Burke and Carlyle speak

Burke and Carlyle speak

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A worn-down looking Brian Burke explained what was obviously a personally excruciating decision to fire long time friend Ron Wilson and bring in Randy Carlyle. Some notes after the video.

  • The wheels for this fire and hire were set in motion on Wednesday night, following the loss to the Capitals. Said Burke: “It would’ve been cruel and unusual punishment to make Ron coach another game in the Air Canada Centre.”
  • It won’t come immediately, but it looks like we may finally see a team closer to the original “truculent” vision under Carlyle and Burke. Burke admits at one point that he likes his teams rougher than Wilson ever did.
  • Similarly, Carlyle prefers his rosters more role-specific than Wilson’s team was this season. I’d imagine the top six/bottom six model will see a return next season. Can’t mean good things for Tim Connolly or Matthew Lombardi as far as their futures in Toronto are concerned.
  • That said, Burke was clear there’s nothing he can change now that the deadline has passed. Sounds like there’s a lot of off-season work ahead.
  • Burke admits at one point Wilson was tuned out by the dressing room using an analogy involving a barbeque and an airport.
  • As much as Wilson was never perceived as “player’s coach,” it was clear Ron was not as hard on his group as Carlyle will be on his team when he’s not getting the expected results. With Carlyle the fun is in winning and life should be miserable for the players if they’re not. This is something Burke has espoused numerous times since arriving in Toronto. No more optional skates after a bad loss.
  • Carlyle quickly nipped the Lupul controversy in the bud, essentially admitting he is happy to have been wrong about him.
  • Carlyle will be allowed to bring in an assistant coach of his choice, as per Burke’s policy. That coach will be his defensive coach in Anaheim, Dave Farrish. Farrish will replace Rob Zettler, who has been reassigned.
  • As far as this season is concerned, there may not be a whole lot Carlyle can do given roster provided is somewhat unfit to play the way he wants to play. But he will look to get the most out of them as he can and the first order of business is helping the current group to restore confidence in itself.
  • Burke mentioned twice that the timing of this move saves the need to familiarize a coach with the team for the opening month next season. Giving Carlyle the chance to evaluate what’s here for the final 18 games and making off-season moves accordingly seems like the right move.
  • Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins was heavily considered for the role, but the suggestion from Burke was that it would be unfair to plop a coach without NHL experience, or AHL playoff experience for that matter, into a pressure cooker of a situation in hockey’s craziest market. Watching what Ron Wilson put up with nails home that point.
  • Burke says he’s never had a team drop off a cliff like this as severely and quickly as the Leafs have in the last month. For me this boils down to his team also being the youngest he’s ever managed. It makes it much harder to get the confidence back once it’s gone, especially when the coach’s message starts falling on deaf ears.

The close history between Wilson and Burke is well documented, but the press conference left me with the distinct impression Burke now has a coach at the helm who really sees eye to eye with him in terms of lineup structure and coaching and playing style. Theoretically, that has to be a good thing.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]

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