The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Tuesday morning that Randy Carlyle has been fired as the team’s head coach. According to general manager Dave Nonis, Carlyle was given word of the decision late last night.
In the meantime assistant coaches Peter Horachek and Steve Spott will take over the coaching duties, with Horachek acting as the interm head coach when the team is back in action on Wednesday. The Leafs will return home to the Air Canada Centre for their first game in Toronto after a seven game road trip in which the team went a disappointing 2-5-0.
Speculation about the security of Carlyle’s job had been a popular topic for discussion ever since the Maple Leafs missed the playoffs last season after dropping 12 of their final 14 games of the season. Though many were shocked last season after the dismal end to the season, Carlyle rather than fired, seemed to be promoted with a two-year contract extension. Instead the bulk of the blame seemed to be put on assistants Dave Farrish, Scott Gordon, and Greg Cronin who were relieved of their duties behind the bench.
The 58-year-old Carlyle was hired by the Leafs on March 2, 2012 after replacing Ron Wilson. In his first full year as the bench boss in Toronto during the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, Carlyle lead the team to their first playoff appearance since the 2004-05 lockout. Ultimately the team was eliminated in the first round by the Boston Bruins, after famously losing game seven in overtime after dropping a 4-1 third period lead.
Possession Numbers Hurt Carlyle
Many might state that the Maple Leafs coach lost the room, or that the players weren’t responding to the coach’s style, but Nonis doesn’t feel that was the case. The one thing that is certain is that management was not impressed by the team’s awful possession stats and knew a change was needed. The Maple Leafs currently ranking 28th in the NHL this year in Corsi-for at 44.5% and 29th in Fenwick-for at 45%. Oddly these are improvements from last year’s team who finished dead-last in the league in both categories with 42.9% and 42.3% respectively.
The Leafs this season rank 29th in shot against per game giving up 34.4 a night, with only the Buffalo Sabres allowing more. The team has only outshot the opposition in 10 of their 40 games this season. And though the Buds have the second highest-goals for averaging 3.02 per game, the abundance of shots against has resulted in the team having the 25th worst goals against per game which also sits at 3.02 per game.
Fourth Coach Canned This Season
Carlyle’s leaves behind a 91-78-19 record with the Leafs in 188 games coached. The announcement that Horacheck and Spott will take over to coach Wednesday, suggests that in the meantime the club is actively pursuing a replacement for Carlyle. The Sudbury, ON native becomes the fourth head coach to be shown the door this season. After the Ottawa Senators fired Paul MacLean back in early December, Oilers relieved Dallas Eakins and the New Jersey Devils parted ways with Peter Deboer.
The 28th coach in Maple Leafs history leaves a team that currently holds down the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, though it looks like the move by Nonis and management is an attempt to savage a season that at times looked so promising for the Leafs. Many called for the coach’s head following to humiliating losses to Buffalo 6-1 and then to the Nashville Predators 9-2 back in November, but after then pulling off the longest winning streak of the season, and with the team playing some of its best hockey of the season, the whispers were silenced.
During the end of last season and into this season many speculated that the Maple Leafs would have interest in Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. In the meantime Horachek will look to hold down the fort and the appointed Leafs assistant does have head coaching experience having been the main man in Florida prior to coming into Toronto during the off-season.
Nonis Message to the Media
Nonis spoke to the media Tuesday morning and made it clear that the biggest reason for the firing was the team’s lack of consistency over the course of the season, something that he believes was what the team wanted to become this season. Nonis also stated that the team does not have a replacement in mind just yet, but that the team will evaluate what is available and make steps going forward to find the right person to take over.
The Leafs will return home for two games after being on the road for nearly three weeks due to the World Junior Championships being held at the Air Canada Centre. The team is 14-8-0 this season on home ice and will look to get back on the winning side of things without the Carlyle when Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals come to town.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.