The reaction to the announcement of Randy Carlyle’s retention as head coach on Thursday was generally negative, as many Maple Leafs fans believe he was primarily responsible for the club’s collapse in March that prevented a second straight post-season appearance.
The news that befuddled many was the two-year contract extension given to the veteran bench boss, but that does not appear to be any kind of roadblock to Carlyle being ousted if he cannot turn things around with a revamped roster next season.
The Leafs dismissed assistants Dave Farrish, Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin and will bring in candidates for a new staff with input from Carlyle, GM Dave Nonis and Team President Brendan Shanahan.
Possibilities include former Carolina coach Kirk Muller and Washington coach Adam Oates, who might be looking to latch on as assistants if they are not able to find head coaching positions. Oates, who was fired after two seasons in Washington, believes that Toronto was correct in backing Carlyle.
“I actually like what the Toronto brass did yesterday extending him,” Oates said to Sportsnet Fan 590’s Brady and Walker show Friday morning. “because(Carlyle’s) proven to be a good hockey coach and now it tells the fans to be quiet in Toronto, they’ve got a guy and they are gonna stand by him.”
TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the first year of the extension is guaranteed, but the second year is a club option. The extension is a statement to the players that survive an offseason of expected change that Carlyle will not be a lame duck and will given more rope than someone entering the last year of his contract, but also means that he has been given the same golden parachute that Ron Wilson received on Christmas Day 2011 and that did not prevent the Leafs from firing him when things did not work out.
The focus of the club’s “culture change” appears to now be shifting to the roster, where there could be as much as one-third of the roster changed over due to an influx of youth from the American Hockey League, departures and arrivals via free agency and trades.
Dreger reports that the Leafs are eager to talk trade with other NHL teams and that pending free agents Dave Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin and Jake Gardiner, as well as center Nazem Kadri will be discussed. Other speculation has mentioned goalie James Reimer, winger Joffrey Lupul and team captain Dion Phaneuf as possible targets for off-season deals.
One thing that may be present when next season’s training camp opens in September will be the return of the crustier, demanding Carlyle synonymous with his tenure in Anaheim.
According to the CBC’s Mike Brophy
Carlyle went counter to that reputation with the Leafs and has been not as demanding with his players, trying to sway them to playing a more physical, two-way puck control game. But the current group either is not willing or not capable of playing that game.
It makes perfect sense that Carlyle will resort to being more authoritarian to get his players to do what is needed at both ends of the ice, as his job on the line. Nonis will have to make significant upgrades to his depth players, shake up the construct of the blueline and perhaps shake up the core of the club to get them back on a positive track.
Team Canada did not get off to an auspicious beginning at the 2014 IIHF World Championships in Belarus on Friday, as they suffered a surprising 3-2 shootout loss to France. Brayden Schenn and Erik Gudbranson scored for Canada and Stephane Da Costa of the Ottawa Senators scored for the French. James Reimer made 26 saves during regulation and overtime, but allowed Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s winner in the shootout.
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