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Coach Eakins Speaks on a Number of Topics in Season-Closing Interview

by Ducks Staff /

Dallas Eakins Exit Interview

Dallas Eakins Exit Interview

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins covered a number of topics and took the time to thank the fans for their support in a difficult year

  • 25:43 •

Ducks coach Dallas Eakins covered a number of topics in his season-closing interview with media Thursday morning. Following is a full transcript: 

On rebuilding after a challenging season
Hey, it takes time. It's amazing, this whole process of a transitioning a team, rebuilding a team, everything takes time. And going through from our last game, our last month to now, things become clearer and clearer. I'm a big note taker. I've been going through a lot of my notes throughout the year. And it's interesting, looking back, seeing where we're at today and now starting to move forward. So it is much clearer, I guess, is the answer to your question. But there's going to be even more clarity here over the next few days, as we speak as a group. And I often find lots of clarity out on the trails running and pedaling that bike of mine.

I guess my biggest sense is that all of this is necessary. And we understand here that, that this is a part of the process of transitioning, rebuilding a team, moving forward. There is going to be adversity. There's going to be frustration. There's going to be some anger along the way, and there's going to be something hurt. And what you have to understand when you're going through this is that those are all parts of the process. Those are all parts of the ingredient of getting our organization back to where it was a number of years ago. And all you have to do is you don't have to look too far. 

If you want to look at around the league, look at a couple of elite teams in this league now, and look at where they were at five or six years ago and see where they're at now. And one of those teams [Colorado], right in or our division. Five years ago, they finished dead last in the league. I'm sure they were frustrated and angered and all that stuff that we've gone through and looking back, they probably look at that as the foundation of who they are today. They're in the mix for the President's trophy, it's interesting. So through all of this, we all have to understand that it's necessary, it's part of the process, and that we can be changed by what happens to us, but we certainly can't be reduced by it. And going through this takes a whole lot of mental toughness. Mental toughness to me, is what's it going to take to break you? And to a man, basically through the organization as a tough of a year this is, it didn't break us. We learned a lot about ourselves. I think we all have a new foundation on what heart is.

On how the team is getting along through adversity
I think everybody really likes each other until things get hard and then you find out a whole lot about the individuals in your organization and about your team. And so, hey, this is part of the process. We are urgent day to day to get better, but we are patient as we move forward in the same breath. I think we are a far, far different team. We have a far, far different on ice product now than we did at the end of last year. I think we have a far different on ice product now than we had then we had at the start of this year, or even at mid-season.

It's interesting. And I may have said this to you guys before, through the first kind of 10, 11, 12 games, I was unsure where we were at as a team. I think we were around .500 at the time. We may have had maybe the last playoff spot, it was early in the season. And I was really questioning where certain players were at, where we were at as a group. Had we had maybe gotten a little ahead of ourselves? Because we only had a training camp. We didn't have a measuring stick. It was just us out there against each other. We weren't included in the play in round at the end of the season. So it had been a long time since we had had a measuring stick. And even though we had a playoff berth and we were around 500, I was a wee bit worried about where we're at. And now we find ourselves at where you see us at in the standings and where our season went. And I've never been more encouraged or excited about where we're going. It's interesting how this works.

On judging his own performance this season
I think, hey, self-reflection and being an honest evaluator is important. Doesn't matter what job you're in, or even as a parent or a sibling, whatever it is. I think you always have to be checking in with yourself. And as for the players, I think it was a roller coaster ride for me as well. We are all highly, highly competitive people in here. And part of my job is to keep the group at even keel and neutral.

The one thing I know for sure is that negativity will eat away at a person or at a team. And I should have managed that negativity earlier in the season. Now, would we be still sitting here out of a playoff spot? Probably so. But I wish I would have managed that better. Now I'm not trying to say here to be more positive. I know for sure that negativity can kill you. And being real positive person, that maybe sounds great, but I'm not really sure how much that does either. I think staying neutral, staying in the moment, recognizing what is needed just right now and at no other time is how you really build things. And it wasn't for long stretches, but there was a couple of instances where I really wish I would have managed the negativity, whether it was coming out of the dressing room with certain players or the group, or the negativity was coming from me, from being frustrated where we're at.

But I do think not only did the players get an amazing handle on it, through the last part of the season. And at times, even when things weren't going great, we got the attitude to be upbeat, neutral, what do we need today? When we finished the season, we were in a very, very good spot. And yeah, so I think for me, that was the one standout where I could have been much better.

