Dallas Eakins was hired as the 12th head coach in Edmonton Oilers history to complete the mission.
That mission is to take a roster, loaded up with young talent, to achieve heights it hasn’t reached in seven seasons — the playoffs. In order to do that, changes will have to be made to the culture of the team.
It may be just a small step in a process of changing a culture, but Coach Eakins has started with the look of the Oilers locker room. No more are the pictures of the past, memories from a dynasty that spanned five championships.
No more does the hockey rink with the old copper and blue Oilers logo,cover the carpet in the center of the room.
The ‘Once an Oiler, Always an Oiler’ wall has been removed as well, adding to the list of alterations to the dressing room at Rexall Place.
“I think when a coach takes over he needs to change things in the room just for the sake of changing them sometimes,” said Eakins. “With that being said, when I went through it I have a vision for our dressing room. Believe me, we’re not done in there yet.
“We were under the gun just to get what we have done so far. Each day, more will be added. First and foremost, we wanted to brighten it up a little bit... We have moved some pictures and plaques and we’re going to put them out for our fans to enjoy.”
One of the more noticeable of changes in the Oilers dressing room is a lack of homage to the past, something that was once prominently on display.
“I thought it was really important that our team be featured in there. I’m going to do my best to have every guy on our roster… there will be a picture of him somewhere in our room.
“It’s important for the players that that’s their dressing room. This is no disrespect and this man would understand it. That is not Mark Messier’s dressing room. That is this group of players’ dressing room.”
Eakins made it clear that this is not an affront on those who came before.
“When we walk in that door, there are five Stanley Cups standing there,” he explained. “That’s a great piece of history. That’s the only thing that counts.
“We will definitely try to emulate the play of those great teams and the success that the Messiers and the (Wayne) Gretzkys and the (Jari) Kurris and all those brought.”
It’s all about making the current roster comfortable in their dressing room. It’s a place where teams prepare for battle. It’s where teams celebrate victory and reflect on defeat. It’s a place to feel safe and that is top priority for Eakins.
“I want these guys to be comfortable in their room. It’s a special place in there. Sometimes there’s conflict and it goes back to the place where, what’s going on in here is between us and no one else. I want them to feel safe in there.”
While changing the locker room sends a message there are much more measurable factors that go into building winners. The aesthetics are something Eakins wanted to address, but he knows the real performing takes place on the ice and in the games.
“In the end you’ve got to go compete when they drop the puck. We could paint flowers and dinosaurs on the walls in there and it doesn’t matter. You still have to go compete.”
More changes are yet to come. One new addition will be an updated Oilers logo, which will soon be installed on the dressing room floor.
Eakins sent a message to anyone thinking about stepping on the logo once it is installed.
“I dare you to do that.”
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