The Vancouver Canucks have already began a rigorous search for replacing recently fired Alain Vigneault, and candidates including Dallas Eakins, John Stevens and Glen Gulatzan have been considered by local sports media.
Time is pressing for Canucks management. For the amount of time that GM Mike Gillis has had time to look into these candidates, other talent-heavy teams in big markets, like New York (whose Rangers have recently let go of media darling John Tortorella), are on the hunt for their own replacements.
The last time that we took a look at coaching candidates, Dallas Eakins, a head coach in the Maple Leafs farm system, was high on the list. As TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie reported, it looks like he’s high up on Mike Gillis’ list as well.
VAN is interviewing Dallas Eakins today for the Canucks’ head-coaching vacancy.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 29, 2013
Eakins (pronounced AY-kinz), 46, is currently the coach of the Toronto Marlies (the Leafs’ AHL affiliate), and has been credited for the development of key pieces of the Leafs impressive first round performance in 2013, like Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and James Reimer. While a defensive coach, none of the rosters that Eakins has been granted have boasted offensive talent, so there’s no telling how he would handle the likes of the Sedins and Kesler.
It’s not certain whether Eakins has been approached by any other organization, but he’s been targeted by other teams for years, including the Maple Leafs themselves.
When the Burke-era Maple Leafs fired Ron Wilson at the end of the 2011-12 season, the organization was leaning towards promoting Eakins. Despite going with former Anaheim coach (from their own Burke-era) Randy Carlyle, many have pushed for the Leafs to hold on to Eakins as a potential replacement for the current bench boss in the future.
Fortunately, despite two years left in his contract with Toronto, the Leafs gave the Canucks permission to speak to Eakins recently, as per CBC’s Elliotte Friedman. His current contract apparently gives way for Eakins to seek NHL opportunities, without teams needing to provide compensation.
Were Eakins to step into the dressing room at Rogers Arena as a head coach, a few core players might need some extra time to get used to being bossed around by a former teammate. As captain of the Manitoba Moose and Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in 2003-04, Eakins shared the locker room with Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows.
As of Friday, no other candidate has been contacted by Vancouver, let alone be interviewed. The only other name to receive nearly as much attention as Eakins for the head coaching gig has been Kings assistant coach John Stevens, whose resume was analyzed by Thomas Drance of CanucksArmy.com this past week.
Update: The hockey world moves at a torrid pace on occasion, and General Managers have been busy in trying to find the best coach on the market. Since May 29, Dallas Eakins has been in talks for a head coaching position with the New York Rangers, as well as the Dallas Stars (not only because they share a first name). The Canucks’ division rival Edmonton Oilers have also contacted Eakins, but as they already employ Ralph Krueger in the head coaching spot, they’re looking into the Toronto-based candidate to join the associate coaching team.
Vyas Saran is Vancity Buzz’s Canucks Columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @vyassaran for more on coach watch, and other Canucks news.