Carlyle Returns

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Maple Leafs fans were promised a culture change, however you may define it, when Brendan Shanahan was hired last month. A few weeks later, GM Dave Nonis remains and, with Thursday’s announcement, so does his head coach. It has been clear for weeks that Nonis wanted Carlyle to stay and he was selling Shanahan on it. I’m now left to wonder:

  •  Maybe Nonis is a better salesman than we thought considering all the evidence suggesting Carlyle should have been fired.
  • At this point, Shanahan may be a figurehead more than anything. Unless he completely overrules Nonis to make a move or not, or to trade a guy or keep him, he hasn’t brought in his GM and he hasn’t brought in his coach. Sure, Shanahan will have a say in hiring of the assistant coaches to be, but largely this is the old guard still in charge in the key spots.

I will admit that I thought Carlyle was going to get fired. The first reason was that, with Nonis staying, this was the opportunity for Shanahan to put his first stamp on the organization. Not only did he not take that opportunity, he didn’t take even take part in the announcement.

I thought a coaching change was taking place for three pretty simple reasons.

  1. The first was that not one kid other than the highly touted Morgan Rielly stuck on the team this year. This organization faced a reasonable amount of injury problems this year (roughly middle of the pack in the league in man games lost), and has a very successful AHL team with an average age of 23. On a team that had the worst depth production in the league, they couldn’t find room to make any kid stick full-time? Meanwhile, division rivals Detroit and Tampa rode their kids into the playoffs. It would have been easier to stomach if they played the kids quite a bit and lost those games, but to watch them get limited or no opportunities at all and then proceed to tear up the AHL as per usual was a tough pill to swallow. That seemed like a big black eye to me.
  2. The second reason was that this was Carlyle’s team. The Leafs made major moves to bring in the type of players that Carlyle wanted and it backfired in a big way. There’s no need to go over the moves because we all know what they were, and most of them were bad. Had the Leafs brought back the same players that weren’t Carlyle guys and proceeded to miss the playoffs, I think we can all reasonably envision a scenario where “we need to give him his type of team” would have unfolded, but they already did to the best of their ability and it didn’t work. Now, the company line is that it is on the players and they need to change the culture in the room, a year after they already made major moves to do that and make their coach happy.
  3. The third reason is pretty simple: I think they underachieved. This should have been a playoff team in my mind and they crumbled down the stretch in part due to all their top players running out of gas from shouldering so much of the load throughout the season. I never would have predicted this team to make the playoffs in the West, but the East is weak, they are a cap team, and there are more than enough pieces here to at least finish top 8, in my mind.

But what’s done is done; Carlyle is staying and it has left me with three thoughts:

No win situation?

I suppose the Leafs could pull off a dramatic turnaround and become a top team and go far in the playoffs next season, but if they achieve a moderate amount of success (make the playoffs, lose in round one) my guess is a lot of people will say they either 1) Got lucky again, or 2) The assistant coaches changed things here and are the heroes. It is hard to envision a scenario where the Leafs don’t bring in an assistant that’s been a head coach before and can take over at some point if need be (Muller, Oates, etc.); as soon as the Leafs string together a few losses or a bad stretch – which is bound to happen because almost every team goes through it at some point in an 82 game season — the fans will already have their knives sharpened and will be eager to call for his head at the first sign of trouble. And so, if they win, it will be because the assistant coaches changed things (my guess as to the public perception, to be clear), and if they lose things will get nasty quickly in Leafs land.

Toronto is a really tough place for any coach to ply his trade, but in this scenario it is going to be ruthless.

“He could be gone by American Thanksgiving, don’t worry”

To be clear, I expect the Leafs to get off to a good start in October because this group seems to have a penchant for doing that and I imagine it will continue. The question is, will they tail off and crumble later in the year like they have in each of the last two 82-game seasons?

If they do, and then fire Carlyle in the middle of the season, they will be hiring from a position of weakness when there are less candidates available (because some available head coaches right now will get hired over the coming months) as opposed to hiring this summer when they can conduct a full-on search. That is how they got Carlyle in the first place.

They could always promote an AC and then perform a search in the summer of 2015, but what a wasted season the next one would be.

Elliotte Friedman speculated that Shanahan’s long-term guy isn’t available right now. Therefore, why would he fire Carlyle, hire a new guy, fire the new guy next year, and then have Shanahan hire his desired long-term guy? That is a fool’s game. How many times have we heard fans say “wait for next summer when ____ is available?” Ryan Getzlaf, Brad Richards, Sedin twins et al say “Hi.”

There’s a lot of speculation involved here, but this is what we’re left to wonder about currently.

Can you teach old dogs new tricks?

