Eakins, 48, last coached the Edmonton Oilers to the beginning of the 2014-2015 season but was fired last December after a string of losses. Prior to that Eakins was a member of the Maple Leafs organization for eight seasons, including serving as Toronto’s assistant coach for two seasons from 2006-08. As a head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, he led the team to a 157-114-41 record in 312 contests.
On a press call Friday afternoon, he said he did not want to focus his rough time coaching in Edmonton, but that he learned a lot and his time off gave him a lot of time to restructure his coaching methods and that he is eager to get back behind the bench again.
“There’s a big fire burning to get back into it and have an influence on some players,” Eakins said. “It’s something I’m extremely passionate about, and something I take extremely seriously. This is a great opportunity to not only win some hockey games but to build some men, and to help these guys make an impact in their community.”
Eakins discussed what he felt his role was as a minor league coach, saying that he brings a teaching aspect to the job and that his job is to make players NHL ready.
“The American League is one where you get to spend a lot of time with the players and you’re really mentoring them,” Eakins said. “Their end game is to get to the NHL. I’m a real process coach, and I don’t want them to be anxious or find the mountain they have to climb to get to the NHL too intimidating.”
Discussing the challenges of developing players and holding a team together during multiple call-ups and constant roster changes, especially with what will be a tough travel schedule with so few west coast teams, Eakins praised the AHL’s new 68-game schedule saying, “These guys need practice,” and that he feels having the team on the road with too little chance to rest they cannot perform at their best.
When discussing his choice to come to San Diego, passing over other coaching offers, he brushed off the pressure of coming to a fresh hockey market that was so excited to have a new professional team, saying he felt no pressure and discussed that he had done the same as a coach with the Marlies. He said he was looking forward to feeling the excitement from the city and bringing them a winning team.
The Ducks and Gulls organization also praised the new coach in a statement released to the press early Friday morning. Anaheim Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager and San Diego Gulls President of Hockey Operations Bob Murray said that Eakin “brings experience in hockey at all levels, both as a player and head coach. We feel fortunate to be able to bring him on board.”
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