On Monday night, the San Diego Gulls’ incredible playoff run came to an end as the Chicago Wolves defeated the Gulls 3-1 in game six of the Western Conference Finals. The Wolves will go on to face the Charlotte Checkers in the Calder Cup Finals with game one on Saturday. However, the closing of the door on the Gulls season opened a door for the Anaheim Ducks.
The Gulls head coach, Dallas Eakins, who has been with the AHL squad since June of 2015 has now become available for the possible filling of the long-vacated head coach position for the Anaheim Ducks. With the Ducks being the only NHL team without a head coach, Dallas Eakins becomes the obvious choice.
Eakins has been a stellar coach for the Gulls since his hiring with a record of 154-95-15 over four seasons and only missed the playoffs once (2017-18). He also has NHL experience as he coached the Edmonton Oilers for a total of 113 games from 2013 to 2014 posting a record of 36-63-14 before being relieved of his duties midway through the 2014-15 season. Granted, that Oilers team as a whole was rather lackluster and the blame for lack of success wasn’t necessarily entirely on the shoulders of Eakins.
The Ducks most recent coach, Randy Carlyle, led them to a Stanley Cup in 2007 before eventually being let go in 2011 and then rehired in 2016. Over the course of the 2018-19 season, the Ducks, although they got off to a great start, slowly but surely began to deteriorate. Once Carlyle was eventually fired by the Ducks for the second time in his career in 2019, general manager Bob Murray took over as the temporary head coach for the remainder of the season which saw the Ducks miss the postseason for the first time since 2012 posting a record of 35-37-10.
Although winning their division five straight years under the command of Bruce Boudreau and then Randy Carlyle from 2013-2017, all of the shortcomings on the ice which included four consecutive game seven losses on home ice after holding a three to two series lead in four consecutive years (2013-2016) was the more noticeable streak of the two. A coach to lead the Ducks back to the promised land hasn’t been seen behind the bench in Anaheim in quite some time.
However, this time the hiring situation is different. The face of the Anaheim Ducks franchise is changing. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler, in terms of the big picture, are on their way out. Players who were deemed “kids” not too long ago could now be considered somewhat veterans. Players like Rickard Rakell, Cam Fowler, John Gibson, Hampus Lindholm and Jakob Silfverberg have now been solidified as the near future of the Anaheim Ducks. There’s no doubt that this franchise is going through a big identity change and Dallas Eakins has been a big part of the molding of that future identity.
Beyond the players just mentioned, the even younger ones who have just been drafted and will add to the future make-up of the Ducks in the long term have known pretty much nothing but Eakins in their professional careers. Rookies like Max Jones, Sam Steel, Isac Lundestrom, Kiefer Sherwood, Jacob Larsson, Maxime Comtois, Josh Mahura and Kevin Boyle.
These players have been playing for Eakins for a lot of—and in some cases entire—professional careers. With a few of these players expected to make the permanent jump to the big leagues in the very near future, why not make that transition much more comfortable by giving them a coach whom they are familiar with in both style and demeanor.
The effect of a coach on a developing player can be huge for the growth of that player and by hiring Eakins, these future faces of the Ducks will have no problem playing at the top of their game right from the beginning.
Dallas Eakins has proven in the AHL that he can be a terrific long-term bench boss. Moving up with the players he has helped develop in San Diego could be an added benefit for hiring Eakins. In terms of the coaches available, the picking is thin which makes Eakins even more desirable for the Ducks.
Dave Tippett has just been hired by the Edmonton Oilers on May 28. Joel Quenneville, who was the big fish in the available coach pond, chose to go to a young and hungry Florida Panthers squad in April. D.J Smith who has had extensive experience in the minor leagues and AHL has been hired by the Ottawa Senators. This left the most notable choices being Patrick Roy, Rikard Gronberg, and Dallas Eakins. Roy probably wouldn’t fit what the Ducks are going for as he has a rather abrasive style which doesn’t match well with the rookies of today. Not to mention the fact that in 2013 he almost fist fought then Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau on the benches following a game.
Gronberg is certainly qualified and brings many different positive aspects to a head coach position. He is the head coach of the Swedish National Team and has extensive experience both as a player and coach. The only issue is that he is somewhat of a gamble as he has never coached in the NHL and comes from Europe where little is studied on his tactics. However, anyone who can be entrusted with the success of a hockey superpower is clearly a brilliant hockey mind.
Also, the last time the Ducks hired a head coach with no NHL coaching experience and was somewhat of an outsider was a guy by the name of Mike Babcock who led the Mighty Ducks to the Stanley Cup Final as a seventh seed in 2003.
In this case, with all of the situations that the Ducks are in, Eakins seems like the safest and most obvious choice. Brian Burke, former general manager of the Ducks and the manager who saw the Ducks win their one and only Stanley Cup in 2007, said on Sportsnet’s ‘Hockey Central at Noon’ on May 28, “You want to hire the right coach and I believe he’s the right coach. I think he’s a quality NHL coach, he’s a great person and he’s had all of these players. I think he’s the best guy to take them to the next level.”
Dallas Eakins can be the one to lead the Ducks to the next level of play and hopefully, one day, bring Anaheim its second championship. For now, he’s the most logical choice for many reasons and the Ducks would be missing a great opportunity by not hiring him to be their next leader behind the bench.