By no means is Carlyle under any obligations to share with the public and media his plans to change his systems and approach. That is understood, but he sure didn’t sound like a guy about to make significant changes to what he was doing. There was the comment that the players ran out of gas, but no mention of him playing the tar out of them and running them into the ground; instead, there was confusion as to why. Really, throughout the entire press conference, Carlyle continuously said he was “mind-boggled.” It didn’t sound very inspiring.

During the Olympic break, Carlyle spent the majority of it trying to think of ways to fix the defensive issues only for the team to return to play and proceed to totally collapse.

So, with that all in mind, it is tough to have faith in Carlyle coming up with the answers this time around and righting the ship (and if you’re thinking/hoping the assistant coaches will, remember my first thought where people will praise the ACs for a reasonable turnaround).

It is unknown how much say Dave Farrish had on the defensive line-up decisions (i.e.: Was it his call to healthy scratch Gardiner and Carlyle merely allowed it?), but as the defensive coach one has to think that he really managed the minutes, the pairings, and the deployment. Head coaches traditionally don’t get too involved in the defense very much, so it will be interesting to see how the new assistant coach manages the pairings. Gardiner-Phaneuf was never a regular thing and Phaneuf was played almost exclusively as a shutdown guy. Will that continue? It appeared Scott Gordon ran the power play, so we would have to think it was his call to play Phaneuf on the left side rather than the right where he is most successful. Will that continue? These are just a few questions of many as to what might actually change through a turn over of the assistant coaches.

I question if the system will be changed much and the head coach usually has ample say on the forwards throughout the game, but the defense is one area I think we could see a noted improvement. Of course, it will be all for not if every time the D look up to make a breakout pass the forwards have already blown the zone and are standing at the opposing blue line.

But, really, the coach will be the least of everyone’s worries if the GM guts the youth.

Interesting ending note: In Thursday’s press conference, Carlyle said assistant coaches usually handle special teams and noted that, when he was in Washington, he handled the penalty kill. How did their penalty kill do while he was there? 28th and 26th, respectively.

  • phaneufoundlander

    Are the Leafs really shopping Phaneuf?

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ Radar O’Rielly

    phaneufoundlander  According to Kipper.

  • darthNihilus

    If we are trading Phaneuf might as well trade the rest of the core too and begin the next rebuild. Its unbelievable how stupid this team is.

  • traNsplantEdneWfie

    News of the Leafs shopping Ph9 is awesome.  The mistake was made when we gave him the ‘C’ and you know it can’t be relinquished.  So, what do you do?  You trade him.  Although I like him as a player (most of the time) we need a better captain and you simply can’t strip a guy of the ‘C’ and give it to someone else.  He has to go.

  • Cameron19

    traNsplantEdneWfie  lol

  • Cameron19

    darthNihilus  Fan base is even worse. Just wait for all the idiots to show up.

  • Jordan29

    Ok, this is the last time Im going to respond to a coach thread. But seriously if you think its all end all and the world is over because Carlyle is back, your lying to yourself. Just stop and admit to yourself, the players are not good enough and thats the biggest reason we lost. Everyone thought getting rid of Wilson was the key, but yet other then a good 48 game season Carlyle has not had any different the RW. 
    FACE IT AS FANS AS MUCH AS YOU DONT WANT TO, but:
    -Kessel was not good enough down the stretch and did not compete every game
    -Phaneuf was down right terrible the last 20 games (maybe injured but still)
    -Gunnarsson was not a #2 defence all year, nor should he but he was NOT good enough
    -Franson was just terrible all year
    -Gleason was ok but nothing more the a 5-6 guy
    -Kadri was very inconsistent all year and a shadow of last year
    -Lupul was just terrible for many stretches of the season and looked disinterested
    -Reimer had a disaster second half of the year
    -Bolland played well for 15 games, then injured, when he was back he was terrible (understandably)
    -Kulemin was invisible for the second half of the season
    -Mcclement was nowhere near as effective as his 2012-2013 season
    -Clarkson was a complete disaster all around this year
    -Gardiner was inconsistent but played well the second half

    Bozak, JVR, Rielly, and Bernier were pretty much the only players would cant sit back and expect more from this season.

    Changing the coach is just a way for fans to dance around the fact that the team is not that good, and we overrated the players at the beginning of the season. 
    If anyone should be fired its Nonis and Lieweke. They are the ones who got rid of Grabovski, replaced him with dumping picks for Bolland, now likely to lose Bolland UFA and pretty much showed they have no clue what they are thinking because those moves contradict everything the organization has been doing the past 4-5 years. 
    Im sorry but firing Burke still looks like the biggest issue to the team. He would have never made the Bolland deal, never bought out Grabo, and never signed Clarkson to 7 years we all know that

  • Cameron19

    As far as the no-win situation for Carlyle, I would just add that it really depends how he wins.  If he somehow turns around his god awful decline as a coach and starts winning again, the smart fans will ask how he is winning. We cannot keep winning being out-shot and out-possessed 2-1 every night, and call that a success.  That is luck, and we know that it falls apart at some point. 

