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Carlyle stays: what about the players?

Maple Leaf management has extended Randy Carlyle’s contract, though he will move forward with a new coaching staff.  The decision will not satisfy those Leaf faithful who believed strongly that the veteran coach had not adjusted to the talents of the roster handed to him, or to the way the game is played these days.

In my view, the extension, while a vote of confidence of sorts for the coach, does not guarantee his long-term employment here.  I see this as giving him one last chance.  That his assistants were jettisoned suggests he has precious little wiggle room. The security blanket is gone, as it is for Nonis.

I guess my question now is: what about the players?  If management thinks Carlyle is still the ‘right’ guy to lead the team, does that mean that they will be looking to shuffle the roster to ensure it can play the way the coach wants them to play?  Or does management believe this is still a young team on the cusp of success in the Eastern Conference, so few if any changes are needed?

As I’ve mentioned here before, I no longer see the Leafs as a very young team.  I realize they are on paper, but when you go through the roster, we see a lot of players with a lot of NHL experience already.  Some of them may still be improving, but is the ceiling high enough in most cases to give us a sense that this roster, as currently constituted, can be a serious contender?

The playoffs are always an eye-opener.  I have no doubt that if the Leafs had made the spring dance, they, too, would have played harder than they did in the regular season—just as they did a year ago against the Bruins.  All teams give their all at playoff time. The Leafs would be no different.

But if we step back and try to offer a realistic assessment, regardless of who coaches this bunch, it seems to me roster change is necessary.  We can make the argument that we have a very productive first line and on paper, at least, a second line that should certainly match up with many in the East.  After that, though, it is difficult to feel that the Leafs are ready to do battle with the best teams in the Conference, though I tried to make the argument that they could this past season. 

Clearly, few free agents want to come here.  I’m trying to think of top-end players who signed on to play with the Leafs over the past fifteen years. Was Curtis Joseph the last?

We tried signing a productive grinder (Clarkson) last summer, but overpaid in doing so.  He may still rebound and contribute, but the jury is out.

Do we have anyone in the system who will become more than a possible contributor, a replaceable third or fourth line player?

At the end of the season, I suggested there were very few “untouchables” on the current roster. I pointed to Bernier, Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Rielly.  And I wondered aloud if we could win with Kessel as the flagship forward.

For me the Carlyle decision gives pause.  I’ve acknowledged that I supported Carlyle for most of his tenure here, and still believe he is a capable NHL coach.  But something was missing this past season.  Even when the team was winning, many fans were left wondering how we did it.  If the big line did not score, and if the goaltending was not superb, we were in trouble. It finally caught up with us.

Just changing assistant coaches is not the answer.  It never is.  The Leafs need to shuffle the deck.  Surely management knows the kind of players we need to become more than just another team in the East. (I still feel as though, watching the Western Conference teams in the playoffs, most of them are on an entirely different level than teams in the East.)

Will Nonis be able to mold the roster Carlyle needs by September?


  1. Look this is an absolute disaster. Last summer was all about getting rid of the players who couldn't play Carlyle's system and getting guys who could. At the start of last year every single pundit out there said this is a Carlyle team, that management had give him the players to succeed. Well we all know how that turned out. So what is Nonis going to double down and so the same thing all over again?
    The problem is that Carlyle's system is no longer valid in todays NHL. The dump and chase style of game is done in the NHL and the Leafs have resigned a coach who epitomizes the dump and chase game. La, Chi, Bos, Min, Ana, Pit are the new style. These teams very rarely if ever dump the puck in. Its all about offense from the back end, puck possession and never giving it up.
    Now that they have kept Carlyle they have to change players but what exactly can they do. The cap isn't going up as much as first though because of the low Canadian dollar. Its projected to go up to around 69 million, so basically an increase of 5 million. Most of that is eaten up in the salary increases to Phanuef and Kessel alone this year. Are they going to trade for new players? Well who do they trade? Reimer has no trade value at all. Is it Gardiner or Kadri, really the only two guys who could command a nice return? That would be ludicrous. Show me another 23 year old second line center that had 50 points this year. You can't because Kadri is the only one. 50 points for any second line center is excellent return one that is 23 and in his first full season is outstanding. Maybe we could trade Gardiner and play Gleason more or if not him Gunnarsson or Franson. Skating defense that think offense first are the new norm in the NHL today. Give me a d man who creates more chances for than he does against (as Gardiner does) than a slow moving pylon who blocks shots and hits, the two most useless stats in the game today.
    I don't have high hopes for this team moving forward. I think they are a long ways from being a contender and getting further with every decision they make.

