TORONTO– When he’s ready, Dallas Eakins will move on from the Toronto Marlies. But that won’t be for at least another year.
Eakins signed a three-year contract extension Monday to stay on as head coach of the AHL’s Marlies.
The 45-year-old, who is in his third year as the team’s head coach, is currently guiding the Marlies in their first Calder Cup final.
“I feel like I have some unfinished business here with some players and I want to finish it,” said Eakins.
Eakins’ name had recently come up in discussion for filling a coaching vacancy at the NHL level, but that’s not something he’s concerned with right now.
“We like Toronto and we’re not in a hurry to leave,” he said.“It’s not important to run up the ladder as fast as you can. I know eventually I’ll coach an NHL team, it’s just not gonna be over the next year.”
Under Eakins’ guidance, Toronto captured the North Division with a 44-24-8 record and 96 points — the second best total in team history.
Since taking over the bench for the Marlies in 2009, the club has compiled a record of 104-91-31.
“Dallas is a wonderful teacher for our players in the American Hockey League,” said Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke in a statement.
“He has a great understanding of the game and what it takes to be a successful professional player, both on and off the ice.
“He’s a huge contributor to our overall hockey organization and we are pleased to have Dallas and the entire coaching staff under contract.”
Eakins’ assistant coaches Gord Dineen and Derek King were also signed to extensions Monday.
“I know I get the pat on the back but they work much harder than I do,” said Eakins about his assistants. “They do much of the dirty work and the organization is lucky to have them back.”
Eakins has spent the last seven seasons in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization in various roles.
He played 120 games as a defenceman in the NHL after being drafted by the Washington Capitals in 1985. He ended his playing career in 2004 before becoming the Marlies’ assistant coach in 2005.
Eakins said he and Dave Nonis, the Leafs director of hockey operations, had spoken about staying with the organization despite the temptation to seek a promotion in the NHL.
“I like the guys I work for, I appreciate the passion in the city and I want to be a part of bringing success to the big club and I think I can do it from here. My family’s happy and we’ll stay put at least another year.”
*Written for The Canadian Press