Dallas Eakins was asked whether he understands the frustration of the fans with losing, considering the Oilers have not made the playoffs for seven straight seasons.
“I totally understand. I just came from an organization where I saw it and I felt it. I understand it. I understand where, with my former employer, there would be a new coaching staff, a new GM and they would say ‘what does this group have anything to do with the past failures?’”
Eakins was previously assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and head coach of their farm team, the Toronto Marlies, through a large portion of a stretch which saw the Leafs go eight straight years without making the playoffs. That stretch was just ended last season.
“Have we not done well this year? Absolutely. Have I seen, quietly, progress in players and in our game? I do. But I understand that the fans and the people in the city are going ‘hey, you — and I mean me, Dallas — you’ve been losing for seven years.’ I understand that.
"They look at the jersey, they look at the colours, they look at the team on the ice. And I’m okay with that, because I fully understand it."
The coach also talked about the passion of the fans and how that's truly a good thing even though it may make things difficult at times for the players, coaches and management.
"They have great right to be upset. It is a passion in the market — and I think we alluded to this sometime earlier this year — I’d much rather they be really pissed off right now than to not care at all. And if you’re not a hockey market, where other sports are bigger and more attended and nobody gives a crap whether you won or lost, that wouldn’t be much fun.
"Is it very much fun having the boos rain down and the comments as you move around the city and things like that? It’s not. But at least they care.”
Eakins added that they are all working around the clock to try and find solutions.
“Between Craig, myself, the players, there’s no stone being unturned right now trying to get better. But I do understand the perception that the players in the room, myself and Craig are responsible for the last eight years. I understand that.”
Coach Eakins did add that he felt this current stretch of six straight losses feels better overall than the stretch of 11 games from October 24 to November 15 that saw the team win only once.
“When we were in the last one, it was really bad. And this is not fun, either. I still feel like the previous spot we were in was a horrible spot where we just had zero confidence. We couldn’t make a play, we would see zero flashes and I thought that was a real negative downtime and that was a point where I was trying to keep them very positive.
“Because we’re seeing full periods and two periods of how we want to play — last night chances were 10-2 for us in the first period. And then to shoot ourselves in the foot like we did, that’s for me saying the next day we come to the rink is not going to be a fun day. I don’t want you all smiles and giggles coming in here.
“The one thing I shared with the group today before practice is, I always prided myself as a coach on coming in the next day, yesterday’s gone. We’ve got to get ready for tomorrow. I just let them know, don’t let plays die today in practice because I haven’t let yesterday go yet.”
Eakins did feel that in practice today, the team responded very well.
“The positive game from how we practiced today. We practiced hard, we were efficient, we were good. We had good habits on the ice. It was an encouraging day coming off of that.
“It wasn’t fun early, there wasn’t a lot of smiles but by the end of the practice — they worked and had a great attention to detail — now we start feeling OK about ourselves again. Because in the end, we can’t do anything about yesterday now. We have to be ready for tomorrow’s game.”