As he has done throughout the season, even in trying times, Oilers GM Craig MacTavish emphatically got behind his head coach on Tuesday.
"I’m more confident in my decision to hire Dallas Eakins than the day I hired him. I’m more convinced that this is the right coach to lead us into much more successful times. Time will prove, in my mind, that this coach was a very good hire for our organization. I really feel like he’s the guy to add the culture element that are necessary to build the quality team that we’re trying to build."
MacTavish felt that Eakins handled what was a season with a lot of adversity extremely well.
"The thing I like about Dallas is he’s relentless. In spite of the ups and downs, the messaging has all stayed the same," he said. "It’s quite clear to me in watching the development of our group over the last 30 games or so that the players are buying into the leadership of the head coach."
The GM was also asked about the assistant coaches, which he noted are the hires of Eakins and that it is the bench boss's call on whether they come back next season.
"I will sit down with Dallas at the end of the year, after a week or so, to let emotions subside for a bit. My sense is that we have the right people. We have the right coaches in place and it’s my responsibility to support those coaches in any way I can."
MacTavish did say that he felt the assistant coaches have a lot to offer.
"The head coach should decide what his staff is. It’s important that he has the absolute right mixes of coaches for him. We explored other coaches, we brought in Keith Acton as an associate coach last year," he began.
"Kelly Buchberger has a lot of great traits in my mind and he adds to this hockey club. But ultimately, it’s the head coach's decision," MacTavish also praised Steve Smith, adding "I really feel like this staff started to function well together at the end of the year."
One thing Oilers GM Craig MacTavish stressed in his end-of-season press conference was that if he adds a defenceman, he wants it to be of the high-end variety.
"I want to add a very high-end defenceman. To me, I don't want be adding anything in the middle. If I can get something that can move the dial on the back end of our team (I'll do it)," MacTavish began, adding that the move has to make sense for him to do it.
"If we get something that makes sense, we’ll make that change. I’ve got some specific personnel pieces and objectives in mind. I won’t be adding anything middle of the road to this defence core."
Last season, the team added a handful of depth defencemen such as Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov, Philip Larsen and others but MacTavish now feels that the young blueliners are ready to step in, hence the need for someone at the upper end of the spectrum.
"Everybody had a pretty good idea of Oscar Klefbom’s ability at the end of this year. He was outstanding, as was Justin Schultz, Martin Marincin, Jeff Petry — for some of the criticism he took at times, had a career year."
MacTavish added that Darnell Nurse is also performing well right now in Oklahoma City and isn't too far off.
"There’s a lot of optimism internally. If we have to go young, we go young."
One big offseason priority for the team is to add some secondary scoring for the club. MacTavish talked about going either the signing route or trading route to make that happen.
"That’s an area we’ve identified that we’d like to improve in. We’ll be trying to do all those things to try and get a more productive second line," MacT began. "If Hall, Eberle, RNH are going to continue to play together we need a more productive second line. We’d (also) like to get more secondary scoring out of the third line."
The GM was confident that he could bring in free agents if it came to that.
"I haven’t lost the passion for selling our situation. I was never great in sales but when you’re passionate about something and believe in something, you can sell it," he said. "It has a lot to do with resources. Outside of the city of Edmonton, there’s a lot of optimism out there."
He added that the types of players that he wants to acquire are those which enjoy and thrive in playing in a passionate hockey market like Edmonton.
"Players that we’d like to acquire will find that extremely fulfilling and rewarding professionally."
Oilers GM Craig MacTavish will be speaking to the media at 11:00 a.m. MDT.
Click here to listen live via 630 CHED's website.
You can also listen to the press conference live directly in the Oilers Mobile App by clicking on the "Radio" tab in the top left or by going to the menu and choosing "LIVE RADIO".
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish will address the media at the Oilers Head Office on Tuesday in his usual end-of-season media availability. Stay tuned to edmontonoilers.com for full coverage.
#Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish will host a media availability tomorrow at 11am. We'll be live-tweeting the GM's comments.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 15, 2014
The Bakersfield Condors, the Edmonton Oilers ECHL affiliate, have signed winger Mitch Holmberg for the purposes of adding him to their playoff roster. Holmberg, 21, was on an amateur try-out with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.
The Sherwood Park, AB native won the Western Hockey League’s Bobby Clarke Trophy, given to the top scorer in the league. He finished the season with 62 goals and 56 assists for 118 points in 72 games.
Holmberg is just one of three players to score 60+ goals in a single WHL season since 2000-01.
The Oilers are holding their year-end media availability at Rexall Place this morning where a large portion of the leadership group, including head coach Dallas Eakins are expected to address the media. Stay tuned for regular updates throughout the day.
- YEAR-END RAW | Andrew Ference
- YEAR-END RAW | Justin Schultz
- YEAR-END RAW | Taylor Hall
- YEAR-END RAW | Jordan Eberle
- YEAR-END RAW | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- YEAR-END RAW | David Perron
- YEAR-END RAW | Ryan Smyth
- YEAR-END RAW | Dallas Eakins
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins was asked about Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin, two young defencemen who made a lot of strides this season in their first NHL seasons. He was asked if he could see both starting next season with the Oilers.
“I think both those young men came in and got their foot in the door. A lot can happen,” said Eakins. “Both messages were the same to them. You’ve got your foot in the door, you got some great experience, you both look like you’re going to be good NHL players. You’ll make the decision at camp.”
Eakins added that if they did make it, that could influence whether another young blueliner like Darnell Nurse or any potential 2014 draft choices might make it.
“I can’t remember a team ever having that many young defencemen,” Eakins said.
The coach was also asked about plans for the duo this offseason. Klefbom was sent to the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons this morning but Marincin was not.
“(Marincin) needed to be on their roster at the deadline. We made the decision then not to send him. We had D down there that were playing. We thought Marty had done enough to play at this level,” Eakins stated. “We wanted him to get on with his strength and the World Championships were in the mix at the time, we were thinking about it.”
Marincin, who participated in the Olympics, will play for Slovakia at the World Championships.
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.”