Craig MacTavish steps in to coach Edmonton Oilers after firing Dallas Eakins

WATCH: Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish announced today that head coach Dallas Eakins had been let go. Quinn Phillips reports.

EDMONTON – Social media lit up Monday morning with the news that Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins has been fired.

“We made a coaching change,” said General Manager Craig MacTavish during a news conference on Monday.

The GM thanked Eakins for his commitment to the team and to the city. He praised the former head coach for his toughness, adding “I think he did what he needed to do with this group.”

“To think that this is a coaching issue would be naive,” he said. “It’s deeper than that.”

VIDEO GALLERY: Highlights from Oilers GM Craig MacTavish’s news conference
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“There’s blood all over my hands in this too as well because I put the line-up together and the roster, and I’m not here to absolve myself of accountability for the situation that we’re in, nor am I here to solely blame Dallas for the job that he did, because in my mind, he did a lot of really good things for our group. This group had a long way to go. I think he brought them a significant distance.”

However, MacTavish said there were no other changes to announce “at this time.”

MacTavish said he and Todd Nelson – the head coach of the Oilers’ farm team, the Oklahoma City Barons – will take over coaching the team.

“I’m not going to put a timeline on my contribution to the coaching staff,” said MacTavish. “I’ll leave at a reasonable time when I think Todd is completely familiar with the group and with the players… I want to help him transition this group and … give myself a chance to get my hands on it.”

WATCH: ‘Blood is all over my hands for this’: Oilers GM Craig MacTavish 

Eakins is the second NHL head coach to be fired this season after the Ottawa Senators dismissed Paul MacLean last week.

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The Oilers have lost four in a row and 15 of their past 16 games overall. The team, with a 7-19-5 record, sits in last place in the NHL.

During a Dec. 5 news conference, MacTavish said it was up to the players to bear down and win games. While he admitted everyone was “under scrutiny,” he defended Eakins, suggesting he wasn’t going anywhere.

“For me, we can bring in a fifth coach to deliver the same message to this group and the thing that gives me optimism is that I’m hearing the same messaging from the players that I haven’t heard in the last number of years: the players are holding themselves accountable. I think you have to credit the current coaching staff for that, for getting that messaging through.”

WATCH: MacTavish addresses Dallas Eakins’ status as head coach on Dec. 5

The GM stood behind his decision 18 months ago to hire Eakins as head coach.

“I felt, at that time, as I do now, that he’s a good role model for our players,” said MacTavish.

“Your question is where has he evolved and the way he deals with this situation? I think his resiliency as a coach, I think he’s – it’s no easy feat to have the record that we have at this time and still, in my mind, have the support of the whole group in there.”

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READ MORE: MacTavish says it’s up to Oilers players to bear down to win 

This was Eakin’s second season with the team, after being hired in June of 2013. He was the fifth coach in seven seasons for the Oilers, who have not made the playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup final in 2006.

The Oilers finished with the third-fewest points in the NHL in 2013-14, with a record of 29-44-9 in the one full season under Eakins.

Considered one of the hottest coaching candidates when with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Eakins got the job with the Oilers in large part because MacTavish believed “he could relate to young
players.” With an average age of under 27, the Oilers’ roster includes three No. 1 overall picks: Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012.

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WATCH: How are fans reacting to Dallas Eakins’ firing? Vinesh Pratap and Emily Mertz find out.

This was Eakins’ first NHL head-coaching job. Before coaching the Marlies, he was an assistant for two years with the Maple Leafs.

It was on Eakins to get through to the Oilers, and they didn’t seem to make any significant strides. Likewise, Pat Quinn (2009-10), Tom Renney (2010-12) and Ralph Krueger (2013) couldn’t get the team to the playoffs.

With the Oilers well on their way to missing the post-season for the ninth consecutive season, sports reporters speculate that further changes could be coming this spring.

With files from The Canadian Press


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