If there’s been any thaw in the Cold War between the Vancouver Canucks and the Toronto Maple Leafs it should be evident the next few days.
Hockey Night In Canada reported Sunday that the Canucks have asked permission from Toronto to speak to Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins about the vacancy that opened last week when Alain Vigneault was fired. Eakins has been mentioned frequently as an NHL candidate the past couple of years after leading the Marlies to the 2012 Calder Cup final and readying a group of farmhands who jumped to the Leafs this year and contributed to a surprise playoff run. The Marlies made the second round of the AHL playoffs this year before elimination.
The Canucks and Dallas Stars are currently without head coaches, but NHL veterans such as Lindy Ruff are also without jobs.
There was bad blood between the two Canadian teams in the past few years, swirling around two tampering charges the Canucks leveled against Toronto when Brian Burke was general manager and Ron Wilson was coach (both were cited in separate incidents), while Canucks GM Mike Gillis usurped David Nonis at that post, before Nonis followed Burke to Toronto as his right-hand man and replaced him this past January. Nonis, who didn't immediately respond to the report, would be reluctant to let Eakins go without some form of compensation.
Eakins was under serious consideration to be promoted when Wilson was fired 14 months ago, but Burke went with a Stanley Cup winner in Randy Carlyle, whom he knew much better. Eakins, who had also spent time in player development with the Leafs, ended up signing an extension with the Marlies that still has a year to run.
“I’m probably the most fortunate coach in the AHL,” Eakins told the Toronto Sun after moving into first place in wins among Marlie coaches earlier this season. “I work for great bosses in a city that’s passionate for hockey. There are coaches in this league that when the first job that comes up, they think ‘we have to get out of this city, I don’t like living here’.
“Well, I love living here and I will be very, very picky before I leave.”
Eakins has kept maintaining his NHL career “will look after itself”.
“It’s the same thing I preach to the players. If you work hard every day with attention to detail and you’re a good, honest, integrous person, things will work out. It just will.”
Some believe that if Burke is re-hired as a GM and gets to pick his coach, Eakins will be his first choice.