Dallas Eakins has surely been on many NHL team’s radar for the last couple of years, but with multiple coaching vacancies opening up recently, his opportunity to take his skills to the next level could be at an all-time high. Glen Gulutzan was fired by the Dallas Stars last week and Alain Vigneault was relieved of his duties yesterday by the Vancouver Canucks. These openings, combined with the recent trend of hiring American Hockey League coaches gives Eakins a strong shot.
The Toronto Marlies bench boss has a lot of things going for him on his resume at the moment. The obvious one would be the success of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season and how many key contributors that Eakins worked with. James Reimer, Nazem Kadri, and Jake Gardiner are just a few that come to mind. His work with Kadri seems most impressive as the youngster really turned a corner this year.
Eakins not only deserves credit for the development of several of the Leafs’ young stars, but he should also be praised for having another strong season with the Marlies this year. After making it to the Calder Cup final in 2011-12, the Leafs took many players the Marlies relied on heavily last season. Despite the loss of talent, Eakins still led the team to the second round of the AHL playoffs.
The one thing that may catch an NHL team’s eye more than anything else, however, is Eakins’ track record on the penalty kill. The Marlies have had the league’s best for two straight seasons. If he can transfer those kinds of results to the NHL level, then that will make a big difference for a young team.
Eakins surely deserves an NHL coaching job for next season. The only question is, where is the best fit? A few people have been linking him to Vancouver, but the Stars may be the best option. With the team in somewhat of a rebuild, Eakins’ past experience helping young players may be just the thing Dallas needs to return to the playoffs. Wherever he ends up, the Marlies will sorely miss him.