Reforming Randy Carlyle

Reforming Randy Carlyle

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Brendan Shanahan continues to make a lot of sense, at least in the words he speaks to the media.

His one action so far, however — sticking with head coach Randy Carlyle — has been widely panned.

It’s become clear how Shanahan views the situation, though, at least, and it sounds almost reasonable. He has respect for Carlyle, thinks he had an ‘off’ season worthy of some self-reflection, and believes he once was and can again be a good coach. Most of all, he seems to think Carlyle is open to and capable of adapting, something Carlyle must have successfully conveyed to him in the exit interviews in order to retain his job.

Between the upcoming introduction of new assistants and Shanahan’s own say on how this team should play, it sounds as though Randy Carlyle is going to be doing some changing. Worst case, Shanahan knows, if Carlyle stubbornly adheres to a three line approach and broken systems and the results continue as they were, he’ll likely promote one of the new assistants he’ll soon help pick while beginning the search process for the right candidate he felt wasn’t available this Spring. Should the Leafs be hanging around on Carlyle,  waiting to see if he can fix problems he hasn’t expressed a clear understanding of (by his own admission), possibly allowing a season to go to waste before calling a spade a spade? Well, no, which is why the decision remains more than a little off putting.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail hockey reporters yesterday, however, Shanahan nailed what was wrong with this team last season. He even incorporated the phrase ‘compete level’ in a way that made sense.

Let’s face it, I think we have certain strengths here. One of them is speed and an ability to counterattack. But in my own opinion it’s not where it needs to be. It’s not as complete as it needs to be. I think we have to have more mobility on the back end. I think we need to make more simple passes and clean exits. There needs to be more tape-to-tape passes coming out of our zone for the type of forwards we have.

“While the ability to score on the rush is unique and a great asset to have, to be able to counterattack, we need more compete level and time in the offensive zone. That’s not a formula that’s really all that foreign to a lot of teams. It’s a matter of applying it. So I think we’ve got some good pieces but I don’t think we’ve got all of them in the proper place right now. We have some personnel changes to make.

Shanahan also had pretty strong words about the ‘swarm’ defensive system which was railed against in many Leafs blogs throughout the entire season, mentioning the shots against and essentially describing it as a failure, or at least a mismatch for this group, and sounding more interested in a traditional system. It also seems us identifying Joffrey Lupul’s confusion with the defensive system as maybe indicative of how the players were viewing their own-zone instructions was indeed an accurate inference.

“I think there’s some changes [needed]. I think Randy also recognizes there are some changes to the system that need to occur. Specifically in our defensive zone. Whether the Leafs manage to get into the playoffs this year or not, I agree with many of the fans that – and I don’t think I’m saying anything shocking, it’s not a revelation – to be outshot that often, there’s something wrong.

“There are some things about the system that were identified, applications of who was on the bench and like I said the mix, where the message wasn’t getting through. That to me will be an important adjustment that needs to be made.”

Dion Phaneuf

Shanahan also spoke of a need to become more mobile on defence while giving a vote of confidence to captain Dion Phaneuf.

Shanahan pointed out that Captains are often considered bad leaders until they win, and sometimes winning doesn’t come quick or easy. He echoed the need to supplement Phaneuf from the defensive and leadership standpoints. He felt Phaneuf tried to do too much down the stretch, which is unfortunate but a redeemable quality (essentially, he cares a lot).

Regardless of how one feels about Phaneuf the player, he should only be traded if the Leafs are getting good value and improving the talent on the team, not in the name of some ambiguous culture/leadership change aimed at suddenly, magically, inspiring success. Meanwhile, stripping the Captaincy, which Shanahan also ruled out, seems to do more harm than good; provided the feeling is not that Phaneuf was a terrible Captain choice who by wearing the letter C is killing this franchise with terrible examples or advice, it would only seem to surround the Leafs‘ most important defenceman with more pressure, scrutiny and negative energy. In this market, if stripped of his letter just in time to begin a new contract worth $7 million a season, it might be something he would never recover from.

(Also, if Shanahan means what he says about a mobile defence, it should mean Jake Gardiner isn’t going anywhere unless the trade makes too much sense. And one wonders how the Leafs could hand Cody Franson another contract if this is the goal).

