Nonis’ expectations, an “exhaustive” Carlyle review

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Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis leaves the rink after a practice session at their NHL training camp in Toronto on Thursday September 12, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Have the goal posts started to shift?

Listen here:


VS.

For those that didn’t want to listen through the full Dreger segment, here’s a quote: “Nonis told the board that there could be another tough year or two ahead.”

Now, this is either intentional PR face saving (i.e.  spin courtesy of the ‘cous) or at best Dreger malarkey.

The simplest example: Does Nonis sign Clarkson in the first place, let alone commit 5.25 mill/year for 7 years, under the pretence that he was “worried about Year 1” if the real idea was that he would be a part of an ongoing rebuild?  If the thinking wasn’t playoffs and beyond, or why the Leafs didn’t get the job done against Boston in round 1?

This could be a preview of what’s to come in terms of management’s approach to responding to the recent mess. “We’re in the long game,” which to be clear isn’t totally devoid of merit, but let’s not for a second take what this season has turned into as anything short of a failure for which management must be accountable, for which a few heads should roll and some big changes considered.

What I’ll give Nonis, in terms of my patience, is that he has a collection of still-fairly young forwards — all prime aged — two promising up-and-comers on the blueline (along with some promising prospects for a little further down the road), and a young goaltender of the future in Jonathan Bernier. There’s some pieces here and he can make the argument he’s been a significant part (having been in management since December of 2008) of assembling a nucleus of good, young-ish talent, even if he is going to have to get damn creative to continue to add to/redefine the core with limited cap flexibility this off season.

Another thing Dreger mentioned as far as a coaching change wasn’t that it was expected or even probable, but that there will be an “exhaustive review” of Carlyle’s performance as head coach of the Leafs this season.

Let’s do a five-point, brass tax version of what that review should reveal:

  1. The team took a step back from fifth place in the East to non playoff team over a larger sample size this season.
  2. Team underwent two epic collapses, one in the span of 11 minutes in game 7 last May and one in the span of 8 games this March, under his leadership.
  3. Carlyle’s philosophies were described (hilarious now in hindsight) as defence first. He’s had essentially two full seasons with the roster and the team is breaking records for shots against and is 26th in goals against. And while it’s fallen off along with pretty much everything else in the last 8 games, he has received top-10 goaltending (.914).
  4. Special teams: the penalty kill, an accomplishment Randy could hang the hat on last season, has fallen off immensely from 2nd to 28th. The PP has improved from 14th to 4th, but has fallen off when needed down the stretch and also wears the dubious distinction of allowing the second-most shorthanded goals in the League (which I’d attribute to the choices in defence pair-ups). Do we give a checkmark for sustained success on the powerplay in terms of the overall conversion rate, though? Yes (Keep in mind it runs through a top-3 goal and point producer since 2011).
  5. The team’s offence has fallen off from 6th to 12th, despite Kessel/JvR/Bozak’s great seasons, as secondary scoring has taken a significant hit this season. (The Leafs are where they are in this category because of their top line, and “ride one of the league’s best lines like a rented mule, at the cost or without much success in terms of defensive system buy in” doesn’t really seem like a coaching masterstroke).

Now, the stuff outside the brackets is a simple listing of  objective information about the team’s performance under Carlyle this season. We could get into a whole slew of more opinionated stuff like lineup management (wearing down line 1, failure to use a 4th line to the detriment of the likes of D’Amigo, Holland, Ashton), his systems,  individual player deployment/usage, the fact that this is more of “his” lineup with Grabovski/MacArthur jettisoned and the Bolland/Clarkson adds, but we’ll stick to this for now.

The thing is, if the Leafs are to aspire to the gold standard of the San Jose’s and St. Louis’ of the world — very deep teams in all areas with mobile defences and fast, aggressive forwards who can forecheck, cycle, sustain possession  – the roster is going to have to change in  few significant ways, too. That’s the type of team Carlyle wants, but he can’t be the only one to see the way the dominant teams of the League play the game and aspire to a similar goal.  It’s pretty difficult to imagine how an exhaustive review reveals much if any evidence of good coaching or a harbinger of good things to come. The Leafs are clearly punching below their weight.