    1. Good to hear from you, Willbur. Every few years the style that wins seems to change. Whether the Leafs can adapt, I don't know.

  2. Oh I don't think its as simple as the style changing because of who won the cup Michael. This is a fundamental change to the way the game itself is played. The entire way the game is thought about and then executed on the ice is changing from the way the game has been played in the past. The game itself is different. I once read a very interesting article coming out of the 2005 lockout. Basically is stated that we wouldn't really see the full effects of the changes being made to the game, less obstruction, no red line etc. for about a decade. That was because in about 10 years or so you would start to see players who had played under the new rules their entire life start making it to the NHL. Well here we are roughly a decade later and the really good players have been here for a year or two already Doughty, Pietrangelo, Seguin to give some examples. The third and fourth line guys are starting to show up now and as a result the game is played at a completely different pace and in a fundamentally different fashion. Systems that worked in 2007 don't anymore. I wrote here when Carlyle was hired that he is a good coach. However, to be an elite coach one has to show an ability to adapt as Hitchcock and Quenville have done for two examples. I was willing to see how it would work out. Well here we are 3 years later and Carlyle has shown no inclination to change from what worked in the past but clearly doesn't in today's game. He will continue to pound square pegs into round holes. He is a dinosaur and like all dinosaurs will soon go extinct. Too bad he has to drag my beloved Leafs down with him.

  3. Michael,

    This is clearly the single most depressing day I have ever had as a Leafs fan. I have suffered a lot. I really don't deserve this kind of abuse. Not only is Randy staying on as coach for next season, he gets two more years to try and turn the clock back to 2006. Wow.

    No one anywhere has been able to tell me why Randy should be the coach of this team without saying, he's a good coach, or he's won a Stanley Cup. Not one shred of evidence can be put forth on any level to suggest that he has any more clue as to how to motivate, teach, and relate to his players than any other member of the huge coaching fraternity. There is mounting evidence however, to the contrary. That he is an anchor, not a sail, in any number of quantifiable factors, is easily backed up with more than the eye test.

    It is safe to say that there is no hope for next year that any of the young players with the Marlies will see any time at all in Toronto with the Leafs. This team continues to do things that defy any measure of intelligence, and seem proud of it to boot.

    Can Nonis mold the roster Randy needs before the start of the season? Probably not. They are up against the cap, have incredibly little talent in the minors, 29th ranked team prospect wise by The Hockey News. They are in no position to sign free agents. Scott Neidermyer, and Chris Pronger are out of the NHL. Who would want to play for this obvious garbage fire of a team? If I was a free agent and Nonis called, as well as a team like St. Louis, Colorado, or any other well run young team. I would tell Dave that he needs to pay me double what those good teams want to pay me. Because, one of those teams has talent like Nathan McKinnon on the third line. Toronto has Jay McClement, no contest folks. Mile high, here I come.

    For me the question isn't if Nonis can provide the team that Carlyle needs, it is can he provide the team that Carlyle wants? And I sure as H E double hockey sticks hope he can. A big, dumb, slow team full of guys who can fight, and play dump and chase. If Nonis can do this, a top two pick is in the future, the very near future. Maybe even dare I dream, a first overall choice. The entire management team, one that is so unwilling to embrace new ideas, and new ways, even though they aren't very new, or even difficult to comprehend, will be shown the door.

    It will be then, and only then, it seems that this franchise will be able to begin to rebuild the right way. Kessel will be retired, Phaneuf as well, probably Bernier. Someday I hope to wake up and feel hope and promise at being a Leafs fan. I am much more likely to win the lottery, and entirely likely to be dead and buried before the Leafs are anything more than an embarrassment.

    I hate this team with every fibre of my being, almost as much as I hate myself for putting up with them, and liking them.

