Eakins out as Ducks head coach
IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — Head coach Dallas Eakins will not return to the Anaheim Ducks after four consecutive losing seasons, the team announced Friday.
One day after Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12, general manager Pat Verbeek said Eakins won't be back to continue the team's rebuilding process. Eakins' contract expired at the end of this season, and the Ducks will not renew it.
Eakins went 100-147-44 with the Ducks, who promoted him from his job as the head coach of their AHL affiliate in San Diego in 2019. The former Edmonton bench boss arrived near the start of Anaheim's decline from a perennial NHL power in the 2010s to a rebuilding club that earned a franchise-worst 58 points this season.
“This was a very difficult decision, one that comes after careful and considerable deliberation,” Verbeek said in a statement. “At the end of the day, I simply feel that a fresh perspective and new voice will be beneficial for the team. Dallas has handled himself with class and character through a difficult season, and we wish him the best in the future.”
The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They've missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and the Ducks were the NHL's worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.
“We thank Dallas for his eight years with the organization as head coach of both the Ducks and Gulls,” Ducks owner Henry Samueli said in a statement. “Susan (Samueli) and I are especially proud of his commitment to the community in both Anaheim and San Diego, which included countless charitable initiatives. We know Dallas will succeed in his future endeavors, as character people often do.”
The Ducks' decline was exacerbated by general manager Bob Murray's resignation in November 2021 after being accused of verbal abuse against team staff. Murray, who had been Anaheim's GM for 13 years, was replaced in February 2022 by Verbeek, who immediately announced his plans for a long-term rebuilding project in Anaheim.
Verbeek and Eakins had no prior relationship, but Verbeek kept Eakins in charge of the GM’s sparsely talented roster this season. Eakins’ Ducks almost always played hard and had little dressing room drama, but their on-ice growth was slow, halting and painful to watch at times.
Eakins never complained about being handed a team that wasn’t equipped to win in the NHL. Even after the Ducks’ 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night, Eakins remained publicly on board with Verbeek’s deliberate rebuilding plan while expressing no public concern about his future.
“There’s a number of things that we’ve got to do here,” Eakins said. “We’ve got to get stronger. We’ve got to understand how to manage the game. All things that I think we took steps forward in, but it just takes time. It’s not as simple as going and flicking the light switch. We need to be really patient.”
Although Anaheim has a promising young core headlined by playmaking center Trevor Zegras and two-time All-Star forward Troy Terry, the Ducks had a pathetic season by nearly every measure. While giving up an NHL-worst 338 goals, they were last in the NHL in goal differential (minus-129) while ranking 31st in goals scored (209).
Statistically, the Ducks were a horrific defensive team. Their 338 goals allowed were the most by any NHL team in the past 26 seasons since the 1995-96 San Jose Sharks gave up 357, while their goal differential was the NHL’s worst since the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers (minus-143).
Anaheim’s silver lining is the best chance in next month’s draft lottery to win the right to select Connor Bedard, the Regina Pats center considered the most tantalizing prospect in hockey since Connor McDavid.
Anaheim will have a 25.5% chance of securing its first-ever No. 1 pick in the NHL draft. The Ducks can fall no lower than third in the lottery, which means they are guaranteed to get a premium prospect in a top-heavy field headlined by forwards Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Matvei Michkov.
Eakins was only the 10th head coach in Ducks history and just the third coach to hold the permanent job under owners Henry and Susan Samueli, who bought the franchise from Disney in 2005. The Ducks won California's first Stanley Cup in 2007, and they won five consecutive Pacific Division titles from 2013-17.
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