SAN DIEGO — The sport was tight, shut and getting nearer. His group was locked in a tense battle with a bitter division rival, the play tough and rising rougher by the minute, and San Diego Gulls coach Dallas Eakins was in no temper for what occurred subsequent.
A participant from the Bakersfield Condors started yapping at Eakins because the second interval wound to an in depth. Eakins and his teaching workers walked throughout the ice when the interval ended and towards their dressing room, their paths diverging barely from the Condors and their coaches.
Immediately, Eakins and Bakersfield coach Jay Woodcroft started screaming at one another. Eakins took a number of steps towards Woodcroft, then halted as gamers and coaches converged to make sure nothing bodily occurred. Eakins then motioned for Woodcroft to satisfy him beneath the stands, out of sight. Nothing got here of it, though Eakins and Woodcroft had one other animated dialog as they returned to their benches earlier than the third interval started in what would grow to be a Three-2 loss for the Gulls to the Condors. Eakins would later dismiss it as “simply their coach attempting to stay up for his participant.”
Eakins had returned to the calm, cool, collected individual he was hours earlier, when he spoke at size about his teaching philosophy, about mentoring and pushing and prodding a brand new era of prospects and getting ready them for the day they may finally grow to be members of the NHL’s Geese.
He didn’t want to communicate immediately in regards to the distinct risk that he might grow to be the Geese’ subsequent coach, after Common Supervisor Bob Murray’s brief and bittersweet tenure behind their bench concludes with Friday’s season finale in opposition to the Kings at Honda Middle.
Hiring his alternative will likely be among the many many priorities on Murray’s offseason to-do record, after the Geese misplaced 19 of 21 video games, spiraling out of playoff rivalry and towards the underside of the NHL’s total standings, and Murray fired Randy Carlyle.
Eakins, 52, is believed to be the main candidate, though it’s anticipated that Murray will interview a number of others in an try to seek out the coach who will lead the Geese’ reworking effort after they missed the playoffs for the primary time in seven seasons.
Over his four-season tenure with the Gulls, Eakins has proved to be analytical with out lapsing into coach-speak, ready with out being overwrought, demanding with out being overbearing and, above all, a instructor who’s achieved glorious outcomes from his college students.
Enjoying within the AHL is a ceremony of passage for many NHL gamers. San Diego has been an incubator for the Geese’ prime prospects, with Eakins getting ready a gentle stream of proficient younger gamers who’ve made the journey north on I-5 to the Geese and to the NHL.
“I feel you’ve obtained to be fast in your toes,” Eakins mentioned, explaining his function as a minor league coach. “You’ve at all times obtained to be looking, particularly the way you’re going to educate these top-end guys. It’s at all times evolving as a result of every a type of guys, they’re totally different individuals.
“They’re all raised in a different way. Some have had no brothers and sisters. Some have had many. You’ve actually obtained to go in deep to maximise who they are often. I can go in to (Gulls proper wing) Corey Tropp and I might actually kick him within the (rear) day-after-day and he’ll reply day-after-day.
“We’ve obtained different guys if I did that they could reply a number of instances, however I’d finally lose them. You may’t do it. If I went in and gave Corey Tropp a hug day-after-day, I wouldn’t get a lot. It’s wonderful the totally different personalities, the place they’re at age-wise.”
Making a tradition
Eakins’ capacity to attach together with his gamers has served him nicely in San Diego, in accordance with those that have performed for him and coached with him. He encourages the gamers to surf the waves off the coast or hit the hyperlinks in the event that they like. He discourages them from taking part in video video games or sleeping all day.
“I wasn’t positive what to anticipate down there,” mentioned Geese proper wing Troy Terry, who performed 41 video games with the Gulls and 32 with the Geese earlier than a damaged leg ended his season final week. “It’s a credit score to the blokes and it’s a giant credit score to Dallas.
“It simply felt like such an in depth group and the tradition is team-first. And I feel when you have got a tradition like that, everybody does higher individually. Nobody is down there taking part in for themselves. Behind their minds, everyone seems to be attempting to maneuver on. That’s what that degree is for, however it’s such an in depth group that it seems like a household tradition down there. It’s a enjoyable group to be part of.”
Mentioned Max Jones, a left wing who performed 40 video games in San Diego and 29 with the Geese: “He focuses on relationships and that makes us need to play for him. It makes us need to work onerous for him and need to purchase into his methods. Everybody I speak to about him, they love him. As a coach, as an individual, he’s simply nice. He’s an ideal individual. That’s one thing you cherish about him.”
When the Gulls gave up three first-period targets in that March 29 recreation in opposition to Bakersfield, Eakins changed goaltender Kevin Boyle with backup Jeff Glass to begin the second interval. The Gulls responded and rallied. They didn’t want a motivational speech. Eakins mentioned nothing.
“He didn’t come into the dressing room between durations and I assumed that was nice of him,” Gulls heart Sam Carrick mentioned. “He prepares us for the sport. He will get us prepared together with his pregame speeches and his movies. Not way more wanted to be mentioned. We knew what we wanted to do.
“It was only a matter of us doing it as a group.”
Eakins has had an affect on his friends, too.
“He’s excellent at at all times bringing the easiest out of individuals,” mentioned Geese assistant coach Marty Wilford, who was on Eakins’ workers for 3 seasons in San Diego. “I can say that for myself. He introduced the most effective out of me. I wouldn’t be right here if it was not for Dallas Eakins.
“He at all times pushes you to be higher, however offers you house and alternative to do your factor.”
Dealing with challenges
The Washington Capitals picked Eakins within the 10th spherical of the 1985 draft. He performed 120 video games within the NHL as a defenseman with the unique Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and Calgary Flames.
He by no means scored a aim, however had 9 assists.
4 seasons as coach of the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs’ AHL group, ready Eakins for the NHL, however not for what awaited him with the Edmonton Oilers, a franchise that’s been looking with out success for the magic it captured within the Wayne Gretzky period within the 1980s.
Edmonton gained 36 of 113 video games in Eakins’ two seasons. He was criticized for a lot of causes, not least of which was a defensive scheme referred to as “the swarm,” which turned out to be a disjointed protection plan that produced a gentle string of defeats.
Eakins landed on his toes in San Diego, after the Geese shifted their AHL group from Norfolk, Virginia, earlier than the 2015-16 season. He’s resurrected his teaching profession with the Gulls and is now on the cusp of a second NHL teaching job, a attainable place with the rebuilding Geese.
The challenges would be the similar, solely totally different. He’ll be teaching established gamers and likewise prospects, however the emphasis will likely be on profitable video games fairly than growing gamers, though that may a big a part of his job description, too.
“My 10-year-old daughter determined she needed to begin swimming in races,” Eakins mentioned in addressing a query about his teaching philosophy. “She’s accomplished very, very nicely at it. We’re by no means involved with the place she locations. All I hold saying is, ‘Every time you exit, are you able to get a private greatest? Are you able to do this?’ It’s sort of the way in which you strategy these high-end guys at this degree and the subsequent.
“Is there simply that tiny bit extra? On this league, two additional targets, whether or not they’re scored or whether or not they’re denied, go a great distance within the standings generally. It may be that additional level within the standings. It goes again to our mantra, to anticipate your greatest. I don’t need to anticipate the most effective out of you. I can’t even do this until you anticipate the very best out of your self.”