    1. I know you've discussed your concerns on this subject here in the past, Jim. You share Willbur's frustration.

    2. An excellent post Jim. Especially your last sentence!

    3. Thanks Steve, darn nice of you to say.

  4. I was hoping the meetings in Vegas were just a clever ruse to lure the coaching and management staff into the desert and leave them there. Almost too disgusted to post. At some point we have to look at this organization as a whole. We can go on blaming players ( at times justified) as we have for years but at the end of the day it's the organization that drafts them, develops them, trades for them, decides who coaches them and lets them walk for nothing, or worse, pays for them to do so.. Then they start the whole process again. I really hoped for change. To me this is just the same old organization "spitting down our necks and telling us it's raining". I'm not looking forward to learning how many more synonyms Randy can find for "confused" and "baffled". I have some synonyms for the brain trust of the Leafs.

    ( In case I forget) Have a wonderful spring and summer Michael and everyone here, full of pleasant surprises and hopefully some good fishing. Colleen

  5. I think it is a sham for the three coaches to be released, as they are the least responsible people for last season’s results. The move was a way to shake things up while giving everyone else a do over. It was a strategic move and the assistants were the pawns sacrificed to make it.

    This was also, I think, an attempt to send a message that the players, not Randy, are held responsible for last year’s failures. If the Leafs had brought in a new head coach, there would have been the inevitable period of time where the players were excused while adapting to the new coach. With his contract extension it tells the players that even if they don’t like what they’re hearing from Randy, that management insists they execute his system. Or they’ll leave, one assumes.

    Perhaps we’ll see some significant player moves too. We will see soon enough. But if player moves are done with the same philosophy as was firing the assistant coaches, we will see 3rd or 4th liners traded, not those on the top two lines.

    The firing of the assistant coaches was, then, a very calculated move. But I suspect the moves say that Nonis may have cashed in his chips with Shanahan. If that's so and Nonis has gone all-in on his coach, and if things don’t work out next year, I think we’re going to see not just Randy gone, but Nonis too.

    1. I agree, Steve, that both Nonis and Carlyle now are in a position where results are key.

  6. I think you touched on an important aspect of all this, Colleen- the Leafs have not always had the best record relating to player development. I know that can mean a lot of things, and they may still not be where they should be in that regard.

    Have a wonderful summer as well. I hope you'll drop by VLM from time to time.

  7. Hi Michael:

    I find the latest decision coming out of MLSE hard to believe. I would imagine 29 other organizations are having a hey-day making TML jokes - perhaps overcome Mayor Ford jokes. Since they are removing "assistants". this may be good time to get rid of a few assistant general managers?

    I wish to revise my last post, where I suggested that if MLSE was serious about "Accountability", Carlyle and Nonis would be gone. I should have added "if sane heads prevailed".

    For interest's sake, I decided to go back to the Maple Leaf's previous Stanley Cups in 1964 and 1967 to look for a common thread. Lo and behold, I was given a son in 1964 and a daughter in 1967. This theory blew up in 1977, when we had another daughter. Since this theory is obviously not fool-proof and dangerous to our health, I do not believe it would be a good idea to try this approach again.

    It is hard to discuss player movement when there is minimal confidence that the right steps will be taken. From past experience, there should be plenty of opportunities for second guessing.

    Note: I suspect my son will cancel our GameCenter subscription as we used primarily to watch Leaf games.

    1. You were doing great until '77, Ralph (RLMcC)!

      It's difficult to think the Leaf faithful will feel full confidence in management at this point. Your son may not be alone!

  8. You know, Michael, I'm a lifelong fan, but today I really wondered why this team deserves my support. It's as if everyone at MLSE drank the Kool Aid and now keeps repeating the same glassy-eyed mantra: we just had a bad finish, we can correct it. We didn't just have a bad finish - WE HAD A BAD SEASON! By any standard, we were awful. The coaching was abominable. The players were befuddled. The oft-talked about "system" was nowhere in evidence! And we reward the architect of this failure, and that's what it was, with an extended contract? Ken Hitchcock only got one year!
    I don't understand it. This so clearly the wrong decision - we're actually keeping the guy who didn't know how to roll 4 lines, the guy who plays the plodders over the kids, the guy who sticks to his line-matching plan whether it's working or not, the guy who destroyed Reimer's confidence, the guy who got the team he wanted and did a worse job than the previous year? In what other business is this possible? By his own admission, Carlyle didn't know how to stop the disaster last year. So what's going to magically change?
    You ask "what about the players"? Well, I can tell you a lot of them won't be happy. There's no love lost between Carlyle and a number of them, and it shows. Contrary to management belief, we aren't "just a player away". So there'd better be a humongous blockbuster trade coming, because we aren't going anywhere with the horses we've got.
    Today's decision was a huge corporate middle finger raised to the fans. It'll be business as usual in Leafland next year, and I guess for the foreseeable future. Keep the suckers happy and let the dollars roll in.

