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Eakins looks for stability in revamped coaching staff

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
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NEW YORK, NY - Head Coach Dallas Eakins and General Manager Craig MacTavish announced Friday that the Oilers have appointed Keith Acton as an associate coach.

Acton spent the 2012-13 season as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He held an identical position with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2001 to 2011, working alongside Eakins as an assistant coach from 2006 to 2008.

"It was an easy [decision]," Eakins said. "He's a guy I highly respect and he covers off a lot of things that we need.

"We need a good technical coach, a guy who understands young players and young centremen. Keith brings that and so much more."

"Working with Dallas again will be excellent," Acton added. "His attention to detail is second to none. He's always been a student of the game and he's always paid close attention to what an individual player's needs are. He has a real desire, dedication and commitment to his profession. That's been proven over the years in nurturing young players with the Marlies and helping them move on to play with the Maple Leafs.

"He's a really good coach and I'm excited to be working with him again. Beyond that, I'm also really excited about this opportunity. I'm very familiar with Kevin (Lowe), Craig (MacTavish) and Scott (Howson). I hold them all in very high regard."

Acton has been an NHL assistant for the past 16 years dating back to the lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign. Before that, he was a player who had a brief, 72-game stint in Edmonton where he appeared in 72 regular-season games, posting 14 goals and 35 points. In 1988, he helped the Oilers capture their fourth Stanley Cup championship.

"I've been really privileged over the course of my career as a coach and as a player to be surrounded with a lot of great people," Acton said. "When I was a player, I had Glen Sather and John Muckler as coaches. Then when I got into coaching, I got to work under many good coaches like Roger Neilson and Pat Quinn.

"I've certainly had some great teachers over the years. I'm hoping I can pass on some of that knowledge because I'm very passionate about the game."

In addition to working with the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs most recently, he's also spent time with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

"I'm very excited about the young players that are in place," Acton said. "They need to grow and it's exciting to have all these young players that have certain skill-sets that are extremely hard to teach. Our goal is to maximize those potentials, help them in other areas, too, and nurture them into a team where all of them work together to accomplish a common goal."

Since the 2008-09 season, the Oilers have employed Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger as head coaches. Recognizing that there's been a considerable amount of turnover in recent years, Eakins wanted to provide some stability to the dressing room.

As a result, assistant coaches Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith, along with goaltending coach Frederic Chabot, will all be retained in their current roles.

Buchberger is the longest serving of the three, beginning his role as an assistant in 2008.

"It was something that I had to go through and really had to think about," Eakins said. "Whenever a new head coach is hired, people say, ‘Look out, he's going clear everything out' but I didn't want that. I sat down with them and saw great value in both of them. The easy thing to do would be to come in and clean house, but as I went through it and I did my homework, I talked to a number of players and it was amazing at how respected they were in that dressing room.

"If I get rid of one or both of these guys, I'm going to be looking for the same guys again. It didn't make sense to me."

"The thing is, we've through a lot of head coaches (lately). This is a young group of players and to constantly be churning people through isn't good for their development."

The precise roles of all three will be determined over the course of the summer, but Eakins wanted to make one thing clear: While he's at the head of the decisions, everyone's input will be valued and appreciated.

"It's always going to be a collective venture with me," he said. "You'll see on some teams that this guy is responsible for the power-play and this guy is responsible for the penalty kill. Even though that may be the voice that's delivering the message, it's always going to be a collective effort."

"There are a lot of good young players in Edmonton that we'll get to work with and help grow to maximize their potential," Acton added. "We, the coaches, we need to be instrumental in that growth."

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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