The leading candidates for the Vancouver Canucks coaching job aren’t even available.
If GM Mike Gillis could have his way, his list would probably start with Todd McLellan and Dan Bylsma.
There’s not much chance either is going to be available. But it does provide some insight into the type of coach the Canucks will be trying to unearth during the next few weeks.
They are starting the job search with Dallas Eakins, the players’ coach with the can’t-miss tag who has all the upside. But, also, he has no NHL experience.
The Canucks asked the Toronto Maple Leafs last weekend for permission to interview him, and it was granted.
The subsequent interview process started Tuesday in Vancouver, though Vancouver’s scouting staff and assistant GM Laurence Gilman are in Toronto for the scouting combine.
It appears to be not unlike the one-on-one meetings GM Mike Gillis had with Alain Vigneault, who he essentially re-hired after an exhaustive interview process in 2008.
This should also explain all the Eakins’ sightings in the Lower Mainland which are being reported through social media.
Though, Eakins does reportedly have a place in the area where he stays with his wife, who is an actress, in the offseason. So, he does know the city and at least has some insight into the market.
The most appealing quality on his resume just may be his communication skill. That, and the fact he had a significant role in turning Nazem Kadri into a 200-foot hockey player. Not bad.
His Marlies became something of a finishing school for the Leafs. The surprising, young team that took the Bruins to the brink in Round 1 had thirteen players who went through the Eakins prospects program.
When Eakins, a career AHL defenceman who played 120 NHL games, finished second to Randy Carlyle in replacing Leafs’ ex-coach Ron Wilson a year ago, there was a lot of angst around Toronto.
Of all the names on the Canucks’ list, Eakins is the hottest. Even though young coaches can tend to struggle to start their NHL careers, they always manage in invigorate the fan base with that feeling of promise.
Some reports suggest if Brian Burke ever gets a general manager’s job, his first hire would be Eakins. But that seems like a lot of wishful thinking when there are none of those jobs available.
When Burke picked Carlyle over Eakins, he said he did it because Eakins was too green.
He still hadn’t coached an AHL playoff game, so Burke’s position had merit. But it was interesting Burke chose to word it this way: “We just felt [hiring him] was putting him in a tank of piranhas and sharks.”
The suggestion being Eakins wasn’t ready to handle the big market media.
It’s an area Gillis is going to have to explore, because the comparisons to Vigneault are going to begin the second the new head coach shows up for training camp. And they may not end until the next coach is hired.
Insulating him with a honeymoon stage won’t last long.
Eakins has two years left on his contract with Toronto, but has a negotiating window to explore opportunities to advance his career.
After the Leafs granted permission for him to speak with the Canucks, he’s now free to sign with Vancouver as a head coach, and there’s not going to be any compensation.
The Chiarelli Rule takes care of that. When Peter Chiarelli bolted the Ottawa Senators to take over as the Boston Bruins general manager in 2006, it began a bitter dispute between the two clubs over what a fair payment would be.
Commissioner Gary Bettman had to settle it and when he did, he banned any type of compensation for front-office personnel.
But is Eakins, still raw as a coach, going to get this job, overseeing a veteran core that is running out of time?
He is a coach you build with, not one you can reasonably expect will elicit a quick turnaround from a stale, veteran core.
He fits a lot of the criteria the Canucks are looking for in the their next coach. He has a cerebral, hands-on approach who stresses sound defensive play but also ran a team in Toronto which would push offence with an active blueline.
He’s been adept at handling young players, and many of his graduates rave about the way he treated them in the AHL.
He’s smart, and in incredible shape, which are areas players tend to respect.
The Marlies team he coached this year was drenched in balance.
In the aftermath of the Vigneault era, the Canucks are looking for a coach who can establish strong working relationships with their players.
It’s an area Eakins has excelled at during his two years at the helm of the Marlies.
But how will that translate in the NHL?
Only one way to find out.
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