Dallas Eakins spoke with the media on Sunday, reflecting on the past season and the hard lessons that were learned after his rookie NHL campaign ended with a 29-44-9 record and 28th-place finish.
“You’re constantly learning. I don’t care if it’s your first year or you’ve been coaching for 20, it’s a nonstop process. It’s hard for me to pinpoint one thing. I underestimated the amount of time I was going to have to put into it personally,” Eakins began.
“I underestimated the sacrifice of my family. I already knew this coming from another market — and last night was a great reminder to me of how important my job is here. It’s so important to the city.
“You see what went on last night and you see how positive it can be and how alive the city can be. And there was no negativity last night. But here we sit where we’re at. We’re out of the playoffs. We’re in the 28th spot. We’ve got one of two things to do now: we can cower from it and hide or we can dig our heels in and come out of it.”
Eakins pointed to the latter option as one he sees his team fulfilling next season. From January 26 through to the end of the year, the team had a 14-12-3 record. Over the course of an entire season, that’s an 87-point pace which would put them only four points out of a playoff spot and in ninth in the conference.
“I think how we played over the last 30 games, I started to really see it. I think that was, if you want to pinpoint one thing, maybe it wasn’t a lesson but it was a reminder of how important the Edmonton Oilers success is to this great city. And it starts with me. And right behind me, our players.”
After having a day to reflect following Ryan Smyth’s final game and the atmosphere which surrounded what was a game to remember, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins stressed the importance of having his players experience something like that.
“We spoke about it this morning. We had a team meeting at 10:30. We talked about a lot of things, but that opened up all of our eyes. What it can be like in a positive environment. It’s up to us to create that positive environment,” Eakins began.
“Ryan Smyth, because of his career and work habits and emulating what this city’s about, he created his own environment last night. For our players that will still be here next year, it’s important to know ‘if we create the environment, that’s what we’re going to get.’”
Eakins spoke a lot this season about how while being in a Canadian market can be a pressure environment, it can also have great rewards if things go the right way.
“You’re going to get it every night in a Canadian market. We have extremely supportive fans.”
The head coach was asked if he felt that the way Smyth exited would make the young Oilers players consider their future and their legacy. He said that they discussed exactly that this morning as a team.
“We all know what Ryan Smyth’s legacy was here, we saw it on display last night. What’s my legacy going to be? What’s Taylor Hall, Ebs, Ben Scrivens? It’s something to quietly reflect on over the next few weeks and then it’s time to get a plan in place, how we’re going to get better and leave the right legacy.”
The Oilers have confirmed four players who will be going to the upcoming World Hockey Championships in Belarus this May.
David Perron will be playing for Canada, Anton Belov for Russia, Martin Marincin for Slovakia and Jeff Petry for the USA.
#Oilers players confirmed for the upcoming World Championship are Perron (Canada), Belov (Russia), Marincin (Slovakia) and Petry (USA).— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 13, 2014
Ryan Smyth on Sunday reflected on his career and in particular his final game on Sunday. He was asked when he finally took off his equipment.
"1:38 a.m.," said Smyth, adding that a number of loyal fans waited outside Rexall Place for him to depart.
“There were still fans outside. That was pretty cool and overwhelming to see. I went out and signed for them. They waited that long, they deserve that. Then I just went home and soaked every moment of it in, again. It was quite amazing and a thrill, what those fans really did mean to me and family. I loved every moment of it."
Smyth equated the evening to his Gold Medal victory in 2002.
"That was the same in the Olympics, we sat in the room for hours and hours and just rehashed the tournament. It was the same last night," Smyth continued, adding, "What really was overwhelming, not only the fans but even in the locker room after, the guys stuck around. Their wives, girlfriends and families came in and just relished every moment."
The 38-year-old was asked about what made him decide to come to the decision to retire, and in particular why before the season was out.
"I thought of it as owing it to the fans and what they’ve done for me and how they’ve treated me over the years," he remarked. "Do I do it now, or do I do it later? I thought, I had good discussions with Mac about it and we came up with this scenario. It was fitting for an Edmonton Oiler and fitting for the fans."
Andrew Ference spoke to the media on the team's final day at Rexall Place before departing for the off-season. One of the questions he was asked surrounded giving Ryan Smyth the captaincy for his final game on Saturday.
“You’ve got to go back about a month, talking with Langer (Jeff Lang), our trainer there. Just trying to get a feed on where Smytty’s head was at. The two of us were pestering him about his intentions for the next few years. With him tying the power play record and stuff, we wanted to do a few special things.
