As in, Red Dawn. Get it? Yeah, I’m not a fan of the title either. It was either that or “Dallas”, but I don’t have the time tonight to write a complicated and funny Marlies metaphor piece that ends with Bobby Ewing appearing and telling us the Leafs‘ disastrous previous season was all a dream. Much as I’d like to.
So, Don Cherry took to Twitter this week and lambasted the Leafs‘ ability to develop prospects – specifically, Nazem Kadri. This is a tough issue. Were Don speaking in generalities, he’d be right. Toronto’s track record the last ten years of graduating prospects to impact roles in the NHL is not exactly littered with success. And Brian Burke’s regime, well, hasn’t really been around long enough to fairly measure their results.
But that’s the thing. Don doesn’t seem to care. He’s comfortably using an unfair metric.
Now, I’m not going to start the “Is Kadri ready?” debate. You’ve all got your opinions, and they seem fairly entrenched. Personally, I’m not sure shoehorning him into an NHL lineup before he was physically – let alone mentally – ready could have possibly been a good thing. Arguably, he’s reached the point where that’s now less of a concern.
My real interest lies in Eakins’ response to Cherry’s tweets. (That’s what “Read Don” meant). (And yes, that’s also the world we live in. A professional hockey coach in Toronto must now spend a significant portion of his post-practice media scrum addressing comments made as part of a social media rant).
Put simply: Dallas’ response was…well, ace.
It’s kind of like the KADRI-FAT-FLAP from last week. You read Eakins’ comments in an article somewhere (under a headline that includes the words BLASTS!), and your first impression is that they’re harsh. And that he’s pissed. But then, you watch the video and realize that was one extraordinarily minor sound byte amidst a conversation in which Dallas actually offered a multitude of constructive points and advice, all concerned with the pragmatism of good fitness. He wasn’t screaming at Kadri through the media. He was teaching him.
Which brings us back to Don. Cherry’s comments – you’ve seen them, or can click above – mentioned Eakins specifically, which is likely the only reason the Marlies coach addressed them. Or, it could just be that Eakins is the de facto voice of the organization at the moment with his daily ten-minute media scrums. Here’s what he said. Video.
“I’m a massive fan of Don Cherry. When we’re playing a night game and Hockey Night in Canada is on, I beg my wife ‘Please tape that game’ and it’s not because I want to watch the game, I want to watch Coach’s Corner and I want to watch The Hot Stove. And I always want to see what Don is going to say just like the rest of the nation. The one thing is for sure is Don is an excellent entertainer. He is. He is great at it.
His comments yesterday, I can shake my head at them. I know what the truth is, I know what I believe in. And listen, he’s a strong-willed guy; I’m sure he believes in everything that he had somebody type for him.
I would love for Don Cherry to come down and I invite Don to come down here and sit in my office and hey let’s talk about where we’re at with our players. I’ve never ever seen him at one of our games and I’ve never ever seen him at a practice and he’s never come in and knocked on my door. I invite Don to come on down, ‘You’re more than welcome at any time. You’ve got a lot of fans here’. We’d be honoured to have him.”
This is a leader. This is a coach. Dallas Eakins demonstrates an intelligence, perspective, ability to articulate, and sense of humour that many men in his position can only dream of achieving. I love this response. It’s PR perfection, and a definitive “How To” guide for dealing with, essentially, an internet troll.
I can’t even say I entirely disagree with Don. Yeah, Kadri’s management has been questionable. And yes, Eakins addressing his body fat percentage in an earlier interview was kind of questionable unless it was intentioned to put a little media pressure no the kid. But Eakins’ solution to this vicious Cherry Picking is so evolved, so logical, so informed that inspires me about the man himself.
What’s a coach’s job? Is it to discipline, or teach, or organize? Not just. It’s to motivate.
Dallas Eakins just seems to…have it. I know that’s a wildly uninformed and non-technical analysis, and that I’m extrapolating an awful lot about the man’s professional ability from a few sound bytes. But if character’s all this speaks to, that’s a good enough place to start.
A coach motivates by first generating loyalty in a player, and that loyalty is earned by reassurance in the player’s mind that a coach knows what he’s doing. Eakins’ ability to communicate clearly, concisely, and fairly is a key factor in demonstrating to a player that his coaching cause is one worth fighting hard for.
Furthering Eakins’ affability is his evident lack of an ego for the job he does; another man might bristle at the idea of Randy Carlyle hovering around preseason offering insights, or being forced to teach players another coach’s defensive system. But Eakins willingly and happily commits to these organizational mandates, highlighting the positive effect Carlyle had on the younger Dallas himself, as a player, further entrenching the sense of camaraderie and trust that needs to exist in any successful management group.
Add to that his history as a player fostering understanding of their perspective and his evident passion for the role he has, and you’ve got the ingredients for a man that will have a long and prosperous career as an NHL coach.
No slight to Randy Carlyle, who’s still very early in the role – but Dallas’ future is in Toronto.
Thursday morning links!
-Vesa Toskala has, mercifully, retired. I know that might be difficult to understand, since he’d previously appeared to have retired while wearing a Leafs‘ sweater and playing regularly at the Air Canada Centre. If you wish to send congratulations or condolences, Toskala’s agent has requested you personally drive to his house in Finland and drop them off. Apparently if you send something at him from really, really far away, he has trouble getting it.
-Y’know when Jay Leno does that ‘dumb criminals’ skit? There’s another Jay who should apparently be on the list. That fact, of course, doesn’t make the linked story not awesome.
-Via TLN, Cam Charron talks about some Don Cherry rant stuff too.
-Also at TLN, Ryan Fancey asks if we’ll be watching KHL hockey. (Nope).
-The Leafs’ hiring of Rick St. Croix as their new goalie coach prompted Gord Stellick to write down a bunch of memories for the CBC. There’s a lockout on, by the way.
-Via Busted Coverage, “84 KHL Russian Ice Girls To Celebrate ESPN Lockout Hockey“. (“Amazing.” – Declan Kerin). That link won’t seem like much until you click through. And witness it. And then view the slideshow. And then watch the video. Starring a guy who might be Nikolai Kulemin’s twin brother, with glasses. This exchange actually happened:
Matt: Am I allowed to include this in tomorrow’s Mashup? Because it’s awesome. And hilarious. And there are a lot of very tactfully censored boobs in it.
Alec: It would be silly not to include it, really.