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Ducks confident Dallas Eakins will excel in second stint as an NHL head coach

Curtis Zupke, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Hockey

IRVINE, Calif. -- His cellphone rang as he was driving around downtown San Diego.

Dallas Eakins receives calls regularly from Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray, but this time it wasn't about organizational depth charts or injury updates. More than 70 days after the Ducks season ended, Murray told Eakins he was officially the next coach of the franchise.

"I was certainly hoping it was me," said Eakins, who was given a three-year contract. "When the call came, I was ecstatic and very humbled, because I know how hard it is to get to this level, and to be afforded a second chance by Bob Murray certainly is not lost on me."

The Ducks are banking that the second act of Eakins' NHL coaching career follows the recent trend of coaches who have found success their second time around. The Stanley Cup Final featured two such coaches in Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues and Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins, who learned from modest experiences in their first NHL jobs and rebuilt their careers.

Eakins hopes to do that following a rocky stint with the Edmonton Oilers that was followed by a fruitful four-year run with the Ducks' minor league affiliate San Diego.

"The second time around, most people are just much better prepared to go in and do the job," Murray said. "I know he's going to be much more ready this time around."

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Eakins learned the hard way in Edmonton. He went about changing the culture in a short time and it backfired with his firing after a 36-63-14 record.

"It was a challenging position and a challenging time for an organization," Eakins said. "I think the biggest thing that it taught me was to keep my head down and to keep working, try and get better every day. It's kind of like being in a fight. Keep your head down and keep swinging."

Among the immediate challenges for Eakins is to imprint a profile on a team of established players with past success and younger ones needing direction. Ryan Getzlaf heads the former but the Ducks can no longer look to Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler as part of that foundation. Murray hasn't been happy with the leadership and he touched on it again Monday.

"We have some vets here who are going to have to change some things," Murray said. "That's part of this new identity. They're either going to change some things, or they're not going to be part of this going forward."

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