Coach Eakins spoke about the play of Taylor Hall this season and how impressed he has been with the winger's play, not only on the offensive side of the puck but defensively as well.
|ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 15: Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers stands in front of a shot from Ben Lovejoy #6 of the Anaheim Ducks in the second period at Honda Center on December 15, 2013 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)|
“Taylor’s a smart kid. He understands the game. I think he thinks about the game a lot,” said Eakins.
The bench boss has been impressed with the play of Hall defensively as the season has gone on. Hall leads the team in points, with 30, despite having only played 31 out of 38 games. Hall is -11 on the season but is only -2 since November 15.
“Taylor’s defensive game has gone from one that I thought was very, very shaky with no habit to now starting to lead the way in how we play in our zone. He’s still got work to be done but if you wanted to go ‘most improved’ — who has improved the greatest in his understanding of what’s in our D-zone, it’s Taylor. And he’s quietly gone about his business in doing that."
Hall wants to continually improve on that. And his goals are lofty.
"The goal for Taylor is that within a period of time, Taylor Hall is going to be the best defensive left winger in the game. And he’s still going to get 100 points a year. That’s the goal.
“He wants it. And that will be a great, great thing for our organization.”
Taylor Hall was on CBC's After Hours on Saturday. Click here to watch the video.
Jones collided with Andrew Ference during morning skate yesterday and had to be helped off. Eakins said that the word was, Jones was doing better today.
“I haven’t seen him but somebody told me that he was looking better this morning. But I haven’t even seen him,” said Eakins, adding that he hasn't been alerted that it's at all serious.
“If there’s a major concern with the player, TD will be in my office right away so I didn’t see him."
Philip Larsen missed the game yesterday as well as morning skate and didn't practice today due to illness.
"Larsen’s got whatever bug’s going around the city. I guess it isn’t a pretty one."
Dallas Eakins was asked whether he understands the frustration of the fans with losing, considering the Oilers have not made the playoffs for seven straight seasons.
“I totally understand. I just came from an organization where I saw it and I felt it. I understand it. I understand where, with my former employer, there would be a new coaching staff, a new GM and they would say ‘what does this group have anything to do with the past failures?’”
Eakins was previously assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and head coach of their farm team, the Toronto Marlies, through a large portion of a stretch which saw the Leafs go eight straight years without making the playoffs. That stretch was just ended last season.
“Have we not done well this year? Absolutely. Have I seen, quietly, progress in players and in our game? I do. But I understand that the fans and the people in the city are going ‘hey, you — and I mean me, Dallas — you’ve been losing for seven years.’ I understand that.
"They look at the jersey, they look at the colours, they look at the team on the ice. And I’m okay with that, because I fully understand it."
The coach also talked about the passion of the fans and how that's truly a good thing even though it may make things difficult at times for the players, coaches and management.
"They have great right to be upset. It is a passion in the market — and I think we alluded to this sometime earlier this year — I’d much rather they be really pissed off right now than to not care at all. And if you’re not a hockey market, where other sports are bigger and more attended and nobody gives a crap whether you won or lost, that wouldn’t be much fun.
"Is it very much fun having the boos rain down and the comments as you move around the city and things like that? It’s not. But at least they care.”
Eakins added that they are all working around the clock to try and find solutions.
“Between Craig, myself, the players, there’s no stone being unturned right now trying to get better. But I do understand the perception that the players in the room, myself and Craig are responsible for the last eight years. I understand that.”
Coach Eakins did add that he felt this current stretch of six straight losses feels better overall than the stretch of 11 games from October 24 to November 15 that saw the team win only once.
“When we were in the last one, it was really bad. And this is not fun, either. I still feel like the previous spot we were in was a horrible spot where we just had zero confidence. We couldn’t make a play, we would see zero flashes and I thought that was a real negative downtime and that was a point where I was trying to keep them very positive.
“Because we’re seeing full periods and two periods of how we want to play — last night chances were 10-2 for us in the first period. And then to shoot ourselves in the foot like we did, that’s for me saying the next day we come to the rink is not going to be a fun day. I don’t want you all smiles and giggles coming in here.
“The one thing I shared with the group today before practice is, I always prided myself as a coach on coming in the next day, yesterday’s gone. We’ve got to get ready for tomorrow. I just let them know, don’t let plays die today in practice because I haven’t let yesterday go yet.”
Eakins did feel that in practice today, the team responded very well.
“The positive game from how we practiced today. We practiced hard, we were efficient, we were good. We had good habits on the ice. It was an encouraging day coming off of that.
“It wasn’t fun early, there wasn’t a lot of smiles but by the end of the practice — they worked and had a great attention to detail — now we start feeling OK about ourselves again. Because in the end, we can’t do anything about yesterday now. We have to be ready for tomorrow’s game.”
Mark Arcobello, Ryan Jones and Philip Larsen all remain injured and are not participating.
