Dallas Eakins was named the Ducks new coach on Monday.
Eakins takes over for the fired Randy Carlyle after he coached the team’s minor league affiliate San Diego Gulls for four seasons. He was always considered to be a strong candidate unless another surpassed him during the process, which concluded last week.
Eakins gets his second shot as an NHL head coach. His 18-month tenure with the Edmonton Oilers ended with his firing in 2014, and he worked his way back into consideration in the minor league system with the Ducks. Eakins helped grow the franchise’s prospects, such as Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour, and more recently with Maxime Comtois, Sam Steel, Max Jones and 2018 top draft pick Isac Lundestrom. The Ducks have two first-round picks at this week’s draft.
Eakins forged a successful minor league coaching background before joining Anaheim. He took the Toronto Marlies to two division titles and the Calder Cup Final in 2012. In San Diego, he has taken the Gulls to the playoffs in three of four seasons and headed a run to the Western Conference final this season.
General manager Bob Murray was already familiar with Eakins but he reportedly reached out to Gulls veterans to get their opinion, and by last week’s end it became clear that Eakins prevailed over others for the job.
But Murray reached out to other candidates during the Gulls’ playoff run. Among those were Lane Lambert, Todd Nelson and Scott Sandelin. Lambert has been an NHL assistant the past eight seasons and is currently with the New York Islanders. Nelson is an assistant with the Dallas Stars and won the Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2017.
Sandelin is the longtime coach at two-time reigning NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth and he recently signed a four-year contract extension.
Besides continuing with the Ducks’ younger players, Eakins will be responsible with moving the team forward from a train-wreck season in which the team’s older group was exposed and called out by Murray for a lack of care. The Ducks finished 10 points out of a playoff spot and missed the postseason for the first time since 2012.
Corey Perry is expected to be bought out or traded before the start of free agency on July 1. Perry is a former Hart Trophy winner but he’s been on the decline at 34 and his $8.6-million salary for the next two seasons is obstructing the team’s organizational priorities. The Ducks would likely have to retain some of his salary or take on another unattractive contract in a trade situation.
The Ducks do have younger players such as forwards Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell and goalie John Gibson, among others, to build around and Eakins will be the authoritative voice for them, along with captain Ryan Getzlaf.
Eakins said he erred in Edmonton by “going too fast with some things,” according to Canada’s CBC last month. But he said he learned from the experience.
“I hope my kids have to go through that kind of adversity someday because it’s going to make them extremely strong,” Eakins said. “It’s not a failure. It’s just a lesson. That’s all it is.”