There was absolutely no choice left but to fire Randy Carlyle.
No matter what corner of Leaf Nation one lives in, it had become unanimous that this coach was no longer a viable option for this team. The long standing debates about broken defensive systems, curious ice-time distribution, coachability of the roster etc. all became moot. All X’s and O’s discussion had been drowned out by the irrefutable fact that your 2014/15 Leafs were nothing more than the lastest model of doomed 18-wheeler…and the man steering it had to go.
A few kind words, if I may, in honour of our latest coaching casualty. Even his staunchest critics should grant an imperfect yet veteran cup winner a short professional courtesy…
Whether or not one chooses to pin Ron Wilson’s lack of success entirely on Toskala or the Monster’s sub .900 Sv%, one horrible memory for me during his time was how painfully passive our team was. Not only were we losing, but we had become nothing short of sports’ most valuable doormat. Opponents would stop just short of publicly admitting that they licked their chops visiting the ACC where, fueled by the support of family and friends, they would proceed to run a train on us en route to a near effortless 2 points. Even without the benefit of NHL calibre goaltending or high end skill, it became unforgivably clear that we were a collection of powder-puffs – entirely unwilling to put up a fight of any significance. It was an ugly chapter in our history. Many Leaf fans seem to forget how incredibly easy we were to play against.
When he took over, he promised nothing more than a desire to draw an honest effort from his players. He recognized the well earned (bad) reputation the team had. He waxed poetic about wanting to restore of pride in the Leaf jersey. In short, he wanted to remake this team. I would argue that, for the short term, he did just that. He managed to take what was largely the same core and, with healthy doses of Orr & McLaren, turn us into a..GOON squad. We went from NHL pin-cushions, to the league leaders in almost every violent category (leaders in fighting majors for 2 straight years!!). Though this wouldn’t vault us into contention, it at least provided some semblance of definable identity. Even when we lost, we could at least take solace in the fact that we were no longer getting the shit kicked out of us on a nightly basis. We became belligerent opponents. We would force teams to pay a physical price when playing us. We became a harder team to play against. For that alone, I admittedly held a soft spot for Randy.
Though the tactics and roster he employed to dramatically make over the team would (predictably) fail to provide a long term or sustainable solution, I’d argue that his short term impact did a great deal in raising both pride level and expectations we had. The very fact that we were so angered and crushed by the game 7 defeat to a great Bruins team as opposed to just happy to have hung around is proof positive of how far we had come.
(End of eulogy)
That brings us to where we are today.
In the wake of Carlyle’s firing, there remain many big questions that sit squarely on the shoulders of a rookie president. WHO will lead this group moving forward? WHY did this group fail again? WHAT direction will this team take? Though many would justifiably point to Carlyle as a big reason for continued futility, no thinking fan would argue that this team has flaws that run deeper than the coach. Make no mistake, this was a move that HAD to be made. Whether you pin most of the blame on Carlyle, or a core that has been collectively exposed as incapable of responsible hockey, this firing had to take place to clearly assess how broken this team is. Its almost as if the Carlyle “crutch” needed to be removed from the equation for the organization to define exactly what potentially huge roster moves need to take place.
[quote font=”0″ font_size=”18″ arrow=”yes”]”In the wake of Carlyle’s firing, there remain many big questions that sit squarely on the shoulders of a rookie president. WHO will lead this group moving forward? WHY did this group fail again? WHAT direction will this team take? Though many would justifiably point to Carlyle as a big reason for continued futility, no thinking fan would argue that this team has flaws that run deeper than the coach.”[/quote]
This is a flawed team. Our top 6 is made up of nice offensive pieces who share too many similar weaknesses. Even for a group that was arguably sabotaged by an innefective (non-existent?) system, far too many examples of weak, undisciplined and lazy individual errors surfaced each night. Missed Dzone assignments, unforced turnovers, high-risk clearing attempts, refusal to take the body and hell, failure to even try skating back on many nights left little doubt that this group, as comprised, would fail no matter who was at the helm. We spent countless time proposing creative line combos by integrating the likes of Winnick, Santo and other role players in an attempt to cajole a top 6 to stop getting outchanced by 2:1 ratios. It is now painfully clear this team needs much more than a reshuffling of deck chairs.
Though most accept the fact that this team needs a shakeup, there still seems to be a resistance by many to include certain core pieces (who have contributed to the problem) as candidates for a retooling plan.
Phil’s a 40 goal scorer! Dion plays against the toughest comp! JvR’s contract is fantastic! Lupul should be captain! Gardiner has a high cieling!
The tough part of any core change is that we WILL have to give up someone we love to fill a bigger need. It’s entirely unrealistic to think we can make impactful moves by trading Reimer or Bozak. This team’s core requires an injection of high end, 2-way play..especially at centre. It requires top 6 forwards who can adhere to a defensively sound system. It requires a steady, mobile top pairing dman. And yes…it requires a new coach more apt to succeed in today’s NHL.
If we wish to preserve major parts of this core and supplement this current Leaf team via trade, then we have to be willing to move on ANY roster player. Failing that, the alternative is to draft and develop high end skill..in which case it makes even more sense to rid ourselves of long cumbersome contracts and invoke a full rebuild. Either way, there can be few sacred cows on this team.
On the topic of roster decisions, I hope that this apparent “management by committee” charade ends soon. The common belief is that Nonis has been relegated to little more than a figurehead who requires permission from mommy and daddy to make a move. I subscribe to this belief and would hope that Shanny appoint a clear leader (even if it’s himself) who has the final say in personnel moves. The Carlyle firing was Shanny’s first truly big move, but it must now be followed by a swift and clear direction to make it worth it.
Even in times of turmoil, this team is nothing if not wildly entertaining. Now that the first big shoe has dropped under the Shanny regime, I hope that we are soon clear on where this team is going. With Carlyle out of the picture, the meter is now running on this management team’s evaluation process. Time for Shanny to start flexing.
Original article posted here: http://newlifelessons.tumblr.com/post/107377321776
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