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Leafs rise to coach Carlyle’s defense

Apr 1, 2014, 10:11 AM EDT

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle looks on with players, left to right, Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul, and Peter Holland against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Mark Blinch) AP

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff hopes are essentially dead after dropping eight straight games in regulation. All the same, the team’s core players will probably be back next season, but will head coach Randy Carlyle?

With speculation about his potential firing at a fever pitch, his players are trying to deflect the blame away from him.

“No, this shouldn’t be (on Carlyle),” defenseman Jake Gardiner told the Toronto Sun. “It’s on the players. It’s on everybody.

“We’re the ones on the ice, not him.”

Forward Dave Bolland echoed Gardiner’s remarks by saying that those looking to assign blame should direct it towards the players.

The public support of his players might not be enough to save Carlyle after overseeing the team’s worst regular-season collapse since, uh, 2012.

Given that the Maple Leafs are turning disappointing finishes into an annual tradition that predates Carlyle, it’s natural to wonder if this might also be a summer of major moves for the team.

There’s always some turnover, but Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, David Clarkson, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Dion Phaneuf are all signed through at least 2017-18 and many of them have at least partial no-trade clauses. Those six players also come with a combined cap hit of nearly $34 million annually, per Cap Geek, or roughly half of what next season’s ceiling is likely to be.

So while some of them — most notably Kessel — are players worthy of building a team around, the fact is that as the Leafs are set up right now, they have to be the go-to guys for years to come.

Without dismissing the possibility of a major offseason trade, as things stand, the Maple Leafs have to hope that eventually those players efforts breed different results. Likely with a tweaked supporting cast — and perhaps with a new bench boss.

Related:

Leafs collapse should be cautionary tale for young Avs

  1. madmax80 - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    GO, LEAFS, G-
    I can’t even get through the cheer without laughing!!

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Which is worse – this slow agonizing collapes or last years ‘pull-the-rug-out-from-under-your-feet” Game 7 rapid collapse???

    Answer: They’re both awesome.

  2. moose2k - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    That is the only defense they have played in the past month

  3. beergold - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    If science was able to clone Mike Babcock, Scotty Bowman, Punch Imlack, Fred Shero, Ken Hitchcock, Al Arbour and Jesus H.(Henry) Christ, mix them all up in a petrie dish, then put them altogther as one NHL coach, they still coud not make this Leaf team a Stanley Cup winner!

  4. cfol44 - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Looking at the players signed, they have a great 1st line, a 2nd line winger, a 4th line mucker that earning 6 mill a year, and a #3/4 D man on most teams, the Leafs play him as a #1. Thats a huge issue. If they could get 2 good solid blueliners, that would solve a huge issue.

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