On his plan going forward
Job one is reintroduce myself to my family. The way the season was, there hasn't been a day away from the rink. So that's the first job. I can't do my job here without a fully supportive family. So that's number one. But I know what you're asking. And the first thing for me is I really want to dive in and have a hard look at a few teams that I highly, highly respect.

And I'll do that probably a couple of ways. I've got time on my hands here, so obviously I can grab them on TV, but my bigger interest is to actually get right into the rink, get a good view of everything, and basically go watch these teams a little bit. Bob and I right now, we're already planning for the next season. Obviously, there's going to be discussions about personnel, what do we think we need. Those conversations are always going on, even in season. So we've got a good baseline on that. Obviously, there's some deficiencies where we need to get better, our power play being one of them. We've got to get that looked after. And then moving forward, it's going to be swinging back around to right now is a great time for these players to reflect, go through it, self-evaluate, think about the team. And then after a month or so here, I think it's important to swing back around to our guys that we know that are going to be here. And re-establish the connection, really revisit this season and start putting in place what our standards and our vision and our values are going to be for next year. Because that's kind of like a living organism a little bit, it's constantly changing. It's constantly evolving and we're going to have to really revisit that moving into next year.

On communicating with the players
Obviously, I'm constantly talking to the players throughout the season. This year was a wee bit of a challenge, because it was a different one. But for me, the one thing is that the communication lines are always. Open over the next kind of little bit here, obviously we're talking to players. But then I like to just give them their space, where they don't hear from me, they don't hear from anyone. But like I said here, in the next three weeks, month, kind of swing back around with them. Because now you've had lots of time to go through the season. Where we started, where we ended as a group. Like I said, where do we need to up the standards? Where do we need to relax standards? What's our new vision and values for this season?

And those things are really important to start hammering home as early as you can. Because anytime you can get ahead of it, rather than waiting for training camp, it's just a much easier process to go through. Obviously, the standings mid-season, you don't suddenly just wake up and go, "Hey, this is going to take longer than what than we thought." We understand and hear how long this takes. And I refer back to, there's a team in our division. Just have a look. Five years ago, they were in a tough spot and look where they're at today. So, we understand the timeline, but we're not going to sit here and go, "Hey, everybody, five or six years." We want to be urgent in this process too.

So when you get mid-season and you see where the standings are, it's not like you're reevaluating things. You just understand, "Hey, this is part of the process." We're hoping that we would be in a better position standing-wise, but we're not. But I go back to a couple of things here too, is that it's interesting that the first thing we didn't have either is we had no measuring stick.

On returning to being a playoff contender
We really wanted to push the group, from our coaching staff, right through our players that, "Hey, that's got to be our goal here. We're not coming in here to get people reps. We want to do our best to be in the mix." And now, if that was too high a goal, then so be it. I would rather set my goals way too high and miss than set them too low and hit them. So, we had no measuring stick in camp, because we had no exhibition games. We had no measuring stick from the end of last season, because we were one of seven teams who weren't included in the play in tournament. And it's interesting that all seven of those teams have missed the playoffs. And then as tough as we are in the standings, we were in 29 one-goal games this year. And that tells me that, hey, at least we're close. And believe me, I don't accept losing very well. And it pains me to even say that number. It kills us to understand that we were in 29 one-goal games. So even though we're at in the standings, even though where we're at, where we're going to get our draft pick, I think that us having a lofty goal and missing it is better than shooting low and hitting it. And those 29 one goal games could have easily gone a different way. Now, hey, would we have maybe missed the playoffs by a few points or maybe we could have hit our goal? Sure. But now that it's all over, I think it's really easy to look back and go, "Hey, maybe we shouldn't have said that." But that's got to be your goal every year that you come in. Your goal should be to win no matter what.

And there's two things that we talked about a lot during the team, both were delivered. I talked about one earlier that I wish looking back, could have manage maybe a little bit better. But when you're a team in transition, a team that's rebuilding, you've got to understand that there is going to be adversity and frustration. And with adversity and frustration also comes negativity. And I wish as a group, we could have managed that negativity much better, kind of around that, I think it was around the 15, 20 game mark, somewhere in there, off the top of my head. Maybe just a little later. And it wasn't a long stretch of it, but it was kind of like a couple of weeks of it. And we had spoken about it before, but we got caught up in it. And it's interesting because the second message going forward, and the one that needs to be resonated is that you show me a successful person or a successful organization or anything successful, those people have gone through some mud.

