What SHOULD Happen Next – A lesson from Dale Tallon

Stanley Cup Finals - Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Six

Well this week we had Jeremy Wright post an epitaph for the Oilers, and Jeremy Thompson write about hope. They were two very good pieces of commentary on just where this team is and describe, I think, the two levels that the fans have gotten to with this team. They both talk about this being rock bottom, after seven years without a playoff appearance, and now likely an eighth. But what I want to talk about is how to get out of it, what is the very next step? A step that most likely won’t happen but in my non-professional opinion should.

The Black Hawks Model

Do you remember, 5 years ago a young Chicago Blackhawks team with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, et al. That young team started the season 1-2-1? You do, ok well than you will also remember that after that fourth game they fired their head coach Denis Savard, then went on to have a great season, making the playoffs for the first time since the 00-01 season.

Remember the interviews with Toews and Kane after the firing? I do, both  young players were shocked and upset by the idea, Toews saying “It was a tough pill to swallow” and Kane fighting back tears when asked about the outgoing coach.

What this move did was wake up the young phenoms, both players realized that it was their own poor play and lackadaisical efforts that led to Dale Tallon moving the Hall of Fame player turned coach, in Savard, out and replacing him with Joel Quenville.

Just look at the results, Chicago went on to finish the season fourth overall in the western conference with 104 points. That was the first time in 17 seasons that the Hawks broke the 100 point barrier. Not only that, the team made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals and has won two Stanley Cup’s in the last five seasons.

The Oilers Model (Potentially)

So my idea is that the Oilers do something similar, and before you think that I’m suggesting they fire Dallas Eakins this early into his tenure, read on.

Dallas Eakins stays, the team is on its fifth coach in six seasons and firing the head coach is definitely not the answer. The change that won’t be difficult to make, the change that I think should happen is;

Fire the assistant coaches, fire Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger. It is quite clear that these guys are not doing their jobs, they’ve been nearest to the players development the last number of seasons and it’s time to go.

The other case for letting them go is, for if nothing else the players are comfortable with them. If you want to try and shock the young guys the same way Pat Kane and Jon Toews were shocked then you get rid of what have been the one (two) consistent factors on this team. Maybe it works maybe it doesn’t.

Step Two

Once that move is made let Eakins bring in his own guys, my guess is he will only bring in one more coach and I would expect it will be someone that’s had some NHL experience, Paul Maurice perhaps, I’ve also heared Wayne Flemming mentioned. *Edit – Lowetide’s article says a Wayne Flemming’ish type coach.

I would expect that there would be some immediate improvement based just on quality of coaches. But it will be a further sign to the players that Eakins system isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to shape up or ship out. Time to start to playing responsible at both ends of the ice and get used to the fact that if you are one of the top players you are going to be relied upon in all situations and not just to fill the back of the net.

Step Two Point Five

I would suspect that this step started weeks ago , but it’s a longer term and harder to accomplish step. To continue with my idea of trying to shock the Taylor Hall’s, RNH’s, Jordan Eberle’s, Justin Schultz’s and Nail Yakupov’s into growing from boys to men; TRADE ONE OF THEM.

If the coaching change doesn’t work then this will be the move that awakens who ever remains. If they’re starting to get too comfortable here, feeling like they’re long term multi-million dollar contracts are a safe bet to live on easy street then getting rid of one of two of them should change that in a hurry.

I have a feeling that even with a change at the assistant coaching positions a trade of one of the top players is still going to be necessary to get this team to a level that challenges for the ultimate prize year to year. But that’s story for another day, this is about waking up the sleeping bear.


Thanks for Reading





  1. Dave Gordon

    November 1, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Thanks everyone for the responses;

    DJ – Yes shutdown is/has turned my brain to mush…working basically everyday for 2 months takes it’s toll, and while I won’t blame work for my ideas on what the Oilers should do I will blame it for my poor grammar and spelling.

    Oilers4life – Kelly Buchberger was a great captain for the Oilers, willing to do what ever was needed for the team at any time, he bears many battle scars that he earned while in Oilers silks. Steve Smyth was a 1/2 d-man on the Oilers in the late 80’s early 90’s and if it wasn’t for that one terrible play in 89 that cost them the series against the Flames he would be remembered a different way. If and when they do get let go both these men deserve a standing ovation for their service to the Oilers.

    For the rest of the comments – Sadly because it hasn’t allready happened I don’t think the assistants are going anywhere. But I do think it can’t hurt anything by letting them go and would be sort of a pre-emptive strike before doing something drastic like trading away one of the kids.

  2. Fed-up

    October 31, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Really excellent article. After all the “What should the Oilers do?” articles out there, you actually had something new, refreshing and plausible to say.

    I actually never considered firing the assistant coaches. I dunno why, but you make complete sense in your reasoning. And I like how you said it sends the message that Coach Eakins isn’t gong anywhere so they had better shape up! Our players aren’t developing properly IMO, and I never considered the asst. coaches being to blame.

    And yes, they need to trade a young gun…but NOT Yakupov. Why? Because everyone is expecting it. There are so many rumors circulating, that if he goes, the team won’t “wake up” as you put it because it’s been talked about so much. (This is also aside from the fact that I think Yak Attack can be the best pure goal scorer of all our young guys)

    The players need to be blindsided. We’re thin at centre so Gags and RNH wouldn’t be smart to trade away. So I’d say Ebbs or Hall…it will definitely sting because they are our best but we will get the biggest return for them. Also bc they’ve just signed contracts it will send the msg to the other players that no one is safe, regardless of contracts or skill.

    I live in Toronto and I just need to ask…why hasn’t anyone started a “Fire Kevin” (Lowe) chant at any of the games? I remember the the “Fire Wilson” chants here when the Leafs were in the dumpster and look how they turned out.

  3. Oilers4life

    October 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    awesome article. It is time to get rid of two horrible coaches who were subpar players at best on winning teams.

  4. DJ

    October 31, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    2 months of shutdown have allowed your brain to go to mush…give em a chance to grow here.

    No wonder you didn’t want to tell me at work.

    Unless they can get a top paring defenseman than ill call you a genius

  5. Hammer

    October 31, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Totally agree with Assistant Coaches!!! Only one problem, Kevin Lowe needs to go. He is a cancer and why he is still with the Oilers I don’t know. Success always starts from the top.

  6. James

    October 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    I totally agree with you on the assistants needing to go. They’ve been a constant while the head coaches have come and gone. Worst defense in the league has to land squarely on Smith’s shoulders. I like the idea of bringing in Paul Maurice too. He and Eakins know each other and should be able to work well together.

    I don’t think it’s time to move a young gun yet. Not until after you move Hemsky out (hopefully) for a decent defender. If it comes to trading one of the young stars my first choice would be Gagner, but MacT seems to like him a ton. Beyond him I’d move one of either Hall or Yak since I prefer RNH and Eberle as smarter hockey players. Hall would bring the largest return…

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