    1. I think there is a lot of disappointment among Leaf supporters, Gerund. You raise relevant questions and it appears the Leaf brass has chosen to look at the glass as half full. Not sure why.

  9. Simply amazing! Where else could you fail in such a manner as this team and not only survive but be rewarded?! When Nonis spoke of the problems with the team he never ever considered coaching as an issue, always sticking up for Carlyle. They really believe that this can be fixed with 3 new assistants? Be real! Here we are in May and all we have to look forward to is NEXT off season, oh the despair........

    1. Fans need an injection of hope when things aren't going the way we want. Management did not deliver.

  10. This is clearly a message to some of the roster that they better start implementing the message of the coach and management... clearly, somebody (bodies) are trade fodder now.

    Will Nonis be able to mold the roster Carlyle needs by September?

    That's a good question... if we don't see a couple significant moves that 'change the culture' by September, I would suspect a short term massaging of the lineup to provide an opportunity to 'showcase' the guys who they hope will be able to bring comparable value back into the fold.

    This decision definitely places the writing on the wall for James Reimer (which does not mean a certain trade by September, but likely sooner than later.

    I wouldn't call the firing of the assistant coaches a 'ringing endorsement' for Randy, but I am interested to see how open he will be to changing up the system and player usage issues now that we expect a higher cap ceiling and I'm wondering how much he agrees with suggested changes from management. Guess we're in 'wait and see' mode!

    1. I wonder if this decision will only create more uncertainty, Gerund.

  11. Hi Michael,

    Long time no post (from me)! I've been busy preparing to return to Canada (from Japan) this June. Can you imagine I was a bit concerned back in February, when I booked our flights, that I might miss watching some important Leafs playoff games with my Canadian friends before I got back? Thankfully, the team tanked, and I'm watching the playoffs over here with less interest than I might have had.

    I was also waiting to hear some interesting Leafs news since Shanahan was added to the bloated MLSE front office corps. Well, we got it! I think it's likely true that Carlyle will be on somewhat of a short leash, along with Nonis, when next season begins.

    Both are culpable for mismanaging assets-Carlyle, his young players, and Nonis, the cap space. We all watched with awe when Nonis managed to sign Kadri, Franson, and a few others with almost nothing to spend. However, the resources burned on Clarkson et al made it impossible for Nonis to pick up anyone at the trade deadline while limiting his flexibility to move players up from the Marlies. Carlyle's lack of success implementing any kind of effective defensive system is hilariously obvious, as is his toxic relationships with a few ex-players and perhaps a few current players in Reimer, Gardiner, an Kadri.

    So Carlyle's assistants were fired to send a message perhaps, plus the assistants are ostensibly responsible for the special teams units that underperformed. I also wonder who will be gone next from the players...

    Good luck to Reimer, Kadri, and Gardiner at the international rinks. Hopefully they will once again show their impressive skills and inspire management to keep them on board. Well, at least Kadri and Gardiner; I assume Reimer is done in Toronto (too bad).

    Go Leafs! Go Fishing!


    1. You've followed from a distance but you've well captured what transpired this past season, Matt.

      Like you, I'll be interested to see how the current Leafs do at the World Championships.

  12. Michael,

    I had the most absurd nightmare last night. It was all about the Leafs and re-signing a coach that is mind boggled as to why his team continually gets out chanced, and out scored. He said mind boggled a lot when asked to defend his teams record. He also was mind boggled about how to get his team to play defense, for the majority of last season. The worst, and scariest part was that instead of firing a guy who is mind boggled as to both the problems his team faces, and the solutions that need to be implemented, he gets a contract extension.

    His goaltending was poor, and nobody likes Reimer. He lost his best friend, and his other assistant coaches. The media loved him, the fans hated him, and it was all because of this terrible, awful defenceman. He shall go unnamed, just like he did in the season ending press conference. Something, soemthing, more rope, less rope. Everyone who is capable of operating a toaster could peek behind the curtain and decipher the code.

