Dallas Eakins was named the Anaheim Ducks' coach on Monday, moving up from their AHL affiliate in San Diego for his second chance behind an NHL bench.
The Ducks filled the NHL's last head coaching vacancy with the veteran coach who spent the past four seasons with the Gulls, leading them to the AHL's Western Conference Finals this season. The 52-year-old former NHL defenseman has worked extensively with the homegrown talent that currently fills much of the Ducks' roster.
Eakins replaces Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who stepped behind the bench for the final 26 games of the season after firing Randy Carlyle. Anaheim went 14-11-1 under Murray, but the Ducks couldn't overcome a midseason slump and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
After 73 days without a head coach in place, Murray found his next coach exactly where most observers thought he would. Murray, who has made only three permanent coaching changes in 11 years running the Ducks, took 46 days to replace Bruce Boudreau with Carlyle in 2016.
Eakins coached the Edmonton Oilers from the start of the 2013-14 season until December 2014, going 36-63-14.
He was considered a blue-chip NHL coaching talent with forward-thinking opinions on strategy, but he couldn't stop the Oilers' decadelong struggles. Eakins has said in recent months that the experience helped and matured him as a coach, and he showed it by building a consistent winner in San Diego.
Eakins was the obvious choice to replace Carlyle, whose second stint with the Ducks lasted 2 1/2 seasons. Carlyle, who won the only Stanley Cup in franchise history in 2007, got the Ducks to the Western Conference final in 2017 after winning their fifth consecutive Pacific Division title.
But the Ducks were swept out of the first round in 2018, and they started this season well before falling into a horrific 2-15-4 slump shortly before Christmas. Carlyle was fired Feb. 10 and Anaheim resumed playing solid hockey but couldn't make up the ground it lost.
The Ducks have been one of the NHL's most consistent winners over the past 15 years, missing the playoffs just three times. Anaheim reached the conference finals in 2015 under Boudreau and again in 2017 with Carlyle but couldn't get back to the Stanley Cup Final since that championship season in 2007.
Instead of handing the job to Eakins, Murray interviewed other candidates and deliberated over his decision for 2 1/2 months.