Dallas Eakins out as Ducks coach after four seasons

Adrian Kempe scores power-play goal vs. Ducks (0:32)

Adrian Kempe scores power-play goal vs. Ducks (0:32)

IRVINE, Calif. -- Head coach Dallas Eakins will not return to the Anaheim Ducks after four consecutive losing seasons, the team announced Friday.

One day after Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12, general manager Pat Verbeek said Eakins won't be back to continue the team's rebuilding process. Eakins' contract expired at the end of this season, and the Ducks will not renew it.

Eakins went 100-147-44 with the Ducks, who promoted him from his job as the head coach of their AHL affiliate in San Diego in 2019. The former Edmonton bench boss arrived near the start of Anaheim's decline from a perennial NHL power in the 2010s to a rebuilding club that earned a franchise-worst 58 points this season.

"There's a lot of good things about Dallas," Verbeek said at the Ducks' training complex. "He's a good person. He was in a difficult situation. I think he handled himself with the utmost professionalism, great dedication to the organization and work ethic. ... Today was not a fun day for anybody. It's never fun to have to do this."

The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins' four years in charge. They've missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and the Ducks were the NHL's worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

"I will be forever grateful for my eight years in the Ducks organization," Eakins said in a social media post. "From jump-starting San Diego to dealing with COVID to a full-on rebuild was an inspiring and rewarding challenge. Every staff member and player made me a better coach, but more importantly, a better person. The enthusiasm and patience of the fans will never be forgotten."

The Ducks' decline was exacerbated by general manager Bob Murray's resignation in November 2021 after being accused of verbal abuse against team staff. Murray, who had been Anaheim's GM for 13 years, was replaced in February 2022 by Verbeek, who immediately announced his plans for a long-term rebuilding project in Anaheim.

"When I looked at it, it was three things," Verbeek said. "I wanted a fresh start, I wanted a new voice speaking to the team, and I wanted a different direction. I think that just a style or an identity is going to be important. When you look at where we were (with) time spent in our zone ... my concern down that road was it could be difficult for more development if we had stayed on that kind of path."

Although Anaheim has a promising young core headlined by playmaking center Trevor Zegras and two-time All-Star forward Troy Terry, the Ducks gave up an NHL-worst 338 goals, were last in goal differential (minus-129) and were 31st in goals scored (209).

The 338 goals allowed were the most by any NHL team in the past 26 seasons since the 1995-96 San Jose Sharks gave up 357, while the Ducks' goal differential was the NHL's worst since the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers (minus-143).

"We thank Dallas for his eight years with the organization as head coach of both the Ducks and Gulls," Ducks owner Henry Samueli said in a statement. "Susan [Samueli] and I are especially proud of his commitment to the community in both Anaheim and San Diego, which included countless charitable initiatives. We know Dallas will succeed in his future endeavors, as character people often do."

The silver lining is a 25.5% chance to win the right to select Connor Bedard, considered the most tantalizing prospect in hockey since Connor McDavid, with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft. The Ducks can fall no lower than third in next month's draft lottery.

Verbeek was optimistic about the Ducks' future, noting their 11 picks in the upcoming draft on June 28 and nine in 2024.

"You can't put a time or an exact period on when some of these young guys are going to take steps," Verbeek said. "I feel comfortable in the players that we drafted. I feel comfortable in the players that are coming that we're going to be challenging for playoffs. But experience, time, development, that's going to be important."

Eakins was only the 10th head coach in team history and just the third coach to hold the permanent job under owners Henry and Susan Samueli, who bought the franchise from Disney in 2005. The Ducks won California's first Stanley Cup in 2007, and they won five consecutive Pacific Division titles from 2013 to '17.