Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke at length this morning about some of the changes the coaching staff has made over the course of the season. After the team’s rough start to the year, Eakins had to take a step back and figure out just what fit better with the current roster and how to tweak his systems to their game.
Eakins says implementing his swarm defence right away was a ‘mistake’.
“I know exactly how we have to play now,” he said said. “I think the only thing I’ve really changed is listen, as a coach you can do one of two things. You can try to take the square pegs and put them into round holes or you can find the system that’s right for your group. I know the one mistake I made with our group was implementing that swarm defence to start the season. We weren’t ready for it, it left us exposed, it left our goaltending exposed and that’s on me. I take full responsibility for it. So when you get to the point in the season, and it was fairly early on, that you know this isn’t going to work you can do one of two things as a coach. You can go, you know what? Screw you guys we’re going to keep doing this until we get it to work or we can move to something else that’s maybe better for the team.”
So Eakins decided to take the second approach and change things up, which he says has been a good adjustment for the team.
“I knew in my heart at that time that it was time to move on and so I made the change. I think we’ve adjusted quite well, we need to add one more tweak to what we’re doing and it’s just an aggression thing now. But we won’t move to that until training camp. We’ve upped it a little bit but the next step will be next year. I think that’s the one thing I know for sure. The only other thing that’s happened here and this is one you don’t know as a coach until you get into it, we had to totally reset this group on the way they viewed themselves, the way that they thought they were going to play the game, the way that they thought they were built and the biggest thing were the habits. The only good from our suffering this year has been that we’ve been able to take as a group, as individuals, take a hard look at the good teams and what they’re doing and our group fully understands how we need to play, what our identity needs to be moving forward and that’s about the biggest bit of encouragement I have moving forward.”
Getting his players to play with more aggression on the forecheck was the next step in his constant tweaking. The team exhibited some success on that front on their recent road trip.
“It was the next step. I believe in bringing things.. I guess I equate it to school You’ve got to learn to add and subtract before you move on to multiplication… We started with our forecheck and as we learned more about ourselves, we were at a time where I thought it was time to go with it. We need more offensive zone time, we have to find more offence and that’s a way to do it. It hasn’t just been the top line there, it’s been our whole team. They’ve been very aggressive, our (defencemen) are up and that’s something that we’ll firmly continue forward.”