Exclusive: Q & A With Coach Eakins

Photo: DucksNPucks/Phil Wunderlich

By Michael Walters

This past weekend, Kent French sat down with new Anaheim Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins. Kent asked Dallas several questions of his own and then some from the fans. Below is the transcript from the event. If you want to listen to the audio of the interview, then become a DNP Patreon and you can listen to it.

Segment One: General Questions

“What is it like to be in this facility? How is this going to benefit you as a head coach in developing players?”

“Well I am not sure if you know this, but I took over in San Diego fours years ago, halfway through the season there, the Anaheim Ducks had built us a fabulous facility in Poway. And so the one thing that really helped the team there, with the players, was that we wanted from nothing, we had a full on video room, updated weight room, and the dressing room was excellent. So when these young men are coming in and trying to get better, we have the best facility by far in the American Hockey League. And now coming into this place and everything I see out here, the different rinks, dressing rooms, it has to be number one in the NHL. From the training facilities to the full-on kitchen in there for nutrition and the theater for all the video we have to do, I will tell you what we are truly blessed to have the ownership and organization for so many years with this team.”

“What has it been like coaching down in San Diego, you guys carried all kinds of attendance records, well obvious fans here in Anaheim got to see you guys play an exciting brand of hockey, what was the environment like with the team the last four years?”

“It’s been an incredible experience coming to Southern California, especially San Diego, you’re not quite sure how this is going to go from an attendance point of view, how the team is going to be perceived. From day one our fans have been incredible. I think they really set the tone for our organization to developing players and for veteran players wanting to come play for us. They really set the tone and set standard and expectation for our players on how we were going to play and how we were going to conduct ourselves.”

“In the last four years, you got to see about 200 players kind of go through the doors down there(San Diego) in this organization. How exciting is it now to come up to the NHL level and see some of the players who you coached and coach them at this level?”

“Well, it’s exciting on two fronts for me. Number one I get to come here. I can coach them or I, you know, have known people for the past couple of years. I get to start their experience. Second thing, that is so awesome is to see these guys that I coached they are like my sons, they are like my kids. And to see them in an NHL dressing room or in a hockey game playing. Guys like John Gibson, Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie, to see them play in the NHL, you are proud of them. It’s like your son, he is there and he is playing. So you have a little bit to do with that.

“Dallas can you give me some insight into some of your coaching philosophies?”

“It is really simple to me. The best way to put it is that none of these players are really going to care how much I know until they know how much I care. You probably have heard it a lot from coaches, but I take it very seriously, is the relationship part of it. I am up for talking on the phone or texting, sitting with you face to face so I can learn about the family, your wife, kids, or parents. Anything I can learn that will help me coach you to get better. So that’s where I will start. I think once you have a relationship it’s certainly easy to merge. I prefer to be positive. But that doesn’t mean it’s always rainbows and butterflies. It’s not always easy there can be hard days sometimes a kick in the butt. I always think it’s easier when you got a relationship where you truly know a player and he knows you. That if there is a confrontation or you need a kick in the butt it’s just received some much better.”

“From your coaching history with a couple years in Edmonton and now that you sit here today, the NHL, coaches, and coaching staffs are players based, especially from the player 10 years ago. What have you learned about the current NHL player, that being said, have you changed coaching from five years ago?”

“Well, it is certainly evolving. Back when I was a player I got lost one time in the Washington Capitals training camp, I was five minutes early for the bus. He told me that I was late that I wasn’t early enough and he also told me to cut my F***ing hair. They were so concerned about things like that. Where I think today’s player you really just want them to be themselves. So I don’t really concern myself with the type of clothes they are wearing. It doesn’t bother me if they have long hair, short hair, or they are bald. So I mean it’s always evolving. There are certain battles that you just don’t fight anymore. The things like the hair length and things like that to me isn’t an issue. I can coach guys to be themselves as they want. I think it’s a bit harder for today’s kids that they just want to be themselves.”

“So have we talked about the young guys. How does the transition go with veteran players like Getzlaf too, you came into an organization where this has mainly been his team since being captain and been here forever. How do treat these guys?”

“For me to be transparent, be honest, and forthright. I already talked to Ryan on the phone and we had a lengthy lunch earlier this week. I have always watched and been a huge fan of Ryan’s. I think we are already on the same page. We see things on the playing field. I think I can help him and I certainly know that he’s going to be, he is really going to be a big huge part of us getting this turned back around. For those guys, it’s not a difficult task when they’re good people. If you will let to use Ryan as an example, massive character, he is a good person, he is a great family man, he is an excellent father. So when you have teachable people who are serving others like he already is, they are very easy to deal with. It’s quite easy to get on the same page.

