coming up, and some of the hidden gems in the WHL.
- Alan Hull from Copper and Blue. Eakins as Oilers coach, MacT in overdrive and the Oilers at the draft.
- Eric Rodgers will talk about Hartikainen and OKC. Are there any other RFA shoes to drop?