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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]
  • Yan28

    Broke it down perfectly.
    It would be torture for us Leafs fans to sit through another year of Carlyle coaching.
    What worries me is that Spott said they will look at Biggs in 2 or 3 years to see where he fits in with the Leafs, so I am guessing Broll, Carrick, Devane and the other gritty role players on the Marlies won’t see action for another few years, so we’ll need to mold a 4th line via trades and free agency. Devane was one of the last cut from the training camp this year by the way.
    I feel we have to retool and move out Lupul as part of a package to bring in an Evander Kane for example, both need a change of scenery. We need a guy that maybe scores less goals but will forecheck, get dirty and ride for his team. Like A Callahan for example (of course if the money makes sense).

  • impacted8

    Awesome post, scathing but accurate.

  • DJGLENN22

    top 20

    1 REINHART, SAM KOOTENAY WHL C 6′ 0.75″185
    2 EKBLAD, AARON BARRIE OHL D  6′ 3.5″216
     3 EHLERS, NIKOLAJ HALIFAX QMJHL LW 5′ 11.5″162 
     4 BENNETT, SAMUEL KINGSTON OHL C 6′ 0.25″178
     5 RITCHIE, NICHOLAS PETERBOROUGH OHL LW  6′ 2.25″231
     6 DAL COLLE, MICHAEL OSHAWA OHL C/LW  6′ 1.5″179 
     7 DRAISAITL, LEON  PRINCE ALBERT  WHL  C  6′ 1.75″208 
     8 PERLINI, BRENDAN  NIAGARA  OHL  LW  6′ 2.5″205 
     9 NYLANDER, WILLIAM  SODERTALJE  SWEDEN-2   C/RW   5′ 11.0″169 
     10  SCHERBAK, NIKITA  SASKATOON  WHL  RW   6′ 2.0″174
     11 KAPANEN, KASPERI  KALPA  FINLAND  RW   6′ 0.0″180
    12  TUCH, ALEX  USA U-18  USHL  C/RW   6′ 3.5″213
    13  FLEURY, HAYDN   RED DEER   WHL  D   6′ 2.5″198 
     14  KEMPE, ADRIAN  MODO JR.SWEDEN-JR.  LW  6′ 1.5″187 
     15 VIRTANEN, JAKE  CALGARY   WHL   RW   6′ 0.75″208 
     16 BARBASHEV, IVAN  MONCTON  QMJHL  C/LW  6′ 1.0″185
     17 LARKIN, DYLAN   USA U-18  USHL  C   6′ 0.75″190 
     18  BLEACKLEY, CONNER   RED DEER      WHL  C   6′ 0.5″192
     19 MCCANN, JARED   SAULT STE. MARIE  OHL  C   6′ 0.25″179 
     20  HONKA, JULIUS  SWIFT CURRENT  WHL  D       5′ 10.5″178

  • 4evrblue

    Yan28 Broll and Devane did see a little action this year. 5 games for Broll which is a good look for a guy with his role in his first pro season. Hopefully next season that will turn into 20-30 and the year after he’ll be here for good. I think he’s gonna be a good one :)

  • 4evrblue

    Great writeup Alec. Especially enjoyed looking back to hear NoNo say the aim was to be better this year and talk about gaining the respect of the league and not being bullied in our own building. Pretty big failure IMO
    Gotta run to work, gonna have a long day of plowing today as we got hit with 20cm last night and are calling for another 20 today. Wish this winter would end already.

  • Great Dane

    To be honest in all the categories where coaching is absolutely essential Carlyle and Co have been an epic failure.

    Leiweke isnt going to accept that, so the coach will get the pink slip. I can’t imagine that there will not be consequences for the players as well.

    Leiweke wants star players for his franchise – he want a Beckham. Therefore players like Weber and Tavares will be targeted by the Leafs and I can only see four to five players that safe right now: 

    Kessel, JVR, Bernier, Reilly and Gardiner (maybe)

  • peterbleafs

    If Nonis really told the board that, it would have come out by now so that is a lie.  The rhetoric now will be a cover your ass rhetoric by Nonis on down.  Im thinking, get lost Nonis youre part of the problem not so much for the roster decisions, those are actually good, but instead not intervening when it was painfully obvious again.

    That got Burke fired, and it should get you fired.

  • Burtonboy

    4evrblue Yan28  Spott seemed to be complimentary of Tyler Biggs yesterday . Said he’s working hard and doing everything he can  to be on the big squad . I was impressed with him on Sunday . For a big big man he can skate really well. Scored a goal too.. The guy is a presence out there

  • Yaknowwhat

    So Nonis thought the team was life and death to make the playoffs? What’s the big deal? Was this news to anyone? As for the offseason signings being evidence of something else…I don’t see that at all…building a team means you add pieces along the way if and when they become available…see Bernier, Bolland and Clarkson…..just because you may think your in tough to make the playoffs doesn’t mean you don’t continue with your work of trying to improve the team longterm…seems others think Nonis should of  had a fire sale at the deadline….what many forget..is that at that point and time we were in a playoff position and I am sure Nonis just figured this was a pleasant surprise and to leave things alone….