    How this organization continues to keep on, keeping on, as though they know where they are going, is frankly, mind boggling. Has anyone figured out what 'feeding the chickens', was supposed to mean? I'm all about the metaphors and other literary devices to enhance a narrative, but here I sit with my helmet on, more than likely the cause of my concussion, unable to figure out what Randy was suggesting his team do. Anyone?

    The worst part of all this, is that I shouldn't have been surprised. I wouldn't have been surprised to have Randy back as a lame duck, this was surprising. It seems to me that at every turn this franchise, no matter who is in charge, is unable to plot a course other than directly at the iceberg. It really is quite remarkable. I shall sit patiently, and quietly now, awaiting Bolland's five year, $5 million per year contract extension. Not to be left out, the inevitable influx of grit, heart, and leadership, that castoffs and relics from other franchises shall provide the Leafs next season. All in all, its not so bad, at least all of these new guys will be from the right area code in Southern Ontario.

  13. Extended two years?

    Not quite, it has been revealed today that the second year is a club option.

    So it's just an extra year...its just some money and the Leafs have lots of that. Didn't Ron Wilson get a big extension and how long did he stay after that?

    He was gone before the season ended.

    Some of the potential future may be revealed when we see Carlyle's new staff. If they are Detroit guys, well that might mean Carlyle is just a place holder for Babcock.

    If there are one or more Marlie guys (Gord Dineen, Derek King or Steve Spott) then they might be thinking about bringing in Spott as head coach if Carlye's team flounders, but want to give Spott more time before pushing him into the role of an NHL coach.

    If we see somebody from the Marlies join Carlyle's staff, it also probably means that managment has decided that the future includes more Marlies in the less crucial roles.

    If both Marlie and Detroit guys show up as Carlyle's new staff then Shananhan is keeping his options open...and that's my guess on what they do. It wouldn't surprise me to see Gord Dineen or Derek King (both have been around for a while and done good jobs with Marlies) along with Chelios or Chris Draper behind the bench with Carlyle.

    Carlyle's extension means is that he still has more authority and security than some of his players: Franson, Kulemin, etc.

    But, it also means Shanahan finds some blame with the players and won't tolerate a team playing badly to get rid of a coach.

    1. I agree, DP, that Shanahan is giving Carlyle time- but not a lot, while also holding the players accountable.

  14. I stayed away until this morning. My heart is here. I might have to cut down gradually...this isn't working.

    From what I've read the new word is "befuddled". Randy is head-scratching befuddled, management is in-left-field befuddled, the players are please-put-me-on-waivers befuddled, and the fans are why-not-just-kill-me-now befuddled. For the first time I can remember we're all on the same page. Yippeee.

    I've got my helmet on for a befuddling off-season. I have an feeling we're the "chickens". I hope we soon come to roost. CN

  15. I never thought Carlyle was to blame for the Leafs collapse although I would not have objected to replacing him but only if they could actually find a better coach with a proven successful NHL record. But I have no problem at all with giving Carlyle another shot because Dave Nonis said yesterday for the most part most of the players did not have any issues with keeping Carlyle and were not blaming him. Dave Nonis also said yesterday there are players on the Marlies that are ready to play on the Leafs which makes me think Carlyle might get a little help with his roster and system and that players like Orr and McLaren will not be back. I think losing Bolland and Clarkson not being the player he should have been certainly didn't help.

    One other thought I had, if John Ferguson Jr. was still the GM I think he wouldn't think twice about it and Carlyle would be gone. Then he would resume trading young prospects and draft picks for over the hill veterans on the downside of their careers because JFJ was never thinking long term and only wanted to make the playoffs to save his own job. My thinking is any move that would be automatic for JFJ has a good chances of not ending well for the Leafs. Another thing I have read about Dave Nonis is the owner in Vancouver was pushing for quick results and Nonis lost his job there because he wouldn't trade away the young assets who eventually almost won the Canuks a Cup under Gillis. Now we are seeing the long term Gillis results and I would take Carlyle over Tortorella any day.

    The Leafs were 2-12 over the last 14 games but they were 36-24-8 over the first 68 and injuries deserve a lot of the blame for that 2-12 record. I still think it is too early to panic about next season although I have to admit I won't be all that confident next March when they say all the Leafs have to do is play .500 to make the playoffs because you never what can happen when you lose key players.