It’s all talk for now, and Leafs fans are well within their rights to be sick of “more talk,” but these were some promisingly sensible quotes coming out of a Leafs executive. The coach hasn’t changed, and Carlyle probably is still befuddled about what exactly went wrong last season, as his answers in the press conference would suggest. It really is still preferred that the Leafs would have hired a coach who can find answers for problems and demonstrate a clearer understanding of how to fix them. At a minimum, though, Shanahan’s lip service gives us some measure of hope that, while the head coach may not be new, the approach just may be.

But you’re well advised to wait and see for yourself.

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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]
2806 comments
mcloki
mcloki

The HNIC announcers are just brutal. 

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

At least the Rangers are showing some character and not cheering hard after every goal.

mcloki
mcloki

Embarassing the Habs might not be the smartest move.

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

Keep it up Prust, you tool. Embarrass yourself more.

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

Smurfs are learning what similar speed but bigger size causes.

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

Speed kills boys speed kills . 

loomx
loomx

PSA: The game is also on NBC.

mcloki
mcloki

and at the end of the period. Oh. MOntreal this one is done. Stick a fork in it.

mcloki
mcloki

thats a dagger to the heart

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

So Jim Hughson's resume must state that he is great at talking around the Montreal dicks he's constantly gargling.

mcloki
mcloki

That was a bullet by PK.

Alabama Maple Leaf
Alabama Maple Leaf

is there a website to watch the Memorial Cup if you live in the USA?

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

How the hell do you sing Ole Ole while losing?

Alabama Maple Leaf
Alabama Maple Leaf

I know it is sacrilege, but i am pulling for the HABS.  The only reason being the Rangers, Caps, and Bruins, are the only teams we get and the Rangers are forced fed to us weekly.  I found Hockey Night in Canada online so I am good for Saturday nights, but the rest of the week .............just those above

whalz
whalz

4pm sportsnet watch Finn and the storm. Tired of watching the Habs. Might aswell watch our prospects, Bibeau was awesome lets see what Finn brings today.

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

Too many men on the ice and they get away with it . Typical 

Bruffins
Bruffins

Andreas Johnson, Connor Brown, Fred Gauthier, Petter Granberg


rank them in order of who you think will be the best hockey player to worst

Bruffins
Bruffins

Andreas Johnson looks like Leo DiCaprio if he played hockey

Alabama Maple Leaf
Alabama Maple Leaf

Can we assume if Komarov signs with Detroit that Babcock isn't coming here?  I don't see Leo coming back to the Leafs if Carlyle is anything more than a short term fix until whoever Shanahan wants is available.

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

This isn't embarrassing them. This is playing the game and Montreal shitting the bed hard.

whalz
whalz

The French are dumb, :). No offense guys

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

I'm hoping for a Kings/Rangers cup final.

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

It's a song for victory and/or a championship. You're still losing. That's not how you use the song.

whalz
whalz

I'm looking fwd to that matchup

Alabama Maple Leaf
Alabama Maple Leaf

@dlb yeh  My point was he doesn't want to play for Carlyle and has said so.  Therefore if he signs with the Leafs can we take that as Randy being a short timer?

RandomScrub
RandomScrub

Come on son. The refs spoonfed the Habs the conference final.

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@RandomScrub  Might well be if the Kings keep playing like that . Hawks will be tough though 

GreekGod
GreekGod

@Alabama Maple Leaf @4evrblue @dlb yeh  

Guess you missed the part where he said the reason why he didn't resign with the Leafs was because he wanted to play for his country at the Olympics and playing in the KHL where he would get top 6 minutes would help him achieve that... and it did. The KHL had to also stop Leo from wearing his Leaf jersey and handing out Leaf merchandise to his team mates. The dude bleeds blue and white. He will be back. 

4evrblue
4evrblue

@Alabama Maple Leaf @4evrblue@dlb yeh I don't think thats what he meant. He said he really enjoyed his time here and said he'd love to return to toronto. His problem with his role was it wouldn't get him enough recognition to garner olympic consideration

Alabama Maple Leaf
Alabama Maple Leaf

@4evrblue @dlb yeh  after signing with the KHL.............He didn't say Randy's name, just his role with the Leafs when there did not play to his strengths.  Nor did it give him a chance to contribute offensively