On the difficulties of the past year
They have gone through a ton of adversity. And so what we've gone through here over this last year is necessary and you need to embrace it. So moving forward, I think we've learned great lessons on how negativity or bringing a negative attitude into a dressing room can affect others around you. I think that we've learned that adversity, as much as it really sucks when you're in it, that it's going to really help you build your foundation for the future. And then the other thing that we really look forward to, and this isn't a message thing, but we really look forward to a normal season. Because when you talk about culture and identity and all of these things, this is a moving, natural growing entity in your room. And for that to work, these guys need to be together away from the rink.

They've got to be interacting with their families. And since day one, since I've been here, we haven't had a normal season. We had a shortened season last year, we had a shortened season this year. We had a massive amount of protocols, everything going on with COVID. And when you're building an organization like this, you look for balance. And that is the one thing that not only us, but a few other teams that have been robbed of, as you're trying to build a group.

You go through the mud, you go through the adversity and what's happening, whether you like it or not as your brain is becoming calloused, and you're becoming mentally tougher and you're being harder and harder to break. And once we came through that, and our identity as a team is going to change as we move forward. But I thought we were a persistent and resilient group as we moved through the end of the year. And I think that ended up being our identity as we finished the year. And that's an important thing for a team, that we weren't going to be easily knocked down any more. And now the next step or over the the next bunch of time here as we move forward from year to year is to get our group back. Our organization several years ago, it used to be the ones that they wouldn't even ring the doorbell or knock on the door. They just come into the house, beat you up and leave, and they were gone. And that's what we want to do here moving forward. And you look at our young players, you look at the way that my boss has drafted this year. They did that poll of top prospects in the game. We had two of the top three that came out of that.

On what he's encouraged by from this season
Just the energy that I was privileged to see over the last 10 or 12 games that the group brought, I'm encouraged, and I'm excited. And I'm excited to see what we're going to get in this draft as well.

On Ryan Getzlaf
He is an outstanding leader and fully on board and a great help to what we're trying to do here. But I do respect Ryan's decisions. I have a massive amount of respect for that kid. He certainly goes about his business here at the rank on a highly, highly professional way. He's a great father and a great husband. And so his decision will be his decision, but he was a very good asset for us this year.

On some final thank yous 
I just want to recognize a few things. Number one, our 21st Duck, Angelique Fong was an incredible story to us. Especially where we're at as a team. When you talk about going through the mud, through adversity, through negativity, talk about mental toughness on what is going to break you and what is not. We need to look no further than Angelique, and it was a true pleasure to meet her and have her give us some inspiration.

I know we've recognized these guys before, but obviously David McNab's incredible run with an organization. His leadership, his experience throughout our organization and what he brought to it every day was amazing. I personally am just privileged to know the man. To our two players, David Backes and Ryan Miller, incredible, incredible human beings, number one. Incredible family men, and they are going to be greatly missed in our dressing room. But we all hope that they're quietly very, very proud of themselves, because we are. I want to thank all of our families, all these guys' spouses and their kids at home, who some kids weren't going to school so they wouldn't bring COVID back into the house and get it into our dressing room. The sacrifice that the spouses made with this just being a relentless season, with guys at the rink every day. Little time off, extended road trips. A lot goes into sacrifices that coaches and managers and players make. I see it a different way. We get to follow our passion. We get to chase our dreams. The sacrifices are being made by the ones at home. 

And then lastly, but most importantly, our fans. We missed you guys dearly. And all you have to do is look at one thing for me. You look at our road record. I think we were a game under .500, where the fans have zero, little effect on us. They're only against us. So it was great to go into a building like that. But where the fans do affect you and they have an important outcome on a number of levels, of inspiration, or giving your team an extra push to get over the edge, that is where we missed you. Our home record certainly wasn't the same.

We really suffered at home. And I know from my meetings with players early in the season, I had five or six veteran guys, and talking about looking for a way to find another level at home. Our veteran guys were being affected by the lack of fans in the building. And so we look forward to next year and we're very, very hopeful that that building will be rocking again. And lastly, thanks all you guys. You're always very fair. You don't ever keep me here too long. I hope you all have a great summer, reconnect with your own families. Stay safe, and we'll see you next year.

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