Taylor Hall will be glad to avoid what became a seemingly annual tradition at Edmonton Oilers training camp: meeting a new coach.
"That's a really nice way to go into the year," Hall said Thursday. "… There is no awkward handshake at the start."
Dallas Eakins returns for a second season as coach of the Oilers, the first one to go back-to-back in three years.
"I think more than anything this year it's going to be nice to have some familiarity with the head coach," forward Jordan Eberle told the Oilers website last week. "I think for me, and this is my fifth year coming up, I've had three new head coaches now. … We finally have a guy where we can pick up where we left off, and I definitely look forward to that for sure."
Eakins replaced Ralph Kruger, who coached one season after replacing Tom Renney, who coached two seasons after replacing Pat Quinn, who coached one.
"It's huge," Eberle said of the new continuity. "It's one thing that really hurt us at the start of the year. No knock against Dallas obviously. He was coming in and things change and that's how it is. I've had that a few times. It will be nice to have the same guy come in and we'll have a lot of familiarity when it comes to practicing, the way he speaks and what he expects, so I think that for sure will help."
Edmonton closed last season 14-12-3 to finish 29-44-9, seventh (last) in the Pacific Division. Hall, entering his fifth season after he was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, scored a career-high 80 points (27 goals) under Eakins.
"It's a businesslike attitude and let's get this thing going," the forward told the website. "Dallas feels very comfortable in that way, and I think all of us players, over the course of 82 games last year, got to know what Dallas expects from us. Now we can hit the ground running at camp."
The Oilers last made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2006, when they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Final under current general manager Craig MacTavish. The season will open with a reunion of their first Stanley Cup championship team, from 1984. Wayne Gretzky said he hopes that history will rub-off on the current players.
"In Edmonton, there's never really that clean slate. There is always pressure on us," Hall said. "I like that, I'm excited for that and I'm ready to get back to that. It is a quiet summer back in my hometown and you come here and everyone is excited for the season. I think everyone on our team knows last year was not good enough and hopefully we're all willing to improve on that."