Eakins Joins Anaheim Following Successful Stint in San DiegoJun 18, 2019
Eakins joins the Ducks as head coach after a successful four seasons behind the bench in San Diego.
By Steve Brown
After four seasons as head coach of the San Diego Gulls, Dallas Eakins is now the 10th head coach in Anaheim Ducks history.
On Monday morning, the Ducks formally announced Eakins’ hire, and hours later the club held a press conference at Great Park Ice in Irvine, Calif. to introduce their new man behind the bench.
“This is a tremendous honor for my family,” said Eakins in the formal announcement released by the Ducks. “I am truly humbled. It was a privilege to serve as head coach of the San Diego Gulls during our first four seasons, and I look forward to build off that success here in Anaheim.”
In four seasons leading San Diego, the club had a 154-95-23 record and three trips to the Calder Cup Playoffs. In that span, the Gulls led the AHL Pacific Division in wins, points (331) and points percentage (.608) since the division's inception in 2015-16, as well as the most playoff wins (17) and series wins (4).
Under Eakins’ stewardship, the Gulls developed 16 players that would go on to make their NHL debuts after spending time in San Diego with the now 52-year-old coach. Players such as Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore, Ondrej Kase, Brandon Montour and Marcus Pettersson all spent time under Eakins in San Diego and progressed to become full-time NHL players. Not to mention the budding prospects in the organization that have developed in the AHL and are on the cusp of becoming full-time regulars for the Ducks in the not-too-distant future.
In total across his eight seasons as an AHL head coach, 32 different players were coached by Eakins and then made the jump to the NHL to make their NHL debuts with either the Ducks or Maple Leafs. Another 14 indirectly made their NHL debuts for either Toronto or another NHL club after spending time under Eakins with the Marlies.
“Players come up here and they're ready to play when they come here. They're professionals,” said Murray in his opening remarks at the introductory press conference. “They know what we're going to do. You don't have to teach them the ropes…They know about everything. With where this organization is heading and what we're doing as we're turning a page, this is just a natural progression from a guy who's coached most of the guys on this team, a guy who likes to win because he knows how competitive I am.”
A message of experience was brought forth by Eakins numerous times throughout the day. He noted, unlike his time in Edmonton when he joined the Oilers as head coach in 2013, his comfort and experience within the Anaheim organization, in addition to the many players he’s coached within the hockey club.
“The greatest thing for me, personally, is I don't have to start from scratch. I know who my boss is. I know how he works and I know how competitive he is,” noted the native of Dade City, Fla. “I'm familiar with a lot of the players. I'm familiar with a lot of the staff, so we're not starting from scratch today. We're starting with experience, and that's greatly encouraging to me.”
With that comfort comes the identity of Eakins as a coach, one that was reflective in his teams in San Diego each year, but more so this season with the adversity faced throughout the campaign both in the regular season and playoffs.
In 2018-19 with the Gulls, 25 players appeared in a game for both the Ducks and Gulls, the most to appear in games for both the NHL club and primary affiliate. To boot, the Gulls dressed 52 players throughout the regular season, the most in the AHL and a new club record for San Diego. Fifteen of the 52 players were rookies who contributed to nearly a third of the offensive output with 67 combined goals of the team’s 236 total (excluding shootout goals).
That identity of hard work and a notable “it doesn’t matter” attitude throughout the Gulls team all season while it continued to support the Ducks through injury recalls and roster fluctuation from day one of the season.
“There's a lot of hard work that's going to be done, and I look forward to embracing the work,” added Eakins. “I look forward to our staff and our players enjoying the work and the hardness that it takes to get certain things done.”
The mentality of his team harkens to his constant message in San Diego that it is a pleasure to play for the organization and it’s a gift and not a right. Throughout both lockers rooms at Pechanga Arena and Poway ICE, the team’s practice facility, are messages that resonate with all who walk through the doors, including a classic “Do Your Job” sign just before players exit the locker room to the ice surface.
But one quote that has always resonated with Eakins also lives on the walls in the video room at the Gulls’ facility.
“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.”
That’s Eakins in a nutshell. His philosophy has always been a team-first ethos that the collective can get the job done with all pushing or pulling in the same direction. It was a group effort for the Gulls that saw them reach the Western Conference Finals this season with 26 players appearing in at least a game during the postseason. It’s those habits that made the lineup interchangeable and reflective of the group mentality when it mattered most.
In Anaheim, he will be tasked with helping transition a team that missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and transition a group of veterans and young talent into a team, his type of team. But that team won’t be mine, it will be the team’s team.
“I don't want this team to be mine. I want it to be ours,” stated Eakins on some of the intangibles that define him and what he wants to bring to the team. “There will be a lot of different personalities and our team will become that. I'm a pretty simple guy with how I go about my day and what I believe teams should be. I think you should honor the work. It's certainly a privilege to be able to coach and play for the Anaheim Ducks. The players are going to hear a lot about that, and our staff, too.”
As he closed out his day with a final interview with the Gulls after four years of creating and building a tight-knit community both on and off the ice. He began with a message to the fans, America’s Finest Fans.
“Number one, thank you,” he began. “It’s been just a privilege to be part of their lives. And you really feel it (in San Diego) with the fans. It’s like you’re one of them. They really opened up their arms to our team right from day one.”
“I think my only message would be keep it going. I still envision a day down there where there is not a ticket to be had every night. Our fans do an amazing job of selling that entertainment in that great old sports arena that I love dearly. I encourage them to keep bringing their friends, promoting that atmosphere that they create at games. It’s an incredible thing to experience down there.”
And his final statement was one of looking ahead. Gazing toward the future of what’s to come as he takes the reigns behind the bench of the Anaheim Ducks beginning this fall.
“We’re going to do our best to continue on the tradition here of success,” stated Eakins. “Our organization, with division titles, conference championships and a Stanley Cup, this organization’s success and leadership in the community…I’m going to do everything in my power to continue that success and hope to make it even better.”