“A lot of the fans saw speed and skill on display just about 40 minutes ago on the ice, is that something you hope to implement with this young talent, is that where the NHL is going?”

“Well, the game is certainly fast. It is not so much foot speed, it’s about being more proactive and knowing where the puck is going. You need to be an actual step ahead and so we are certainly going to do that. The biggest thing I have asked my boss Mr. Murray is that we got to get our identity back. That is a team that is extremely hard to play against. You can be hard to play against in a number of different areas. I think the easiest way to put is we need players that are going to treat that puck like it’s the wall. No one is taking it from us and if someone does then we need to get it back quickly and it’s sometimes with a lot of force.”

Segment Two: Fan Questions 

How do we improve the power play this year and will it be similar to San Diego?

“We take the same values from the power play. We just didn’t sit with one thing in San Diego. The power play has always been good there. We had different setups and moved guys around. Some of the quick values are net-front presence and we like that guy a term we use “goalies high” so he can’t see the puck. We have several passes that are dangerous and hard to defend against. There are certain values with the power play that will not change. You will see different setups and you will see guys moving around. You have to be creative you can’t just run one set up all the time.”

What are your plans to better the team?

“Well, number one is to get everyone thinking the same thing. Obviously, last season was a difficult season in a number of ways. What I am going to try to do right now is to almost erase their memory, we want to come in fresh. We are starting into a bright faculty and brand new locker room, that means we do start over. That’s the first part of it and there is so much to do here. We have a new head of sports performance for the players. We need to stay healthy so we are already on it and we need to move on. There are a few couple things that stand out which are generic, but huge is our team has to stay within the organization for a long time. The second part should be relatively is easy to fix we need to get better with shift count. The days of 45 seconds shifts are gone we need to get it down to 30 to 35 seconds.”

How do we deal with the Ducks reputation from the past and the penalties called against them?

“I think the temperature on the bench. If you have a coach just railing after the refs, I have learned in San Diego if I start coming after the refs it’s like throwing gasoline on a fire on the bench. The players will follow that. I think we have to develop a better relationship with the refs. It’s as simple as you know the referee’s first name and you know the linesman’s first name. HR – How was your flight in? We need to have relationships with the guys so it’s not so confrontational all the time.”

How do you envision using your fourth line?

“Again I have to meet the guys and see who they are and how they fit. The one great thing I was afforded the last few years in San Diego, if I come down a line you can probably say who the number one line was, but it would be hard to bargain who is your second and fourth line and who is your third and fourth line. So I am hopeful we can get a group where we understand the first and second line, and then you can sit around the dinner table and argue who the third and fourth lines are. If we can get good depth I will to turn all of them. Not so much been even on the minutes, but I would certainly like to throw a line in and then them hang if we can. If you look at the teams that did well in the playoffs this year, their fourth lines were good.”

What is like transitioning from the AHL to the NHL?

“From the coaching point of view, the biggest transition is the schedule. In the American Hockey League, there are 68 games. Here we are over 80. So that turns in a lot of travel. We are here to win, we are here to win in San Diego as well. I will give you an instance, where they are different. There is 40 seconds to go in the game, the other team has pulled their goalie and we got a very crucial face-off in our zone. And maybe in the American Hockey League, let’s choose Sam Steel. Steel on that night hasn’t been great on the face-off and it’s a crucial face-off though. He is going to go take that draw for us. He needs to feel the pressure. He has got to understand as part of his development to get out there and to win it. And if it’s an NHL game, there are 40 seconds left and one of our centermen has not been good, then he is not going out there. It’s not development camp, its just win.”

How do you motivate a team in the preseason and during the middle of the season?

“Well in training camp, it’s easy. Everyone comes in and there is not a whole lot of, and not to jump on the word motivate, I like to use the word inspire. We inspire people as coaches. Motivation lasts about five seconds, it’s one of those like a motivation speech that lasts for about five seconds. When you inspire people it lasts throughout all time. But coming into training camp it’s easy. Everyone comes in and we haven’t lost a game. The inspiration in these guys starts as they battle for a spot in the lineup. That part is easy. The work comes once the travel sets in, it’s key for me to keep everyone inspired and fresh. The biggest thing for me regardless is even if you aren’t fresh, you got to keep it upbeat.”

You have two daughters and you are married. How important has your family been in this transition to the NHL?

“My wife inspires me every day and I have two daughters that are incredible kids. One turned 11 and the other one is turning 18 in August. They are super excited, more excited that they know of. Although our mascot was a Gull there, they are now super excited that the mascot is a Duck. Everything’s great.”

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Special thanks to Phil Wunderlich for recording this event.

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July 2nd, 2019


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