Oilers lines look like this at practice: 4-93-57. 6-89-14. 94-27-83. 20-51-64. No Arco. No Jones.— Reid Wilkins (@ReidWilkins) December 22, 2013
Ilya Bryzgalov had his worst outing as an Oiler on this night, allowing six goals on 33 shots. After the game, Coach Eakins was asked about why he left Bryzgalov in the net and the bench boss was quick to defend his netminder and point the blame elsewhere.
“I think the only (goal against) that didn’t look great went off our defenceman’s stick," said Eakins.
"We were deep in the game. I didn’t see a reason to take him out at that point. Bryz has been great for us. I think his save percentage was something like (.936) going into the game. I’m not pinning this one on him, I’m pinning it on the boneheaded mistakes when we’ve got everything going in our favour. It’s like we love misery. ‘Hold on a second, things are going too well here, let’s have some misery.’ I’ve had enough misery already.”
Eakins then talked about how the will to improve needs to come from inside the dressing room.
“We’ve got some players here who have been here for a number of years. They have to be done with it. There has to be a change in the commitment level and accountability — not from me, but within the room. That’s where it has to be and it has to start.
"And if it doesn’t start from there, this is just going to continue. It just will. You need the guys in the room really holding each other accountable and not looking the other way."
After the game, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins closed the door to the media for about 10 minutes.
“I asked them questions (after the game). I think we’re a team — especially as of late — that has an uncanny ability to just shoot ourselves in the foot,” Eakins began.
“The game in Anaheim we played well but came up short, the game in LA we had a bad change and were in it until then, tonight in the first period. It’s exactly how we want to play.
"We’re doing the things we’re promoting, the things we’re practicing, our power play probably generated more attempts at the net than the last five games put together and a bad change, it end up 1-0. So I was asking, do we need to bring the video in and show you the bad change?"
A bad bounce and bad line change resulted in a scrambled two-on-one for the Blues following an Oilers power play. Oilers starting netminder Ilya Bryzgalov tried to clear the puck but it was kept in and eventually dished to Chris Stewart, who was unguarded at the right circle. Stewart's shot beat Bryzgalov to give St. Louis the 1-0 lead. Shots were 10-2 Oilers at the time of the goal.
"My second question is, how can we do that? Are we not able to sustain that level of play through the game? The encouraging thing is, you see the first period and know it’s in the room.
“It’s one thing where the other team takes it from you and they’re better than you. It’s another if you gift it."
Oilers winger David Perron will be facing off against his former team tonight for the first time. Coach Eakins has loved what he's seen so far from Perron.
“He’s been excellent. He is certainly a guy that our players look to for leadership,” Eakins began, adding that Perron will accept any role he's given. “He’s done a lot of different things for us. And just nodded his head, which is great. I love those bobblehead players.
"He’s played the half-wall on the power play, been our net-front guy, played the point on the power play, he’s killing penalties now. He’s played in a defensive role. He’s been a great, great acquisition by Craig (MacTavish). A player I respect, greatly.”
Perron has enjoyed the added responsibility in Edmonton and it has paid off as he is enjoying a career-best season with 14 goals and 27 points in 33 games.
“I’m getting some good opportunity, power play, PK, a lot of ice time.”
When the 2013-14 schedule came out, tonight's game was the first one Perron looked for.
“When I got traded, when the schedule came out that was the first thing I looked for. Normally I look to see when we play Montreal because I’m from there but this year was a little bit different. It was fun to play against them.”
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was the first Oilers netminder off the ice at morning skate today and will get the start tonight against the Blues.
Bryzgalov has made five starts for the Oilers so far this season but this will be the first one at Rexall Place. In his six appearances, he has a shutout, 2.30 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. He has a record of 1-3-0.
Bryz first off the ice, starts tonight vs. St. Louis.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 21, 2013
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins showed some frustration out on the ice during morning skate today. While explaining a drill, he got flustered and end up throwing his sharpie as a result.
It was no big deal, said Eakins.
"It's one of those things. The morning skate for me, a lot of times I don't think it has a lot to do with the game at night but the problem is we didn't practice yesterday so we had to do a little work this morning.
"The listening skills weren't there so I had to raise my voice and get them in check. It's part of the day, sometimes. It was no big deal."
The Oilers have struggled lately on the power play with only one power play goal in their last 19 attempts, and no power play goals in their last five games (all losses).
Making things worse, during the 1-for-19 stretch, the team has given up three shorthanded goals and in all, the Oilers have allowed a league-high eight shorthanded markers.
"You look at the good power plays and they are very simple. There's a net front presence and you're going to attack the net whether you're driving the net or the puck's coming to the net.
"The problem for skilled guys is when they are struggling they tend to go the other way. Instead of simplifying they try to go through guys."
Because of the struggles, Eakins said that he was going to try some different looks on his second power play unit.
"Our one unit will look a lot the same as it has. We are going to simplify them. And the next unit is going to be very simplified. Playing on the power play is a privilege. I don't care if you're in PeeWee or the NHL, it's a privilege to go out on it.
"You get your five-on-five game in check then you'll earn your privilege on the power play. The second unit will look much different than it has before."