    1. I appreciate hearing your thoughts, Alton. I admit I am not sure about the decision. Thanks for posting.

  16. I was musing with a friend and fellow Leafs fan that both Tortorella and Keenan are available and wouldn't it be at least entertaining if they were brought in as co-coaches. I wouldn't miss any post-game press conferences.

  17. Two words: predictability and consistence. That's what we're getting with T. Leiwike's and B. Shannahan's decision to keep Carlyle and Nonis in their positions. I think that's what this young team needs above all and that's why I'm happy with Carlyle being extended.

    I always liked Carlyle. I think he is a solid coach that has a template according to which he works and knows what he wants from his team. He has a system in place that he clings onto stubbornly and is not easily swayed by new fads in coaching (much to the chagrin of many young Leafs' fans). Say what you will, but he has a proven winning formula. He's not perfect and I'm sure another coach could perhaps have done better with the current Leafs roster but expecting this roster as it is to win it all as young as they are and as new as Carlyle's system is to them is, I think, a bit of a stretch to say the least. Allowing them to grow together and under Carlyle's tutelage is probably the best option right now.

    I really liked the way Leafs played during the shortened season and I expected them to continue to get results in the following season but now I see that the 'success' (making the playoffs and taking Boston to game 7) in 2012/13 had more to do with the players being excited about having a new coach and playing with the chip on their shoulder to prove themselves after the 18-wheeler falling off the cliff then any actual coaching or individual skill or grit. The year after they fell back to earth and would have made it to the post-season had not everything that could go wrong go wrong (Bolland, Bozak, Bernier injuries, Clarkson suspension etc.). Again, not so much a matter of coaching style or even the skill of the players on the roster - more to do with luck and not knowing the 'system' and taking shortcuts (on the wings of the last season's success)... Give them a new coach and they may grow wings and take off for a while but ultimately, they'll have to stick to the program and learn the new system from scratch and be 2 years behind the ball again in two years time.

    I could be wrong, but it seams to me perfectly reasonable that the assistant coaches would get replaced as 2 of 3 were not Carlyle's guys and as they were in charge of doing the hands-on work on PK and PP and breakouts etc. - all the elements of the game that failed this season. It looks to me like Carlyle's leash is actually being extended here - he now probably gets to pick his own assist. coaches and may well have more say in the make-up of the roster. And that's good.

    1. Where's the evidence for a proven winning system? He won a cup in 2007, since then he his teams have steadily gotten worse every year. His system was proven to win in a different era and he has shown no inclination to winning in this era.

  18. I'm not as impressed with Nonis but I would like to echo Alton's remarks above in really liking his determination to not squander away young assets. On the other hand, I'm not too happy with his tendency to miss chances to get some kind of returns for pending UFAs who look like they'll walk. He's indeed the very opposite of Ferguson but perhaps a little too conservative and afraid to shake things up. Hopefully Leiwike and Shanny can talk him into getting us that solid defenceman and a big, two-way center that this team so desperately needs to take it over the bar. In exchange he'll have to give up on some of the young talent or future picks - in other words he'll have to make a bold move, a gamble. I'm not sure he's capable of doing that. I also hope he's learned from spending to the cap this year - it just shouldn't be done - you gotta have a little bit of flexibility in case a Vanek or someone like that becomes available, in case of injuries...

    Overall, I'm happy with the fact that the management is staying the course here - I think that's exactly what this team needs - a culture that rests on some identifiable pillars - youth being allowed to grow without being rushed, in-house development of young players, a predictable and well-defined on-ice system based on a proven winning formula - in short, staying the course, developing young assets, building a culture and an identity around the franchise - sticking with it - no cheating, no stops and starts, no 'roving', no running away from checks - laying on the body and blocking shots, cycle-game etc.... just a steady climb to the top.

    I hope that, over the summer, the management will be able to identify those players on the current roster who are not committed to Carlyle hockey and can trade them for those 2 crucial pieces that we need. With a big, healthy two-way center, another Phaneuf-type defenceman, and Carlyle's system in place, I really think this team can compete for the Cup over the next few seasons.

