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If you actually had a choice, who would you like to see behind the Leaf bench going forward: Carlyle or Eakins?

I guess it came to me as I followed some of the reaction from the Marlies after the unfortunate situation that cropped up at the end of the Game 3 overtime loss.  By now, Leaf/Marlie supporters know the officials missed a call that would have meant “no goal” for Norfolk in a game that still might be going on had that goal not counted.

But rather than moan and groan, Marlie head coach Dallas Eakins responded with class, staying on the high road the entire time.  He later tweeted that the AHL is a developmental league; that everyone makes mistakes.  So, he said, let’s “move on”.

It struck me as a gracious response and quite genuine, too.  This is particularly noteworthy in a sporting world that loves to ascribe blame (we all do it as fans, too).  Players too often do it.  Coaches and General Manager’s often do it, as well.  Rather than be truly accountable or accept responsibility, the easy thing is to blame someone else- including the officials.

In fairness, I thought, for what it’s worth, that Norfolk was the better team as that game went on.  Ben Scrivens saved the Marlies’ bacon, for sure.  That doesn’t take away the bad call, but perhaps provides a bit of non-emotional context.  The Admirals have been the better team so far in the first three games and deserve to lead the series. Still, it was a very bad break for the Marlies.

Yet Eakins represented the Leafs very well on this one, and his stance perfectly reflected the “no complaints, no excuses” philosophy that  is supposed to be at the core of Maple Leaf organizational values (though some of us question whether the big team always practices what it preaches along those lines, since there have been an awful lot of public excuses these past couple of seasons).

But my point is this: Eakins has been all class in his time in Toronto, including throughout this latest episode that went against his team.  He has also—quite properly—received significant credit from fans, media, the Leaf brass and NHL folks alike for his performance in harnessing the skills of a very young Marlies squad, especially this past season.  He has led them to the Calder Cup finals and they have been very deserving of their success.  They may not win the championship, but they are clearly one of the best-coached squads in the second-best league in the hockey world.

This all got me thinking…while there’s nothing that can be done about it now, if you could go back in time and decide who the next coach of the Leafs would be, who would you choose?  Would it be Burke’s choice, Carlyle, who won a Cup with Burke in Anaheim?  Would it be Eakins, who has guided the Marlies to such promising results—while also developing an even better player pipeline than we might otherwise have here in Toronto?

Or would you choose none of the above—and go with someone outside the organization?

We all remember the “reasons” Burke gave for not promoting Eakins when Ron Wilson was fired late in the season.  Were you supportive of his rationale at the time?  Has Eakins' worthiness changed at all in your mind?

The fact that the roster will be re-shaped somewhat (a lot?) this summer may shift the equation somewhat, when it comes to who the “right” guy might be.  But who’s the coach you have in mind now for this team?

I always appreciate the informed views that are posted here, so send your thoughts along.  Who’s the guy you wish would be behind the Leaf bench, to lead this particular team in 2012-’13- and beyond?


  1. With this Leafs team of Phaneuf,Kessel and a TBD veteran in net alternating with Reimer/Scrivens, I'll take Carlyle and his Cup.Many overlook the point that had Eakins been promoted when Wilson was axed,the Marlies would likely have not got to where they are now.With Eakins under a 3 year deal and so many Marlies on the verge of making the leap and some high draft picks to come,I'd call this a good problem to have, for once, in Leafland.

  2. Good point, Sean. It's a nice problem, as you say, to have a really good coach "in the bullpen"!

  3. Carlyle is a place holder. When the team truly transitions to a youthful squad in a year or so, Eakins is the man - if he's still available. Consider Carlyle as a mid-term "interim" coach. A well paid one.

  4. I would have kept the Leafs in the hands of Wilson's assistants until the summer, then brought up Eakins, several Marlies players and a winning attitude to the big club. Burke's treating the Leafs like they're only a few steps removed from contending, but they're still a young, developing team & Eakins has worked well with one of those.

  5. Hadn't thought of Carlyle in that way, Anon. Interesting.

  6. I wonder, Peregrine, if Burke actually considered the approach you mention- or if he had Carlyle on his radar all the way along?

  7. Im with Peregrine all the way. Wilson had to go, but I think that Eakins is the man to run this team and get the most out of the youngsters both on the big club now, and those coming in the next couple years. I think it was a very bad decision, in my mind the worst Burke has made with the club, but hopefully Im proven wrong.

