For the forth time in five years, the Edmonton Oilers will have a new head coach. There have been rumblings the next man for the job is Toronto Marlies bench boss Dallas Eakins. If he is indeed the choice, it would certainly be an interesting one. The Oilers coach for the 2013 season was Ralph Krueger, who came in with no NHL head coaching experience, the same boat Eakins is in. But it seems clear that the Oilers decision is not about experience but rather that it simply wasn’t the right fit to have Krueger in charge.
When the Oilers hired a new General Manager, the odds of Krueger being replaced become increasingly higher. New GM’s often like to bring in their own guy. Eakins has been coveted by many an NHL team, and as of now there’s no official word he will be the guy. Edmonton also met with former Carolina Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice, among others. If Eakins doesn’t end up getting the Oilers gig, there’s no shortage of candidates. Lindy Ruff and Alain Vigneault come in with tons of experience. Former Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan is also available. If the Oilers feel like they need a real disciplinarian they could always knock on John Tortorella’s door, and shore up that team defense. (Not going to happen but still funny to think about).
Edmonton improved on their record from last season, though the stats are a little skewed on account of a shortened season. None-the-less they didn’t finish in the bottom five in the league and that’s still progress. The Oilers boast some great young talent, but it didn’t quite come together. A full training camp may help. The addition of Anton Belov from the KHL was another piece to the puzzle for the team. The big defenseman has a lot of offensive upside but still needs some work on his defensive game. He’ll fit right in!
The Oilers had some expectations on them this season. This year marked the seventh in a row for the team without a playoff berth, and that doesn’t sit well in a hockey-mad city like Edmonton. Clearly, the on-ice personal wasn’t working, so they got rid of the guy who put them there. And they didn’t achieve what management had hoped for, so they got rid of the guy who was in charge of them.
Now, the Oilers have a full fresh start, which is probably best. The task at hand is to get the right mix of players on the ice. You can’t rush development, and that’s what this Oilers young core is in the midst of. The Oilers are a fast, skilled team, but in a tough Western Conference they need some more grit and size, particularly on defense. They could do well with a shake-up in goal. In other words, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Good luck to the new guy!