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.
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