  • Uncle Otis

    All this Dreger spin cycle can mean only one thing….Nonis is worried about his job.

  • Yaknowwhat

    Uncle Otis Could be….but I certainly don’t blame Nonis singularly…the vast majority of his moves have been solid….Bernier our season MVP…Bolland when healthy…Holland…Raymond was steal for the salary..Clarkson’s been the only dud so far, and that may change….he inherited most of the top 6 forwards and defense core from Burke….and he inherited the coach from Burke…who most seem to think is the real problem…you want to blame Nonis?…then don’t forget to blame Burke..

  • LeafsManiac

    Yaknowwhat LeafsManiac  Clarkson has only had over 40pts once in his life, highly coveted my ass.

  • Mind Bomb

    Good morning Folks !

  • TuckerForPunishment

    LeafsManiac Yaknowwhat  Most of us felt that way though.  Most of us were wrong.

  • Yaknowwhat

    Mind Bomb Morning Chief!

  • WendelGilmour

    While I want RC gone, it is for many different reasons than most. Meanwhile it’s interesting that RC is held accountable for 2 collapses, yet no mention of the players who have been here for 3 collapses.
    With regards to defensive systems I. Agree to a large extent, but also know defensive hockey is simple and in many cases just hard work (back-pressure, etc) that too many on this team are simply unprepared to do.
    Go ahead and go ahead and fire RC, but the core of this team must change. Way too easy to play against. Bottom 6 changes are obviously required also.

  • Mind Bomb

    Yaknowwhat Mind Bomb   Sup Yak, I see the PR’s are all doing their PR :)

  • Ze_theLeafsFan

    how legit is this? http://theleafsnation.com/2014/3/31/breaking-clarkson-contract-found-to-be-in-violation-of-cba

  • TuckerForPunishment

    LeafsManiac TuckerForPunishment Yaknowwhat  And thanks to Clarkson we will probably have to let Kuli walk too.  Remember how successful that Kuli – Grabo – MacA line was just a couple of seasons ago?

  • Ze_theLeafsFan

    April fools?

  • vinoa

    Yaknowwhat Uncle Otis  You keep saying Raymond was a steal for the salary but conveniently forget to mention that the problem is that he brings the same elements as Phil and Lupul to the 3rd line. Having Raymond gives us 3 rush lines and he’s nowhere near as productive as Kessel. Neither is Lupul. With the 1st line enjoying career numbers, and being one of the hottest in the league, how can anyone say that the rest of our offense, Raymond included, is getting the job done? Looking at his point totals is such a simplistic way of determining his worth. Raymond would have been a good replacement for Lupul on the 2nd line. Can’t keep rolling 3 rush lines and expect to have good possession numbers….and while Nonis inherited his entire 1st line and a good chunk of the defense from Burke, it was his changes to our bottom 9 that’s ruined this season. How he can get a pass for that is beyond me. Blaming Burke for the moves that he didn’t  make is even worse.

  • vinoa

    WendelGilmour  A week ago I would have said firing Carlyle was the way to go, but you’re right. The one thing that’s been the constant this whole time has been this core and management. Heads should roll for this season and I think it should start with Nonis. For him to now say that they weren’t expecting to win this season is a cop out and absolute bs. If that was the case then why do any of the things from last summer? The only move that makes sense now is the Komi buyout. If he was expecting another 2 seasons of struggles he should have more or else brought back last year’s team and changed what he needed to over the course of the season. Instead he spent to the cap in the offseason and put unnecessary pressure on a young team. If fans didn’t go into this season with raised expectations, this collapse wouldn’t have even mattered.

  • TuckerForPunishment

    We need a real fourth line.  And an upgrade on Franny.  End of story.

  • Mind Bomb

    WendelGilmour   Morning WG, Our first line is set, and is part of the easy to play against crew, but they hold there own most nights and are our only real scoring line.

    Our Second line, is also way to Easy to play against, but that means getting Rid of Lups and Raymond and putting 2 big wingers with Kadri, or move Kadri for a Physical Big Center. Which I know :) you wont do. And Clarkson who should have been our 2nd line winger, puked. 

