Not His Fault, But Randy Carlyle Must Go

 

Randy Carlyle‘s team has lost six straight at the worst time of the year; right before the playoffs (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Everyone knows the Maple Leafs have been on a skid this month. A bad one. At the wrong time. Tuesday’s loss to the St. Louis Blues marked Toronto’s sixth regulation loss in a row. On March 15th of this year, the Buds were sitting comfortably at second in the Atlantic Division (with the third most points in the East) with 80 points. Less than two weeks later, on March 27th, and they are still at 80 points, and now in 10th.

For many fans, it’s been one of those “here we go again” moments. In the 2011-12 season, Toronto was 6th in the East on February 6th with a 28-19-6 record. But they went 1-9-1 in their next 11 games and quickly fell to 11th in the conference. The free-fall led to the firing of then coach Ron Wilson, who was replaced by Randy Carlyle.

But it’s Carlyle’s team who has now dropped six in a row, and rightly so, his name has been on the hot seat:

 

And some fans really want a piece of him (yes ex-boxing champ Riddick Bowe is a huge Leaf fan):

 

Though I don’t necessarily feel the need or urge to punch Mr. Carlyle in the face, I do feel he should take the brunt of the blame for this most ill-timed drop in the standings (though if he stresses “compete level” one more time I just might feel the same way as Riddick Bowe). Is all of this mess his fault? No, not entirely. But his old-style, hard-nosed, in-your-face approach is what led to the signings of players such as Jay McClement, David Clarkson and Dave Bolland. And right now, that is not how the Toronto Maple Leafs should be playing. This is a team with speed. This is a team that loves to attack off the rush. This is a team that on paper is not very strong defensively. Yet defensive play is something stressed by this coaching staff, and low-and-behold, Toronto allows the most shots on goal per game in the league. Randy Carlyle yells at his players to stop giving the puck away in hopes that they might get the message but if things have gotten this bad as the season has progressed, isn’t there something wrong with the system itself?

 

Somewhere along the line Dave Nonis must realize that the players aren’t on board with the system. It’s not Carlyle’s fault that it’s not working. He was brought in to teach his system and he’s tried. He has tried and he has failed. And when the Leafs miss the playoffs (or even if they make it for that matter) it might finally be a good time to admit that letting the offensive juggernauts roam free might not be such a bad idea. It’s time to let the Jake Gardiner‘s and Morgan Rielly‘s make some mistakes. It’s time to let Kadri be creative in the offensive zone. As Rory Boylen, web editor of The Hockey News suggested back in January, it’s time to “make way for a new voice that embraces the youth and runs with all their potential and all their mistakes.” So while Toronto Star beat writer Damien Cox says the Maple Leafs shouldn’t fire Carlyle as “an automatic reflex to a disappointing season,” I am saying they should fire him for much more than that: in order to implement a system that better suits the players.

A coaching change would surely benefit youngsters Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Yes there are lots of little things too. Such as mishandling his goaltenders to the point where Reimer’s confidence is shot and he now wants nothing to do with the blue and white. There’s also playing Colton Orr 3 minutes a night instead of rookies like Ashton or D’Amigo who are ready and capable of playing close to 10. His defensive scratches and pairings this season have been so off I don’t even know where to begin. And there’s also the start of games where Toronto has seemingly gotten behind the eight-ball in the first period of every single contest in March.

But, looking at the bigger picture, I think it’s finally time to stop attempting to be a strong defensive team when the Leafs have no true first pairing defensemen. Let’s embrace the speed game, and up the tempo, starting from the back end. Toronto should play chance for chance with its opponents and instead of focusing on limiting turnovers, focus on forcing them from the other team. On paper this team can score lots of goals; Kessel, van Reimsdyk, Kadri, Lupul, Raymond. And Clarkson and Bolland offer good character, but let’s not kid ourselves in trying to build the team around them. On paper this team can’t defend. On paper they can score, so let’s score. It’s not like the defense can get any worse anyways.

So let’s change the culture, and unfortunately for Carlyle, it starts by letting him go. And if Nonis himself can’t see that, then maybe he needs to go too.

Nathan Kanter

Nathan Kanter

Nathan writes about the Toronto Maple Leafs for THW. He is currently interning at TSN in the tape room as a Video Playback operator through his collaborative program between Western University and Fanshawe College. He will receive an undergraduate degree in Media Studies as well as a college diploma in TV broadcasting. Nathan is a sports staff writer for the Western Gazette and he serves as colour commentator for MustangsTV. Nathan is a fantasy hockey nut who writes for DobberProspects and is a former intern at The Hockey News. He has officiated ice hockey for 6 years as well.

2 Comments

  1. mandy ritchie says:

    I think get rid of the coach need a new coach maybe daryl sittler or someone

  2. The only creativity Kadri has is the fantasy world between his ears. The one where he thinks he’s ready to be a star in the NHL. Maybe he should have accepted his the guidance of those in the Leafs organization & concentrated on being a complete player instead of questioning how they were trying to develop his game. In a shortened season, last year, he performed like he belonged and would become a bonafide performer. Alas he couldn’t even do it for the full lockout shortened season & tailed off in the final stretch. This year he has been given ample opportunity and will be lucky to reach the 20 goal plateau. Not acceptable for a 2nd line center, forget 1st line center. Run & gun gets a team no where in the NHL, not since the Oilers of the 80′s. Your suggestion that this the strategy the Leafs should employ rather than having some semblance of a sound defensive game is ridiculous. You should stick to writing about the Mustangs because drivel like this shows you have no idea about what kind of hockey wins in the NHL.

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