At the moment there are three coaching vacancies sitting open in the NHL (thanks Tortorella for opening up another spot.) There’s been no shortage of interest in Dallas Eakins for head coaching jobs in the past, and it sounds like he’s been actively interviewing this summer. There is a very real possibility that the Marlies start the next season with a new coach. While I can’t say I’ve been a believer in Dallas the way that some people have been, there’s no doubt in my mind he would have been better suited for the Leafs than Carlyle at the time of Wilsons departure, and it’s also important to point out that he has been excellent in getting the most out of the Leafs shallow prospect pool. So with not knowing what way the winds are blowing and with months of time to fill before the Leafs start playing again, I can’t think of a better way to kill time than to speculate on what’s happening with an AHL coach.
Will he leave?
VAN is interviewing Dallas Eakins today for the Canucks’ head-coaching vacancy.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 29, 2013
I think the odds of him leaving aren’t as high as some people have been making them out to be. The Rangers and Canucks are both trying to win now and could be seeking a high profile experienced coach with a different philosophy. It could be as simple as Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella could simply swap offices. Lindy Ruff could find his way into the mix as well. It seems safe to rule New York out completely, but the Canucks have had success in the past in going the AHL route and may want to try it again and have evidentially been at least kicking some tires on Dallas. The greatest likelihood seems to be that Dallas winds up in Dallas and for a coach looking to establish roots and build a team up from the ground it could be the most enticing option. If Jim Nill is as smart as people have been claiming he is then it’s likely he knows Dallas isn’t turning their situation around in a season and that he should be looking at a coach experienced in developing young players.
Who replaces him?
I plead a lot of ignorance when it comes to AHL coaching pipelines, but I’d have to imagine that Scott Gordon would get some consideration and to me would be the most favourable option. Similar to Luke Richardson leaving the Senators bench to coach in Binghamton to create some consistency in systems between the two teams, Gordon could step back into a bench boss role for the Marlies. The questions I’d ask are “does the Leafs organization need more Carlyle systems?” and as an inherited assistant coach, “does Gordon fully buy in to Carlyle’s approach?” Nonetheless his familiarity with the personnel is one of his biggest assets.
Another guy who’s floating out there and somewhat unlikely to find NHL work is Guy Boucher. With only three vacancies left in the NHL there’s bound to be a few guys left out and Boucher and Glen Gulutzan stand a good chance of being those guys (though the Canucks are looking at Gulutzan too.) With the deep pockets of MLSE it seems highly likely that someone with some NHL experience could find their way behind the Marlies bench.
Finally there is the junior pipeline to consider, and while it’s hard to determine which CHL coaches are want to jump to the AHL the one guy I keep on considering is Todd Gill. The Leafs don’t really follow the Edmonton model of bringing back every single alumni member and giving them key roles in the organization (thankfully), but Gill is one of the convenient names to mention as he has experience as a coach, familiarity with the organization, and while Kingston hasn’t been the strongest pipeline of talent in the OHL, Gill certainly knows how to develop young players.
The Carlyle Factor
The most important part of keeping Eakins in the system has always been succession planning for when the Randy Carlyle experiment inevitably is deemed a failure and the Leafs move on. The problem now is that it seems like Randy Carlyle has bought himself another year of doing things his way. While there is the possibility that the Leafs could be completely off the rails halfway through next season and Eakins could be moved up, it would likely take a James Reimer injury to get there.
The Carlyle factor in the short term is much more likely the Tim Leiweke factor. If Leiweke wants to go in a different direction than Dave Nonis and/or Carlyle then Eakins comes into play. Of course it’s then a matter of who the replacements could be and Leiweke’s history doesn’t support going with someone without NHL coaching experience, but that has the potential to be more of a Dean Lombardi preference, not his.
What does it mean for the Marlies players?
With any coaching change there are bound to be hiccups, but with 12 Marlies players up for Free Agency there is already the possibility of a dramatically different Marlies roster next season. Throw a new coach into the mix and there could be a completely different style to which the team plays and the AHLers filling in the lineup around the prospects could be completely different. With Eakins there was the advantage of his defensive background to support up and coming defensemen, and that need doesn’t change now that the lineup will likely include Stuart Percy, Petter Granberg, and Andrew MacWilliam, with Morgan Rielly only being a year out. A case could be made for someone with a background in working with power forwards could be helpful as the team begins development on Jamie Devane, Brad Ross, David Broll, Josh Leivo, and Tyler Biggs. The one thing that Eakins always did extremely well was assure Leaf fans that the prospects were in the best possible hands, his absence shakes that faith even if it is ultimately a temporary feeling.
The biggest news in the NHL this week outside of the playoffs was Colorado’s hiring of Patrick Roy as Head Coach and the even more intriguing information that he would be the one responsible for making trades. If that wasn’t enough it was less than a day before Roy put the Avs first overall pick up for auction. It doesn’t seem like he intends to wait to win.
The last piece of news caused every HFBoards users eyes to go as big as saucers and I’m not going to lie, it caused my ears to perk up as well (though I couldn’t come up with an idea as bad as this). It’s safe to say that there has been a lot of coveting of Colorado’s young centers in the past and a brash GM who immediately puts his best asset on the market might be inclined to make some deals.
Rather than trying to figure out which of Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, or the first overall pick is the return we’d like to see in a Leafs uniform, I’ve been perplexed by what the Avs could possibly want back from Toronto. The resounding answer is they would likely want defensemen, something that the Leafs are already in short supply of.
Does Toronto want to give up on Jake Gardiner or Rielly for the purpose of a centre when the blue line is still the Leafs bigger need or are the problems with the Leafs defense something that cannot be helped by a young offensively inclined defenseman and they are better addressing that need through experienced defensemen in Free Agency?
My philosophy is that for the time being it’s probably not worth giving up on young players for something that is not the team’s biggest need. That being said, I’d still want to be one of the first teams to test Roy and see what you can get in return. The other assumption I’m making with Roy is that after training camp ends and the team has a few games under their belts he’s potentially going to move towards making some quick changes. Of course I could be wrong as this is GM who has spent the past few years developing young players, he might be inclined to blow up the roster and get rid of everyone over 25 to start from the ground up. That’s the joy of new blood in the water, everyone is potentially the next Mike Milbury or JFJ.