    As it stand we can only add a 2nd line winger, and thats not going to make our top 6 harder to play against. If we want a Tougher top 6, we need an entire new 2nd line. 

    Its funny the one guy, every coach and player for and against, agrees is hard to play against on our Team is Kulemin, and he is the most Fantasy Traded player we have lol

  • Jordan29

    Like I said before. If we insert youth, I have no problem with them running the same forwards if the defence is restructured.
    JVR-Bozak-Kessel
    Lupul-Kadri-Leivo
    Holland-Bolland-Clarkson
    Komarov-Mcclement-Ashton/Damigo

  • Yaknowwhat

    What’s this team need?

    -a solid veteran back up goalie…

    -two stay at home dependable physical dmen

    -a gritty winger for the second line

    -fill out the 4th line with young physical energy players.

  • LeafsGuru

    I’m kinda getting annoyed at all talk of fire RC and Nonis, Wake up from the fantasy that we were winning a championship.  This team has many holes and yes I was one of the people that said we were a couple of players away. Now looking at it we are more than a coupe players away. 

    But Do we really now the full story, is Bernier playing with an injury still? is Dion hurt, how bad is Kessel’s foot?  I want to see hockey trades that benefit this team long term, and I think Nonis has done some smart ones ie: Bernier, Holland, and Bolland (if not injured)  would have been great.

    But lets not forget the players who were duds this season, Lupul, Franson, Frazer, McClement, Clarkson, and while Kadri and Raymond have not been duds, they have been streaky. 

    Lets put some accountability on the players before we start firing everyone off in management. Just my opinion…

  • Mind Bomb

    TuckerForPunishment LeafsManiac Yaknowwhat  Brutal !

  • LeafsManiac

    LeafsGuru  Lupul was by far a dud and neither was kadri. What are you expecting from a second line 70-80pts?

  • Yaknowwhat

    CanuckUKinToronto Floating out the trial balloon with that one…just see what fan reaction is..

  • Mind Bomb

    LeafsManiac Yaknowwhat Uncle Otis   Sign Bolland and he wont, unless your trading Kadri, your right there, Holland is to good for the AHL and no Roster spot on the leafs

  • Mind Bomb

    LeafsManiac LeafsGuru   Question though, Is the opposition scoring More against our 2nd line, than they are ?

  • TuckerForPunishment

    Uncle Otis  What exactly do these clowns do anyway?  They sit in a studio all day surfing the net.  These guys don’t get calls from anybody but their wives and kids.

  • Yaknowwhat

    vinoa WendelGilmour Did you actually believe this team was going to contend now? Nobody with a brain did…they were life and death to make the playoffs….and it makes perfect sense for Nonis to keep building the team even though he knows they aren’t ready to contend now….that’s what every GM does…keep adding pieces to improve the team long term….raised expectations?? That was stupid fans living in fantasy land…

  • Mind Bomb

    Yaknowwhat   Dude your reading my mind, or my comments lol, either is an adventure :))))

  • LeafsGuru

    LeafsManiac LeafsGuru I expect a hard fought game everyday which those 2 you mentioned haven’t done regularly

  • Mind Bomb

    Yaknowwhat CanuckUKinToronto   I have a reaction for them Right now ! and they wont like it lol

  • Uncle Otis

    TuckerForPunishment Uncle Otis
    Looks like Nonis is rolling out his defense/pre-post season delivery as a trial balloon through Cuz to me.
    Dreger is the shill-tastic front man…and knows where his Leaf toast is buttered.

  • WendelGilmour

    Agreed. A few changes, top down could make a big difference.

  • Uncle Otis

    Yaknowwhat Uncle Otis
    Not saying I’d tie the can to Nonis,simply that it appears Dave is in full swing damage control.
    Smells of fear.

  • Mind Bomb

    Yaknowwhat vinoa WendelGilmour   TBH Bro, I did, trully, especially before the Olympic break, when we were one of the Hottest teams in the League getting Points in most games. It seems I was wrong. I admit it, but then if we had gone 500 over the last 8 games things may have been different

    Sigh

  • WendelGilmour

    I don’t disagree with this, but this season, 3 collapses in a row, illustrates this core does not have the fight to win.

  • Uncle Otis

    Mind Bomb Yaknowwhat
    Morning Bomber
    Little pricks at that :)
    Hey,is that Phook snapping the pick of Noni at the MCC hiding in the practice net?
    Phook-arazzi

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    WendelGilmour  Not happy about that one bit, I hop Carlyle is gone but they really have to look at the core players that have been through 3 of these swoons now and make a hard assessment of their worth going forward. This is no longing a learning experience for many of them, it’s a predictable pattern.

