On Friday night, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke fired a former Anaheim coach with whom he had a long-standing personal relationship and hired … well, a former Anaheim coach with whom he had a long-standing personal relationship.
Thus, the Ron Wilson Era ended and the Randy Carlyle Era began. From the Leafs:
Carlyle, 55, spent seven seasons as the Anaheim Ducks' head coach. He was named the seventh head coach in team history on Aug. 1, 2005, and led the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup championship (2007), Pacific Division championship (2007) and five playoff appearances (2005-09, 2011). Only one NHL coach has won more postseason games than Carlyle's 36 since 2005-06 (Mike Babcock).
Carlyle had the most wins and highest winning percentage in Ducks' history, compiling a 273-182-61 record in 516 regular season contests (.588 winning percentage). Carlyle's teams earned at least 98 points in four of his six Anaheim head coaching seasons prior to 2011-12.
Those are the vitals on the new Leafs coach; here are five things to expect from Randy Carlyle in Toronto …
He's Going To Get Defensive
No, not just with the media. Like, on the ice, too.
Eric Duhatschek called Carlyle "an adept defensive coach and the 1981 Norris Trophy winner as a player" in his short profile of the new Leafs coach. After last postseason, when the Ducks lost to the Predators, Carlyle lamented that Anaheim had enough offense to win the series but "we did not defend well enough."
He demands strong defensive zone coverage, but loves a cranked up forecheck that keeps the puck out of his defensive end. Of course, he also likes having a goaltender — be it Giguere or Hiller in Anaheim — that can bail him out. The Leafs afford him no such luxury at the moment. Which brings us to …
The Return of Francois Allaire?
The Leafs goaltending guru had been taking as much heat as Wilson did recently for the underperformance of James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson. Allaire was the goaltending consultant in Anaheim — deftly developing J.S. Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov and Jonas Hiller — before leaving to join Burke in Toronto in June 2009.
One assumes that Carlyle's hiring indicates Allaire's status is secure, despite the mounting criticism.
Managing Young Players
One of the knocks on Carlyle is that he's not adept at developing young players. (Yes, even though The Kid Line of Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry won him a Cup ring.) The Leafs are going to have a great number of them moving up the ranks as the team reloads. Carlyle, meanwhile, is the kind of coach that likes to keep his bench short and his veterans on the ice.
This might have been one of the more compelling arguments for Marlies Coach Dallas Eakins to take over, giving that young core someone to grow with rather than finding a disconnect with Carlyle. But let's see how that reputation plays out in Toronto before judging the new guy's work with the youngin's.
Poor, Poor Joffrey Lupul
How fortunate that Lupul was in Montreal when this news broke, seeing as how it's a city of sublime diversions. Because this is one relationship that needs a-mendin'.
In his second season as a Leaf, Lupul is having a career year with 66 points. Part of the reason, he said, was that Ron Wilson believed in him as a left winger where Carlyle did not. From Ducks Blog last year:
"In my conversation with Randy, he said he didn't think I had the skill to play left in wing in this league being on my off side," Lupul said. "So he wasn't going to give me that opportunity here. And I'm not going to knock Corey Perry or Teemu Selanne off their right wing spot.
"So pretty much after that conversation, I realized that I probably wasn't in their plans here."
So does Carlyle still believe that or has Lupul proven his point?
That'll no doubt be one of the questions asked at the introductory press conference on Saturday. When the media meets Carlyle for the first time. Which should be interesting.
There will be no smiling in class anymore. No talking. No passing of notes. This is a new sherriff, totally unlike the old sherriff: Ron Wilson battled with the media and occasionally with his players. Carlyle won't have time for such nonsense. He is bottom line, bottom line.
You play his way or you don't play. You do what he says or you get buried on the bench. He gives you one of those stares and you want to go home. Maybe not since Punch Imlach have the Leafs had a coach that would push this hard — and then push just a little bit harder.
And it's already starting, as Carlyle arrived in Montreal to be met by the Toronto media:
Final, sarcastic words heard in the clip from the dejected scribes: "Good start ..."
There shall be no honeymoon period for Carlyle in Toronto.