    Maybe Carlyle wasn’t managing the D pairs, and wasn’t the one putting Phaneuf off his wing on the PP, and all the other little stupid decisions that went on – but he was the head coach. At the end of the day, all those decisions went through him. He let them go. He didn’t step in and say “you know what…”, when we’ve been led to believe that his years of experience would allow him to do precisely this. No, he just watched, apparently oblivious to the problems.

  • darthNihilus

    traNsplantEdneWfie  Who is going to play defense? Who is going to shut down the other team’s top players? The only way this kind of deal can be justified is if by some miracle Phaneuf was a cancer in the dressing room – which is very highly doubtful.

  • Jordan29

    Cameron19  Carlyle was not a good coach last year no doubt, and I seen this for 2 years (you did too I remember, but nobody else did apparently) but him being back next year does not hurt the team really, they are still developing young players. After all, hes seemed to get the most out of Kadri, Gardiner, and Rielly so far hasnt he?

  • Cameron19

    Jordan29  Jordan, before I even read this post of yours, how do you respond to the FACT that every player saw a decline under Carlyle, and that every player that leaves sees an immediate boost? You can run down the individual players all you want, but if you’re trying to tell me that 20+ individuals just all happened to have two years in decline under Carlyle by coincidence, well then I’ve got some junk I’d love to talk to you about purchasing.

  • Jordan29

    traNsplantEdneWfie  ya man this is exactly like a video game where the captain has special powers and can do anything when he has the C. Thats the issue

  • Jordan29

    Cameron19 Jordan29  man, the players just didnt look the same after the game 7 boston loss. Its like they never rebounded. I blame everyone, but judging by the fact we wont be contender next year, RC coming back isnt like the end of the world to me

  • Jordan29

    Ricky_Vaives_slapshot Jordan29  I dont mind Phaneuf as captain. If he was as horrible as people say, Kessel wouldnt have resigned no doubt

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Cameron19  If that drastic of a change happens I doubt he’ll get the lions share of credit. I’m sure you can see that too.

  • Cameron19

    Jordan29 Cameron19  Well, according to Gardiner and Rielly they felt they were at their best when they stopped listening to Carlyle’s nonsense.  Kadri’s burst in play came from a lot of things, but I think any coach would have seen that. He was excited to get a real chance – which you can credit Carlyle with – but he also had a huge head start on the league last year, having been in the AHL skating during the lockout. Slowed down this year once Carlyle started his usual fuckery. 

    Beyond that, I think it’s silly to credit coaches with the development of young players – especially highly drafted ones.  Was it Michel Therrien who allowed Crosby to break out?  Would MacKinnon not be very good if Roy wasn’t behind the Avs bench?

  • Cameron19

    darthNihilus traNsplantEdneWfie  You can’t win this argument with these people man. I’ve decided to just laugh at them.

  • Jordan29

    Cameron19 Jordan29  Im not saying its RC, Im just saying he doesnt slow the players down and thats all we should be worried about now as we are still rebuilding

  • Jordan29

    Cameron19 Jordan29  also I would like to see where gardiner and rielly said this because just yesterday I read Rielly saying he likes RC a lot

  • Cameron19

    Jordan29 Cameron19  What else is he going to say? In the exit interview Gardiner said it. Something like “Me and Riles felt we were at our best once we stopped worrying about all the details and just started playing our game”.

  • Cameron19

    Anthony Petrielli Cameron19  Yea, for sure, I’m just saying that it’s wildly unlikely to happen in the first place.

  • Cameron19

    Ricky_Vaives_slapshot Jordan29  I’m pretty shocked how many people think the ‘C” is something that actually matters.

  • Mind Bomb

    Cameron19 darthNihilus  Morning Cam :)

  • Cameron19

    Ricky_Vaives_slapshot Cameron19 Jordan29  I honestly don’t think Phaneuf gives a shit about all that.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Cameron19 Anthony Petrielli  Hahah. Just covering all my bases here.

  • traNsplantEdneWfie

    Cameron19 darthNihilus traNsplantEdneWfie  You may not be winning it with Shanny either LOL!

  • Cameron19

    Mind Bomb Cameron19 darthNihilus  lol. Morning. Accept my trade offer.