  • HeatherRickAkin

    Thanks to Alec for the great write up . A couple of thoughts…. a ton of ballyhooing directed at both Carlyle and Nonis for moving out Grabbo and MacA . Hindsight is pretty close to 100%, but at the time , I was glad to see Mac go because after looking golden one night, he was a total non factor for the next few games. I think last year was a reflection of his career. This season, Mac has played really well for Ottawa, and if he maintains that, Ottawa has made a coup . Time will tell . When Clarkson was signed, albeit for bigger money, I was happy with the change ( DC in, MacA  out) . Looks bad at the moment, but lets give it another season (we have no choice, anyway). When Grabbo was sent packing, and it cost the club money, it was a bit embarrassing, but Grabbo had one monster year , struggled mightily against a big Bruin team (others did too, but not everyone), and you knew Nonis was going hard for Bolland . Kadri is akid, and a good one , and Bozak , despite injuries, is proving he is a very decent centre , either #1, or #2 …not bad at all. So lets get over losing Grabbo and MacA because Carlyle didn’t like them . Far more onerus, is Carlyle sticking with the likes of Orr, McLaren, McClement , Raymond , and overusing and over valuing them. That can even be extended a bit to Phaneuf , who is clearly a decent player (the pylon references are ridiculous ) but much much overused. Even when Dion was gassed, out he went. The man is a 20-22 min. /game player. Any more, and you may as well play Mark Fraser. Going forward, Carlyle has less chance of being back next year, than the Leafs have of making the playoffs.   Nonis et all had better hope a coaching change helps the team, because, due to bad contracts like Clarksons and Phaneufs, and the cap situation, you can pretty well rule out help coming via a big trade or two. Guys like Webber, Statsny and O’Reilly , even if they could be had, carry huge salary implications. We are stuck with what we have, give or take a couple of smart low level changes . By that I mean, guys like D’Amigo, Leivo, Granburg ….players of that ilk, come up, play well, and play for low pay. But, you gotta play em, not call them up and sit them in the press box, or the end of the bench. I am not saying we are flucked, because in spite of the collapse, there is a core to work with. We can improve with basically the crew we have. Its not a slam dunk, but it can happen. All the Leaf haters love whats happening now , but last year, they were a pretty quiet group. Lets hope we can shut them up next year.

  • vinoa

    Yaknowwhat vinoa WendelGilmour  If you didn’t think that this team was at least fighting for the playoffs then why did you even bother to watch until now? If this was a futile season as it was for Buffalo, Florida, Edmonton all season long there wouldn’t be this huge outrage over this season. Don’t think that made anyone stupid, if anything people watching expecting this were stupid….because if you knew all year long that this was the outcome for this season, then why bother to waste your time? And no it doesn’t make perfect sense for Nonis to hand out a 7 year contract to a player that we haven’t even seen with the team before extending the 2 biggest pieces of your core? That’s akin to Chicago locking up Shaw before Toews and Keith.

  • Yaknowwhat

    vinoa YaknowwhatUncle Otis Sorry…but I thought we were discussing Nonis’s moves and whether they were good or bad? Your now talking about the entire make up of our forward lines and how soft they are overall….that’s another story….and I agree they are soft….there is just not one reason why we struggled this year…there are several…injuries were a huge factor….that’s just bad luck….allowing way too many shots and getting out played on most nights….that’s coaching and players…our top 6 defense is just not good enough and our overall our forward lines our too soft….that’s player personnel…..the fact that this team now has a pattern of choking when the pressure was on…..to me …that’s a lack of leadership and character….there are many things wrong with this team..

  • traNsplantEdneWfie

    Can’t remember the last time I saw a fight in the NHL.  It’s becoming a dinosaur.

  • vinoa

    Yaknowwhat vinoa Uncle Otis  Injuries weren’t a factor for the Leafs. Injuries were a factor for the Pens and Wings. Nonis’ moves probably set the team back this season. At this point people are HOPING that Clarkson turns it around. No signs to prove that he will. People are literally looking for one good shift from Clarkson and saying, “Well hopefully he can play like this next year”.

  • Uncle Otis

    traNsplantEdneWfie
    Not quite…nor will they until its banished
    Here’s Iggy getting spoon fed from that prick Rinaldo just the other day
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ0F_WbZcyk