"He’s been bugging Langer for a skate sharpener for about two years. We figured a good gift from the boys would be that. I talked to Langer at the same time about, if he is retiring, he’s wearing the C for sure. That was definitely in line for awhile."
Ference had the discussions with Jeff Langer, but also was approached by head coach Dallas Eakins.
"Dallas called me to his office a few days ago and you could tell he was uncomfortable. He wasn’t really spitting it out, he said ‘I’ve got an idea, I don’t know how to say this or approach this’ and so I stopped and got a feeling what he was thinking. I asked him if it was that and then he said ‘perfect, we’re on the same page.’
"It’s a no brainer. The guy is a legend. It’s about as easy a decision as you could ever have. To see a guy go out like that, it’s the first time in my career where I’ve seen a retirement that is like that. I was with Recchi and he knew he was going to retire but you’re in the playoffs, it’s different. The focus isn’t on you.
"For him to get a send-off like that at home, it was really special."
The Edmonton Oilers announced today they have assigned the following players to the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons.
-Will Acton (C)
-Roman Horak (C)
-Anton Lander (C)
-Steve Pinizzotto (RW)
-Tyler Pitlick (RW)
-Oscar Klefbom (D)
The Edmonton Oilers announced today they have recalled forward Roman Horak from the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons.
Horak, 22, has posted 52 points (21G, 31A) in 63 games this season. He has appeared in 50 games for the Barons, registering 45 points (19G, 26A) and a plus 13 rating since being acquired from the Abbotsford Heat.
The 6’0”, 170-pound centre made his Oilers debut on December 31st against the Phoenix Coyotes.
EXCLUSIVE: Smyth 1-ON-1 | WATCH | Press Conference | Smyth: One Last Game | Smyth Bio
Some of Ryan Smyth’s teammates and Head Coach Dallas Eakins took the time to reflect on 94’s career and presence in the dressing room, today after practice.
“Ryan has been excellent,” the Oilers head coach said. “He’s a pro, he’s somebody that you wish you could extract some of his DNA and inject it into every one of them. I can’t say enough about him as a player but more importantly, as a person.”
“I think it’s just his love of the game,” Hall said of what stuck out the most about Smyth. “He’s a guy that really loved coming to the rink everyday. That may not be a skill by any means but to have that kind of engrained in you, it’s special and it was fun to watch for the last three years.”
Hall says Smyth spoke with the team this morning and dropped some wisdom on the younger players around him.
“He’s brought a lot to our young group. Just him talking to our group this morning, really emphasizing the fact that it’s a privilege to play this game and he just reiterated that it is a lot of fun to play this game and to be a part of the group of guys that we have and day-after-day coming into the rink is truly something you should be grateful for. There’s a lot of things you can take from Smytty, a lot of things he did on the ice so well and in the room as well. He’s just a cheerful guy and a pleasure to be around.”
Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens hasn’t had as much time playing with Smyth as some others on the roster but the Spruce Grove, AB native knows all about the veteran from when he watched him growing up.
“Obviously, he’s a hard-nosed guy,” Scrivens said. “He’s a guy that maybe didn’t have the skill level that some of the other All Stars in the league had and some of the other guys who have played a thousand-plus games. I don’t know how many guys he’s going to toe-drag but he’s scored a heck of a lot more goals than a lot of guys with better skill than him and that’s a compliment to him, that’s not a knock on him.
“I think he embodies what the Edmonton fans like in a hockey player. He’s a never say, ‘quit’, right to the last minute, go to the tough areas, score a goal with your face if you have to type of player and I think that resonates with the people around here. I know for myself personally, when I was growing up with my family, he was a player that we watched as a catalyst. You almost liked watching him get the absolute crap get kicked out of him in front of the net and then watch him get rewarded by it by putting one home.”
Sam Gagner, much like Hall, spoke about Smyth’s passion for the game.
“Having a chance to play a few years with Smytty, you hear so much about him coming into the league and have an amazing amount of respect for him,” the Oilers centre said. “The way he’s kind of treated me as a young guy and taught me how to be a pro and you see the passion he has for the game even now after however many games he’s played. He’s always on the ice first, off last and working to get better and it’s something you can learn from as a teammate. You share in that passion that he has for the game and it’s really infections. He’s had an unbelievable career, he’s got a lot to be proud of an I think one of the biggest ones is the impact he’s had on his teammates and we’re obviously all very proud of him.”
Edmontonoilers.com will carry a press conference live beginning at 2:00 p.m.
Pitlick and Larsen are the extra forwards.