Those familiar with the Oilers’ plight this season will doubtlessly feign surprise at the news. Eakins piloted the hapless club through 113 games over parts of two seasons, finishing with a 36-63-14 record. Currently, the Oilers are 7-19-5 and in possession of last place in the National Hockey League.
“I really feel the same way now as I did when I hired [Eakins],” general manager Craig MacTavish said. “He’s an excellent coach. I was happy with a lot of things. I had no real good reason to do this outside of performance. That’s really the bottom line that we’re all judged by, is the performance level of the hockey club and certainly the record. I would point to those things solely as the reason for this change.”
MacTavish will take over for now as interim coach, while Todd Nelson of the Oilers’ AHL affiliate on Oklahoma City is expected to take over from there until the end of the current season. The rest of the coaching staff is intact.
Nelson will be the sixth coach behind the Oilers’ bench since the firing of MacTavish following the 2008-2009 season. Edmonton has also seen the late Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger through the door.
“There is blood all over my hands in this too as well, because I put the lineup together and the roster,” MacTavish said. “I’m not here to absolve myself of accountability for the situation that we’re in. Nor am I here to solely blame Dallas for the job that he did, because in my mind he did a lot of good things for our group.”
Nelson will join MacTavish and learn the ropes starting Tuesday, the team announced. The 45-year-old is in his fifth season in the AHL and guided the Barons to a 15-6-2 record this season. He has made the post-season in all of his full seasons with Oklahoma City and spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Thrashers from 2008-2010.
On top of the coaching change, MacTavish will be evaluating the entire Oilers organization from top to bottom. Their struggles have been well-documented and the once proud City of Champions has to be hoping something changes sometime soon. If not, MacTavish will likely be the next to go.