  8. Thanks Anon...I guess we're in that "wait and see" how this turns out mode...

  9. The pressure on Burke must be enormous. By and large, he is displaying fortitude under great scrutiny. There have been some mistakes for sure, and some moves may have been hasty. I might place the Carlyle hiring in the panic move category. I would very much like to be wrong about this judgment, and frankly, I have no business arguing about anyone wearing a Stanley Cup ring. Therefore, I am hoping it turns out be a shrewd coaching move. But really, it has the distinct odor of panic to it. Personally, I would have preferred retention of Wilson in some other managerial capacity, temporary replacement by Greg Cronin or Scott Gordon during the collapse and an off-season head coaching move, if needed, under cooler conditions with more candidates to consider. Nevertheless, I could be wrong, and maybe it was imperative to take Carlyle while he was available. File this move as indeterminate for now, I guess. Dallas Eakins' performance is nothing short of impressive. Just listen to him speak. Nevertheless, I am with Burke on this one, he will benefit from another year coaching in the AHL, and very likely become a successful NHL coach before long.

    I am hoping that the Leaf management team is not buying into what I am going to call the “Veteran Goaltender Myth”. The Veteran Goaltender Myth imagines that the Leafs poor defensive performance and Ron Wilson’s inept goaltending management will be transformed by the insertion of a veteran goaltender into the lineup. This myth has been repeated so often by the fan base, journalistic media, and Leaf management that it has become unquestioned conventional wisdom. The Veteran Goaltender Mythos appears to be constructed on the false premise that save percentage is a neutral stat that can be transferred from one team to another. In other words, Goalie X playing for Team Y will replicate his Team Y save percentage on the Leafs In fact, the save percentage is a team/individual stat that is frequently not replicable from one team context to another. Moreover, the Veteran Goaltender Myth is being fuelled by job insecurity, no doubt, being felt across the Leaf management team. Consequently, there is a relationship between panic and the belief that a veteran goaltender will remedy various strata of incompetence in team play and team coaching.

    I am not buying it. If hockey were that simple we would all have Stanley Cup rings. The failure of the Leaf team is, in fact, a team failure. Our desire to remedy the problem, as if replacing parts of a machine, can lead to overemphasis on one deficiency or another and personalize it via a scapegoating process, even when the greater problem lies elsewhere. Consequently, I was happy to hear Brian Burke speak optimistically about Ben Scrivens' NHL future in yesterday’s Marlies broadcast, because the future lies more in a Quick-like solution than the false promise of a quick solution, if you get my drift. Let’s just say I am leery of emptying the vault for a veteran goalie in the false hope that the teams’ failure will be solved by a heroic figure riding in to save the day. For that reason, I have been arguing for a “soft deal” or no deal when it comes to Roberto Luongo, mainly because, I think that the Veteran Goaltender Myth is largely a myth, and potentially a dangerous one with scarily long legs. Sure, there are quality veteran goaltenders that could help our cause. And one or two might become available. If a trade is made however, I hope that it is made with a cool head, and that it is not based on panic or false hope.

  10. It's interesting, Bobby C., that you mention the notion of retaining Wilson in an alternative management capacity. I've always found it odd that so often, a GM dumps a coach as though he has no other use to the organization. Surely Wilson would have been an excellent sounding-board, etc.

    I realize coaches like to coach, but the guy is already on the payroll. I'm guessing Wilson wanted no part of that, if it were even offered, but it's a good thought.

    Time will tell whether Carlyle was the "right" fit for this team.

    To your broader point, I understand exactly what you are saying. I intend to post later today about exactly where the Leafs "are", and I think they remain a ways away. That is, one big move won't be enough to suddenly put them among the contenders. (When the perenially-struggling Bruins traded for Phil Esposito in 1967 and the huge trade turned the franchise around, they already had Bobby Orr. No one is Orr, but we don't have that kind of difference-maker to build around.

    Luongo is an intriguing option, just not one I think solves, as you cite, a deeper issue. I prefer a home-grown solution, if one is available. As I suggested in a recent post, who was Mike Smith two years ago in people's minds? Yet, he is now considered to be, based on this past season, one of the top five goalies in hockey. Goalies generally take time to develop.

    Thoughtful post as always, Bobby C. Thanks.

  11. For now, it is a win-win. We have both Carlyle and Eakins and both in the environment they are best at - Carlyle in the NHL and Eakins raising the youth.