  • Cameron19

    Ricky_Vaives_slapshot Cameron19  It’s a nonsense variable that people who don’t want to discuss the importance of systems and coaching use to blame players they personally don’t like for largely fictitious reasons.

  • MaxwellHowe

    One way or another, a coach has to motivate his players to excel.  I accept the Leafs lack depth, but shuffling all the blame on the players is misguided.  Lazy hockey players do not reach the NHL.  Anyone who reaches that level put years of practice and dedication into it.  The problem was Carlyle was either not clear about how to execute or failed to convince them of the worthiness of his plan or his plan sucked.

  • Mind Bomb

    Cameron19 Mind Bomb darthNihilus  Hhaha throw in Pavalski :))))))

  • Burtonboy

    So Kypreos says the Leafs are shopping  Phaneuf as a  result of Shanny’s internal assessment yet he never said who his sources were. Dreger comes out this morning and said he talked with Nonis yesterday and nothing has changed and they have had no conversations with any teams about Phaneuf since the deadline.  Nonis position on this stuff has never changed as far as I know . He’s always said  would trade any player for the right deal . Believe who you wish .

  • Cameron19

    Mind Bomb Cameron19 darthNihilus  Go jump off a bridge.

  • T K O

    Cameron19 Jordan29Who are these players that declined over two years. Kessel better, JVR better, Bozak best year, Lupul yes, Kadri even, Kulemin..even…Raymond probably earned a new contract somewhere, Clarkson (not RC’s fault he was terrible) Franson had a breakout year last year sucked this year, Gardiner even…….

  • Mind Bomb

    Cameron19 Mind Bomb darthNihilus  Ironically I am at one as we speak lol

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy  Which I’m sure is exactly what Kipper heard too, and he simply chose to relay the message the way he did to generate interest. How many times do we have to fall for this nonsense. It speaks volumes that TSN only posted the info about Spezza yesterday and ignored the garbage about Phaneuf.

  • MaxwellHowe

    I’m convinced this only really  makes sense if Dion asked to be traded.  Otherise, its tank city, unless Nonis has some fantastic scheme in mind, which i doubt.

  • reenergized

    MaxwellHowe  you mean the same plan that got them to within 2 minutes of round two last year?

  • Anthony Petrielli

    MaxwellHowe  Coaches tend to either motivate or calm their team down (like a Vigneault type).

  • Cameron19

    Ricky_Vaives_slapshot Cameron19  Because blaming a letter is incredibly silly. Do you think taking the letter off his jersey is going to change the fact that he doesn’t have a decent partner to play with? Do you think it’s going to change the fact Carlyle uses him on his wrong side?  Do you think it’s going to change the fact he gets the hardest minutes in the league bar absolutely none?  Is it going to make his forwards stop collapsing and giving up the boards?  What exactly is it going to change?

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Burtonboy  If Kipper is right I’m surprised Nonis still has a job considering what he told Dreger . I say poppycock

  • Cameron19

    reenergized MaxwellHowe  Hard truth is, most were still playing a Ron Wilson game most of last year. As the year wore on, we started losing more as Carlyle’s system took hold. Being out-shot and out-possessed by wider and wider margins.

  • Cameron19

    Mind Bomb Cameron19 darthNihilus  Oh, well then definitely don’t jump! lol

  • reenergized

    Burtonboy Cameron19  why can’t they both be right? … Dion is being shopped … but there haven’t been actual discussion about the details of a trade with any one team yet?

  • MLHS_Luke

    I wonder if the team gave up on Carlyle when I did – after being brutally out-coached in the third period of Game 7?  

    In any event, we have a sub-par coach, a sub-par team, and our rivals love it.

  • Cameron19

    Jordan29 Cameron19  It is to me, because it will mean another 7-12th place finish in all likelihood. A mediocre draft pick for a mediocre team.

  • Burtonboy

    reenergized Burtonboy  Possible but I kinda doubt that’s the case

  • Cameron19

    T K O Cameron19 Jordan29  You would have to look at the advanced stats, but it’s universal. The charts have been posted here before. It dates back to his last 3 years in Anaheim, too.

  • reenergized

    Cameron19 reenergized MaxwellHowe  Wilson didn’t wnat hte face punchers or the aggresive cycle game … our team last year had the most fighting majors in the league (I think) and had Orr and FML on it. Wilson had sent Orr to the Marlies so I don’t think it was RW system … could have been a combination of both as we did still generate lots of Offence off the rush

  • Cameron19

    reenergized Cameron19 MaxwellHowe  So because Orr was playing 6 minutes a night we weren’t playing a Ron Wilson game. Are you serious right now?

  • reenergized

    Burtonboy I think Kipper is a idiot, but he’s been right on a lot of player issues lately …