How is it possible that Dallas Eakins changed his coaching style so much?
On Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, Justin Schultz finally found himself stapled to the bench, his ice time slashed from what he's become used to. At long last, Nikita Nikitin was scratched against Chicago after a dreadful start to the year. It took Dallas Eakins a quarter of the season to see what most fans could see after a half-dozen games. Or did it?
Eakins came to the Oilers from the Toronto Marlies, and in his time there he wasn't exactly known as a foolish man. Nor did he pull punches when players weren't up to snuff. When Nazem Kadri showed up to camp out of shape, Eakins publicly called him out, demanded better and reduced his ice time. Kadri improved.
So why the long delay in recognizing that Schultz and Nikitin needed some accountability, especially when Eakins already sat Petry and Marincin earlier in the year? My vote goes to management. It's clear what the higher-ups thought of Schultz heading into this year, and Nikitin is their highest-paid defenseman. Those things wouldn't matter to a coach that's using his two eyes in watching them play, but to management types they might.
Tom Renney gave us some key insights into the functioning of this team when he came forward to say that he was fired because he refused management's demands of more ice time for injured Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. We know that management tries to pull strings with the coach.
After having strong-willed men behind the bench in Pat Quinn and Renney, is it possible that Oilers management decided to find a guy who was more of a team player? I'm not suggesting that they want to put players in bad positions, but I do believe that they want to be able to have input in the goings-on with the players.
Might that be why we've seen such about about-face from Eakins?