Dallas Eakins today was announced as head coach of the Anaheim Ducks at a press conference at Great Park Ice & FivePoint Arena. With the announcement, Eakins became the 10th head coach in franchise history.
Eakins, 52 (1/20/67), most recently served as head coach for the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League (AHL) from 2015-19. In his four seasons behind the bench, Eakins led San Diego to a 154-95-23 record and three trips to the Calder Cup Playoffs. Under Eakins, the Gulls led the AHL Pacific Division in wins, points (331) and points percentage (.608) since the division's inception in 2015-16.
Joining him on stage today was Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray, who opened the press conference with comments on Eakins.
Murray: First thing, I would like to thank [owners] Henry and Susan [Samueli] and [Chief Executive Officer] Mike Schulman for their patience here since Christmas. It's been a long period for this organization and I said in the beginning I was going to take my time and make sure San Diego was finished playing before I looked for a head coach. I held true to my word, and fortunately I didn't think they would go as far as they did. So, good for Dallas on that, but it's made things a little tight for Henry and Susan, so thank you for your patience in this. Ingrid, girls, welcome. I think it's important you understand a little history here that I have with Dallas. He probably doesn't know all of it, but when I retired, my first job in Chicago and living in Chicago was as a pro scout.
Murray: And so I would go to Chicago Wolves game a whole bunch. They were the farm team - the first farm team for the Atlanta team at that point in time. You're going to watch players, and I'm watching. They've got a defenseman named Braydon Coburn, obviously playing in Tampa [Bay] now, high first-round pick. But what caught my eye that first year was the development of a player named Garnet Exelby. The guy playing beside him all year long was Dallas. So you watch and you file those things away, and you're watching Exelby obviously as a prospect, but you're watching how Dallas helps develop this young man. You don't see him for a while. Then he's coaching the [Toronto] Marlies and you see the development of players there. He had his years there, 16-17 players come and play in the National Hockey League. Plus they competed, as you've just heard. They competed. Coaching a farm team, it's great to develop players, but you want them to win. You want them to learn how to win because winning is a habit, as a famous man said, but unfortunately so is losing, accepting losing. He has managed to do that with the Marlies. Goes to Edmonton. Well, much like my experience in Chicago as a general manager, it doesn't go so good. So you're done. You just want to get back and try it again. You just want to get back there. So here we come and San Diego is available. Dallas is there. We say, Okay, it's time to get back in the saddle again. He comes and takes over. Well, you've seen the history, four more years, 16-17 more players coming and playing.
Murray: Players come up here and they're ready to play when they come here. They're professionals. They know what we're going to do. You don't have to teach them the ropes. They know about everything. A few of them... every team has a few guys that are a little difficult to handle, but for the most part, there's been no failures and that team has been very competitive. With where this organization is heading and what we're doing as we're turning a page, this is just a natural progression from a guy who's coached most of the guys on this team, a guy who likes to win because he knows how competitive I am. Dallas, I know how hard you want to get back here, and you've earned it. So, welcome.
Eakins: Thank you. First, I want to just say how humbled I am to get this position. I'm honored that Susan and Henry, along with Michael Schulman, and most importantly my boss here, entrust this position to me. I'm here to serve as the head coach and I'm very much looking forward to that. You certainly do not get here by yourself. There are so many people to thank starting in San Diego with [Coordinator, Minor League Hockey Operations] Jillian Samueli, [Gulls general manager] Bob Ferguson, [President, Business Operations] Matt Savant and [Team Services Manager] Jeff Goduti, whose commitment to excellence there is second to none. To all of our staff, the coaches, the trainers, the equipment managers, the strength coaches, all the staff at The Rinks in Poway have just been an absolute pleasure to work with.
Eakins: All the people down at the great sports arena, the guys that work there and our fans there that have really set the bar for the American Hockey League with their passion. Most importantly, over the past four years, the 200-plus players that have come through our dressing room. It's just been an absolute privilege to coach those young men, and they have certainly touched my life in a very positive way.
Eakins: Looking forward here, I just think that this is such an incredible opportunity. The Anaheim Ducks have had such an incredible success rate here in Orange County, and it starts with the division championships, the Stanley Cup. Also, what's going on off the ice with the grassroots hockey, with the community initiatives. It's just incredible that the success on and off the ice has gone hand in hand. That's something that myself and my family are very excited about.
Eakins: The last group I want to thank, most importantly, are my two daughters. They're strong, they're fierce. They lead us often. My wife [Ingrid], who has been an incredible partner, a great... well, what you would look for in a great teammate. She's fiercely loyal, she's selfless and she makes me better every day.
