Ralph Krueger was named the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers on June 27, 2012. On June 8, 2013, after 48 NHL games, and less than a calendar year after Krueger took the job, the job has been taken from him.
Oilers' GM Craig MacTavish announced Krueger's surprise dismissal at a press conference Saturday.
In a way, it sounds like the decision was as surprising to the Oilers as it was to the rest of the hockey world. From the Edmonton Journal:
MacTavish confirmed that the decision arose out of his process of looking for an associate coach, saying that in conducting the interviews he realized he was looking more for a coach who wanted to run the team in the way he had envisioned rather than looking for a support for Krueger.
In making the announcement, he made a number of statements praising Krueger’s work and effort, but at the end of the day he decided that there were differences between his vision and Krueger’s."
"I don’t think that this was in any way fair to Ralph," said MacTavish when asked. "It wasn’t about being fair to Ralph."
He's right. This is about Ralph Krueger. It's about Craig MacTavish. He's running this ship now, and after taking stock, he came to the conclusion that Krueger wasn't his ideal first mate.
So who does he want?
MacTavish admitted that the Oilers were close to naming their third head coach in as many years, and while he wouldn't name names, he appears to be hot after Toronto Marlies' head coach Dallas Eakins.
Makes sense. He's used to handling an AHL roster, amirite?
James Mirtle reports that MacTavish's pursuit of Eakins was downright aggressive.
Apparently the Eakins-MacTavish meeting was fairly "intense." Oilers went in really trying to sell him on the team and job.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 8, 2013
It's going to take a big pitch. The Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, and Dallas Stars are all looking for a new head coach, and all three of those teams are closer to winning big than Edmonton. Taking himself off the market now, let alone for a project team like the Oilers, is a tough sell.
You can see why MacTavish might covet him, though. Eakins may be just what the Oilers needed. AHL jokes aside, his experience with young players and prospects, and his work with Nazem Kadri in particular, makes him an ideal candidate to shepherd the Oilers' youthful roster.
Not to mention they might be one of the few NHL rosters where he won't be in the median age range.