Aug 25, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT
“If you’re worried about optics in this market, it’s going to be a disaster. I think you have to make a decision based on what you think is the best decision for the organization, and this in our minds was clearly the best option.
“He was a guy we believe can get the job done for us. Whether optics are that it’s the wrong thing to do or not doesn’t really matter to us. If you’re looking at trying to please people, you’re probably going to make some poor decisions.”
That was Toronto GM Dave Nonis this past May, talking about the decision to extend head coach Randy Carlyle. The move came under heavy fire as the optics of retaining Carlyle, who presided over a Leafs team that went 2-12-0 down the stretch and collapsed out of playoff contention, left many scratching their heads. Several other coaches that whiffed on the playoffs met their demise — John Tortorella, Adam Oates and Barry Trotz, to name a few — and Nonis made it clear there was some issue at the coaching level by turfing all three of Toronto’s assistants.
Yet when the dust settled, Carlyle remained. One of the few constants in an offseason filled with change.
The Leafs really shifted course this summer. They hired a new president, Brendan Shanahan, then emerged as progressive club on the advanced analytics front — first, with the hiring of 28-year-old assistant GM Kyle Dubas, known as a fancy stat advocate with OHL Sault Ste. Marie; then, with the creation of an advanced numbers department, spearheaded by the guy that used to run Extra Skater.
Change happened on the ice, too.
Gone, it seems, are the day of trotting out truculent bottom-six forwards like Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. Toronto had itself a Moneyball-esque summer, signing (slightly) flawed veterans on the cheap in the hope of striking gold — guys like former 30-goal scorer David Booth (signed for $1.1M after getting bought out of a disastrous situation in Vancouver), skilled center Mike Santorelli (inked for $1.5M after last season was cut short by season-ending shoulder surgery) and power forward Daniel Winnik (who fell out of favor in Anaheim, remained unsigned ’til August, then came to Toronto for $1.3M). These additions, along with Finnish forwards Petri Kontiola and Leo Komarov, should give Toronto the most depth it’s had up front in the Carlyle era.
As such, the pressure is on.
By keeping Carlyle after last year’s collapse, the message was loud and clear — this was on the players, not the coach. But from that point forward, the challenge was put on everybody to achieve more, coaches included. Expectations have been heightened and there is a demand for improvement — for example, Toronto could have a wildly competitive training camp, as there are 15 forwards on NHL contracts fighting for 12 spots.
All of this, of course, comes back to Carlyle, who has now been given tools to succeed: new players, new assistants and a new, fresh look at the managerial level. If that pressure wasn’t obvious enough, Nonis ensured it in May by saying his coach needs to get through to this group.
“If you’ve seen it being done before with most of the same players, or a lot of the same players, and with that coach leading that group, I know it can happen,” said Nonis. “I know it has happened with this group before. I know that (Carlyle) has reached them before, reached them at times this year.
“For me it’s not that we’re guessing whether or not he can have success or he can get through to them. We’ve seen it. I know that it’s there and we feel he is the guy that can get through to this group.”
Mar 26, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
Winnipeg grabbed a big win today, too.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:16 PM EDT
A tough win turned into a bitter OT loss.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:13 PM EDT
Will anyone else join them tonight?
Mar 26, 2015, 9:48 PM EDT
The real winners might be the Edmonton Oilers.
Mar 26, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT
Not a great night for Ottawa.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
Update your save of the year highlight packages.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT
He seems OK after that tough, 2-on-1 check.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:41 PM EDT
Three goals allowed in 20 minutes by Detroit’s embattled starter.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:23 PM EDT
The Rangers forward felt encouraged by this latest step.
Mar 26, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT
He’s lining up with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron to start.
Mar 26, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT
A Vladimir Tarasenko hit shook him up on Tuesday.
Mar 26, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT
Vermont power forward was the club’s third-round pick in 2011.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:56 PM EDT
Featuring Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot and a guest appearance from Curtis Lazar.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:37 PM EDT
The 43-year-old has been a big influence on his young linemates.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
Granted, they have to make them first.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT
Bruce Boudreau continues to “experiment” on defense.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT
“Hopefully we realize that, come together and allow this group to stay together.”
Mar 26, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT
An interesting comment from his agent.
Mar 26, 2015, 2:14 PM EDT
News and notes from around the crease…
Mar 26, 2015, 1:57 PM EDT
“We are all thinking the same way and going the same direction.”
- Bruins can’t hold Ducks off, suffer sixth loss in a row 12
- Ticket punched: Rangers become first team to clinch 2015 playoff berth 2
- Coyotes ‘win’ against Sabres in OT 20
- Marchand: If Bruins miss playoffs, ‘this is going to be a much different group next year’ 16
- Is Lecavalier offering to retire early to facilitate trade out of Philly? 26
- Hextall insists he’s ‘on the same page’ with Snider 15
- Krejci ‘probable’ to return versus Ducks 10
- Flyers announce Simmonds, MacDonald done for the season with injuries 18
- Video: Flyers crush Blackhawks, Voracek joins league lead in points 11
- Report: Draft Lottery to be held on Apr. 18 14
- Dreger: ‘In Kessel’s case, I firmly believe he’s going to be traded’ (73)
- Red Wings beat Blues in OT, but should winning goal count? (56)
- Tank-worthy? Connor McDavid finishes OHL season with 120 points in 47 games (56)
- Report: No fine or suspension for Tyler Toffoli’s hit on Alex Burrows (51)
- Dubnyk leads Wild past Isles in SO, earns 10th straight road win (44)