Oilers fire coach Eakins; Nelson to take over

Hockey Central at Noon says that firing the head coach is the easiest and first response by an organization when the team’s effort is so lifeless, and they’ve hit rock bottom as the Edmonton Oilers have.

The Dallas Eakins era in Edmonton is over.

The Oilers fired their head coach Monday in the wake of the club’s fourth consecutive loss, a 2-0 shutout by the New York Rangers Sunday night. The Oilers, now 7-19-5, registered just 16 shots in the defeat.

They sit in last place in the NHL.

“I had no reason to do this outside of performance,” general manager Craig MacTavish told reporters at a press conference Monday. “There’s blood all over my hands, too. I’m not here to absolve myself of responsibility for the situation we’re in.”

The struggling Oilers have won just one game against a Western Conference opponent this season. The team fired its goaltending coach, Freddie Chabot, on Nov. 24.

MacTavish told reporters he will “transition” the coaching job to Todd Nelson, who will be the interim coach for the rest of the 2014-15 season once MacTavish decides to step back.

The GM admitted that the issues with the club are “deeper-rooted” than just a coaching issue and that he and the scouting staff are also being evaluated on their performance.

“I want to have eyeball-to-eyeball conversations with the core of this group,” MacTavish said.

Eakins, 47, joined the club as head coach on June 10, 2013. He had previously been the head coach of the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League since August 2009.

Under Eakins, the 2013-14 Oilers went 29-44-9 and missed the playoffs, finishing last in the Pacific Division.

A native of Dade City, Florida, Eakins played 120 NHL games for eight different organizations.

The 56-year-old MacTavish previously served as the team’s head coach from 2000-01 through 2008-09.

During his MacTavish’s coaching tenure, the Oilers posted a record of 301-252-47-56. They missed the playoffs five of those seven seasons but made a thrilling run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.

Nelson has been promoted from his post as the head coach of the AHL Oklahoma City Barons to join the Oilers’ staff.

The 45-year-old Nelson is heading to Phoenix to meet up with the Oilers in time for their game against the Coyotes Tuesday, when MacTavish will start easing him into the position.

Gerry Fleming will serve as the interim head coach for the Barons for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. Fleming has served as an assistant coach in Oklahoma City for five seasons under Nelson.

Eakins is the second NHL head coach to lose his job this season. Ottawa’s Paul MacLean was fired a week ago today.

Oilers’ NHL rankings under Eakins

Record: 36-63-14 (.381), ranked 29th in NHL
Goals against per game: 3.27, ranked 30th
Shots against per game: 31.8, ranked 25th
Save percentage: .897, ranked 29th
Goals per game: 2.34, ranked 28th

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