Firing coach not enough to fix Oilers

Nothing may top the tone deafness shown by Kevin Lowe in 2013 when he reminded the press about his plethora of Stanley Cup rings after announcing his old pal Craig MacTavish was taking over as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers.

But the firing of head coach Dallas Eakins on Monday is almost as good.

Just 10 days after MacTavish went on and on about how the sad sack Oilers wouldn't make any knee-jerk reactions to their miserable season, the GM addressed the media with a completely different script -- complete with Shakespearean imagery -- saying, "there is blood all over my hands too."

Honestly, you can't make this stuff up. If only he'd been wearing a toga a la Caesar.

The chaos and dysfunction in Edmonton is like a giant ship spinning in circles with smoke billowing from a dozen fissures in the deck and Kevin Bacon running around yelling, "All is well, all is well."

Did Eakins deserved to be fired?

Sure he did.

His squad, which includes the No. 1 picks from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 drafts and the No. 3 pick from 2014 (their 2013 pick, No. 7 overall Darnell Nurse, is being spared this meat grinder having been sent back to junior), has managed to win once in their past 16 outings.

They are 29th in goals allowed per game. They are 28th in power-play efficiency and tied for 28th in goals per game.

In his second season behind the Oilers' bench, Eakins showed zero aptitude for teaching the game to a group that seems completely devoid of focus.

Of course Eakins deserved to be fired.

The problem is he should never have been hired.

Eakins was hired because MacTavish -- who had no experience as a GM before being hired by pal Lowe in April 2013 -- got a gut feeling about former Oilers coach Ralph Krueger.

Krueger was brought in to teach a young talented Oilers team for the 2012-13 season and actually got them to a 19-22-7 record.

But that wasn't good enough for MacTavish. Nope, he had a gut feeling about Krueger (like a stomach pain presumably) and a better gut feeling about Eakins, who had impressed as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs AHL affiliate.


Krueger looks like Scotty Bowman or Toe Blake given the Oilers' record the past two seasons.

Eakins floundered from the get-go and leaves with an ugly 36-63-14 record. And the Oilers are a league-wide embarrassment.

How Eakins gets another head coaching job is beyond us, but as is always the case with teams as bad as the Oilers, the coaching is just the veneer coating much deeper flaws.

It is undeniable that this team simply isn't built to compete in the NHL, and especially not in the Western Conference where the Oilers are 1-15-4 this season.

Not only are the Oilers poorly constructed with a porous defense, spotty goaltending and a woeful lack of depth down the middle, there is little to suggest any of those problems can be addressed without a significant overhaul.

But now it gets even better.

MacTavish, who was bounced from behind the Oilers' bench back in 2009 after missing the playoffs for a third straight season after somehow coaching them to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals, will go back behind the bench, because, well, why not?

What could possibly go wrong?

Or more wrong?

MacTavish will preside over the bench on an interim basis to perform a task he was deemed ill-suited to perform a few years ago, while helping former AHL coach Todd Nelson get used to the job. Nelson will then hold the job on an interim basis presumably until the end of this miserable season when who knows what further chaos awaits.

Meanwhile, MacTavish will continue to perform his duties as GM, another job he has proven to be ill-suited for.

Back when MacTavish was hired as GM, Lowe got rather defensive when asked about the old boys' club mentality that permeates this franchise that was once the gold standard for on-ice excellence.

At one point at that press gathering, Lowe peevishly reminded a questioner that he figured he had more Stanley Cup rings (six) than all but one person working in the game.

It's not true, by the way, but the point was obvious: Look, I'm smarter than you, so how dare you question how we do things?

Tone deaf? Oh there's lots of that going around the Oilers.

Ten days ago MacTavish made it clear that while he and ownership were ticked off at the Oilers' losing ways, it wouldn't be wise to lump him in with personnel decisions made prior to his arrival as an executive.

Monday he was a man with bloody hands.

The beleaguered GM also insisted Monday -- presumably after those higher up the food chain demanded a sacrificial lamb -- there is ongoing evaluation at every level of the organization to get at the core of the problem with this team.

Perhaps we might suggest more frequent use of a mirror.

And when MacTavish is done, he might lend it to Lowe.

You have to wonder what Bob Nicholson, the sage former head of Hockey Canada and a man who has seen the building of multiple gold medal teams first-hand, must be thinking.

Nicholson recently took over as vice chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group (a title shared by Lowe) at the top of the Oilers' flow chart.

Many view Nicholson as perhaps the one man to lead the Oilers out of the wilderness.

To do that, Nicholson will have to break the old boys' grid that appears to have played a large role in the utter stagnation of this franchise.

Perhaps Monday's change behind the bench was the first step in dealing with the team's significant malaise.

But he can't affect even greater change without getting some blood on his hands, and that blood should be Oiler blue.