THE CANADIAN PRESS
EDMONTON – Craig MacTavish said there was “blood all over my hands” after another disappointing start by the Edmonton Oilers, but it was Dallas Eakins who took the fall.
Eakins was fired by the Oilers on Monday, the first casualty of another season gone wrong in what was once known as the City of Champions.
Edmonton has lost 15 of its past 16 games is last in the Western Conference with 19 points through 31 games.
MacTavish will take over as head coach on a transitional basis before handing the reins to Todd Nelson, who is being promoted to interim head coach from Edmonton’s American Hockey League affiliate in Oklahoma City.
MacTavish said Eakins is an “excellent coach,” but something had to be done after the losses started piling up.
The general manager also took his share of the blame for Edmonton’s dismal situation because he “put the lineup together.”
“I’m not here to absolve myself of accountability for the situation that were in,” MacTavish said at a news conference Monday.
With the Oilers well on their way to missing the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, further changes could be coming this spring.
The Oilers went 36-63-14 under Eakins in parts of two seasons, including 7-19-5 so far this year.
Hired in the summer of 2012 to help the Oilers “be in the mix every year to win,” Eakins missed the playoffs in his only full season behind the bench.
“I had no real good reason to do this outside of performance,” MacTavish said of Eakins‘ dismissal. “That’s 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 reasons for this change.”
It was on Eakins to get through to the Oilers, and they didn’t seem to make any significant strides under their fifth coach in seven seasons. Likewise, Pat Quinn (2009-10), Tom Renney (2010-12) and Ralph Krueger (2013) couldn’t get them to the playoffs.
Edmonton has not made the post-season since 2006.
The Oilers finished with the third-fewest points in the NHL in 2013-14 with a record of 29-44-9 in the one full season under Eakins.
Considered one of the hottest coaching candidates when with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Eakinsgot the job with the Oilers in large part because MacTavish believed “he could relate to young players.”
Recently MacTavish game Eakins a vote of confidence and said the coach still had the room, but as the losses continued to come the team’s position changed.
“The losses have an emotional toll on everybody in the organization – at least they should – in particular the coaching staff,” MacTavish said. “I think the fact we weren’t able to get any traction at all after that, it lead me to believe the time was right for a coaching change.”
With an average age of under 27, the Oilers’ roster includes three No. 1 overall picks: Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012.
This was Eakins‘ first NHL head-coaching job. Before coaching the Marlies, he was an assistant for two years with the Maple Leafs.