  19. I am worried decisions made this off-season could set this team back for years to come. Everyone plays so low in the D-zone the only way to regain possession is off the goalie, there are no outlet passes available for a breakout if they should be so lucky to get possession. Unless the D-system is completely changed, keeping players like Gardiner and Rielly who are capable of skating the puck out is crucial. I love a stay-at-home D-man but on this team with this system they are often trapped deep in their own zone with no options and no safe passes available. I know Jake's on the trading block and he does make mistakes but I do not want to see how bad this team can be without him. CN

  20. Hi Michael

    I think this is about Shanahan wanting to go after Mike Babcock. MB has pointedly refused to answer questions over whether he will re-sign with the Wings at the end of his current contract (which I believe is the end of next season) and I bet Toronto is the kind of challenge a coach like him, who has done pretty much everything else, might see as a capstone to his career. Shanahan and Babcock have worked together briefly before and have the Wings connection; I don't see it as being a stretch to imagine they have mutual respect, especially when...

    Carlyle failing again this year is exactly what Shanahan/Ownership needs to fire Nonis too, which, given the last 18 months or so, may well be necessary to attract a very good coach to TO.

    What worries me a little is the Assistant Coaches being tainted by this strategy as it seems grossly unfair. If my above reasoning is sound, Shanahan still had to fire someone and they've copped it as scapegoats. Having said that, I doubt very much that the rest of the league holds us in high enough regard to take the firings seriously: some will probably consider it a point in the Assistant Coaches' favour.

    What worries me a lot is that we will continue to bleed good players. It's hard to imagine Kulemin wanting to re-sign. That will mean that we will have lost through the moronic hubris of Carlyle the entire MGK line that, lest you need reminding, was one of the most exciting things the Leafs have done in the last 5 years and the last truly all around professional line of forwards we have produced.

    They'll need to make moves to be seen to be doing something but they can't move Clarkson and they can't move Bozak and they'll struggle to move Lupul all because of ridiculous contracts and so the very players we would actually like to keep are going to be the ones to get the boot ("calling Nazem and Jake, please report to the GMs office with your passports...") or else we're stuck relying on which UFAs might think TO is an acceptable destination. While overpaying them.

    If they could somehow let it be known that Carlyle is a goner unless he brings home the Cup - nothing less - this year, I think the fans would cope with very few roster changes. We have, after all, the continued development of JvR, Kadri, Gardiner and Rielly to look forward to. But they can't. And thusly I fear for what unnecessary damage might be done to the roster before a good coach can get here.


    1. Babcock would be the kind of coach that would re-energize Leaf supporters and provide hope, KiwiLeaf- something we could use right now!

  21. Hi, Michael! I've been following your site for a while, but this is my first post. I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write this blog. At a time when it seems every Leaf fan is seething with expletive-laden rage over the state of the team (which happens a LOT in Toronto), Vintage Leaf Memories always keeps its cool. Thank you for never becoming cynical. Anyway, this is a post about Carlyle! So I should probably say something about him.

    In December when the team was terrible, Dave Nonis did the rounds on sports radio to tell the fans that "people who are waiting for me to fire the coach will be waiting a long time". He followed through on that promise -- apparently to the surprise and disgust of all. How shocking that a man in this business should keep his word!

    Mr. Nonis has also said in many interviews, "we will not trade younger players for older players". If they make deals, those deals will be "hockey deals" involving players of similar ages. A lot of the fan bitterness appears to run along the opposite vein, as though retaining Randy Carlyle means that that this summer's roster decisions will mean trading skillful youth for grizzled leadership. Thus, Gardiner and Kadri are destined to be swapped for more Gleasons and Clarksons. In fairness, when has this management group ever done that? Why would they start doing it now? The coach has been given just enough support so as not to be a lame duck going into the season -- it seems strange to think that the team would give a coach on thin ice carte-blanche to remake the roster and mortgage the future (assuming Carlyle even wants such skill-for-grit trades to be made, which is another debate in itself). The concern seems overblown to me.

    The Leafs are not a worse team now than they were at the start of last season. All year you've been saying that in the wide-open East, there's no reason Toronto can't make the playoffs. I agree, and I hope the optimism continues. Sports fandom is no fun without it.

    1. Thanks for the good words about the site, E.C.

      I know there is a lot of concern that Carlyle is staying on, and I've acknowledged I am wondering about the decision. I understand what you are saying, that Nonis has said for some time that he believes in Carlyle, and I guess that view has prevailed.

      And you're right, Nonis has been steadfast in not moving young players. My sense is most Leaf fans want that approach to continue. Thanks for posting, E.C.