Eakins: I think today's an exciting day. The greatest thing for me, personally, is I don't have to start from scratch. I know who my boss is. I know how he works and I know how competitive he is. I'm familiar with a lot of the players. I'm familiar with a lot of the staff, so we're not starting from scratch today. We're starting with experience, and that's greatly encouraging to me. Now with that, there's a lot of hard work that's going to be done, and I look forward to embracing the work. I look forward to our staff and our players enjoying the work and the hardness that it takes to get certain things done. I hope that we can continue the great success of this organization both on and off the ice, and I appreciate all you guys coming here today. Thank you.
On what separated Eakins from the rest of the coaching candidates
Murray: Our experience together, first of all. There were a lot of good people I talked to. It was a very good process for this organization to go through, but it always came back to Dallas. It just always came back that way.
On how Eakins' experience coaching in the AHL prepared him for this job with the Ducks
Eakins: The season was too short, number one. We obviously would have liked to have gone further. Obviously, being familiar with some of our prospects that will maybe have a chance to make our team. That certainly sets up things well. Getting into those playoffs, this job is different. We're going to look to transition this team. In the American League, you're looking to develop first, always. Hopefully you can do that in a winning environment. Here as we transition this team, we're going to look to win. So I think going through those playoffs was especially excellent because that's what we were looking to do.
On some of the intangibles that define him and what he wants to bring to the team
Eakins: Well, I think this team will become what it's going to become, from our leadership group and from our players that are going to be transitioned into the lineup. That will take on an identity of its own. I don't want this team to be mine. I want it to be ours. There will be a lot of different personalities and our team will become that. I'm a pretty simple guy with how I go about my day and what I believe teams should be. I think you should honor the work. It's certainly a privilege to be able to coach and play for the Anaheim Ducks. The players are going to hear a lot about that, and our staff, too.
I think you've got to enjoy the work. You've got to enjoy to compete. It should never be Oh, I've got to go to the rink. It's, I get to go to the rink. I don't have to work out, I get to work out. Those are kind of the things that our family lives by and I live by, and I hope a lot of that is part of our team. This team will take on the identity of its own through the personalities, the leadership and the new players that we take on.
On how he plans on getting the Ducks to where he wants them to be
Eakins: Well, the first thing you hear in hockey all the time now is fast, fast, fast, play fast. For me, it's play hard first, and that means simply being hard to play against. That can mean a number of different things. You can be hard to play against because you're very quick, because you're very skilled, because you're relentless in your competition level. You can be hard to play against in a number of areas, so that's first for me. Obviously, playing fast, it starts without the puck and then what you're going to do with it as soon as you get it.
I think what we'll try to do in both of those things is I want our group to be inspired by competition. That'll start off the ice and move onto the ice in practice and hopefully move forward into the games. Then, being highly organized on how we're going to get the puck back and as soon as we get it, where are we going with it next? I think through being very competitive with each other and being organized, we'll be able to accomplish what I believe the game is, and that's hard, and that's fast.
On what he'd like to say to Gulls fans
Eakins: Two words: thank you. Our organization there, for me, it's the flagship team of the American Hockey League. The template that Bob has put there with the mixture of veterans and players, the way it's run by Jillian Samueli, Matt Savant, Bob Ferguson, and the way the fans have embraced that team, and they come out in numbers rarely seen in the American Hockey League. Everybody should be very proud of what's gone on there. I really believe those games, that team, the development is driven a lot by those fans at that sports arena. It's loud, it's gritty and that's what those fans are. We do appreciate all of their support.
On applying what he learned from his time in Edmonton to Anaheim
Eakins: When I look back at that time, it was a challenging position and a challenging time for an organization. I think the biggest thing it taught me is to keep my head down and to keep working. Try to get better every day. It's kind of like being in a fight. You keep your head down and you keep swinging, and that's what I've done. That's what I've learned coming out of there. I go back to not starting from scratch. We were starting from scratch there and that's why I'm so excited about here. I'm not starting from scratch this time around. I'm starting with experience.
On the importance of having existing relationships with players
Eakins: It speeds up the process for me. We have a number of players in this organization that already understand what I value. I know what they value. They understand expectations when it comes to work ethic, fitness levels, production, how you're going to live your life, all of that. For me, it just really speeds up the process. It goes the same with staff, my boss. As unfamiliar as I am with the area because I haven't lived here - I haven't spent a lot of time in the rinks up here - I'm very familiar with everything else, so it just kind of gives me a little bit of a jumpstart on developing the relationships.
On how he plans on staying connected with fans and being involved in the community
Eakins: It just comes naturally. I go about my days a certain way. I try to do my best to serve others. I'm genuinely interested in our fans. I like to interact with them when there's time or the opportunity. I'm not going to change much from how I would go about my business every day. I hope that connection with the San Diego fans stays strong when I'm able to get down to games there, and I look forward to developing a relationship with the great fans here in Anaheim.