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Eakins named new Marlies head coach

The Canadian Press

8/4/2009 12:34:52 PM

TORONTO -- Dallas Eakins figures he's perfectly suited for his new job as head coach of the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

After all, the 42-year-old appeared in 609 career AHL games as a player, suiting up for 10 different minor-league teams during his career before retiring after the '04 campaign with the AHL's Manitoba Moose.

Eakins also knows what it takes to get to the NHL. He played in 120 career contests with Winnipeg, Florida, St. Louis, Phoenix, the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and Calgary.

"I know what these players are going through, I know what they need to improve upon to make it to the next level," Eakins said after being introduced as Marlies head coach Tuesday. "I've got experience as an NHL assistant coach and the player-development job last year was wonderful.

"It enabled me to go out and spend time with other coaches, see the game a little differently and kind of step out of the box. I think I'm well suited for it and we're going to do our best to get our players down the street as quick as possible."

Eakins has spent the last four years with the Maple Leafs organization in a variety of roles, He served as an assistant coach with the Marlies in 2005-'06 as well as with the Leafs under Paul Maurice (2006-'08) before taking over as the NHL club's director of player development (2008-'09).

Now, though, Eakins' top priority is preparing the Marlies players to make the jump to the NHL club.

"My job here with the Toronto Marlies is quite simple: We're going to develop players," he said. "We want to develop these young men on and off the ice.

"We want players that are character players and are character people. They will be involved in the community, they will live their lives right and will be committed to being a great teammate with great work ethic and great discipline. If they're not willing to do that, then they're not going to play for our team. It's that simple."

Eakins succeeds Greg Gilbert, whose contract was not renewed after three seasons at the helm of the Marlies.

Last year, Toronto posted a 39-29-5-7 record to finish fourth in the Western Conference's North Division. The Marlies then lost their opening-round Calder Cup playoff series in six games to Manitoba.

Eakins is still in the process of filling out a coaching staff, but did say Derek King, who spent 14 seasons in the NHL with the Islanders, Hartford, Toronto and St. Louis, will be one of his assistants.

Brian Burke, the Maple Leafs president and GM, said Eakins will have to wear several different hats in his new job.

"That person needs to be a leader, a parent, a disciplinarian, a teacher and a priest, all those roles rolled into one," he said. "What we want from that coach is No. 1, development. That's the most important part of his job.

"But we don't feel that has to come at the expense of winning. We feel we should be able to give this individual enough tools that the team can be competitive at the AHL level."

However, Burke said both the Leafs and Marlies will play similar systems to ease the transition AHL players will have to make when called up to the parent club.

"I believe strongly in vertical integration," Burke said. "We want a player when he gets called up, the only thing different will be the size of the building.

"Everything else he's familiar with (like) how to forecheck, how to kill penalties, how the power play works, how we break out all of it. It should be intimately familiar to him."

Burke feels Eakins' mental approach to the game will definitely help him be an effective coach and teacher.

"I've heard him referred to as a journeyman and to me that's a compliment," Burke said. "Guys like that have to think the game better than guys that come by it with great natural ability."