Aug 25, 2014, 12:21 PM EST
“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.”
Nov 27, 2014, 1:45 AM EST
Callahan and Stamkos lead the way in win over Rangers.
Nov 27, 2014, 12:40 AM EST
Avs fall 3-2 to the Blackhawks.
Nov 26, 2014, 11:55 PM EST
Returned after missing four games due to injury.
Nov 26, 2014, 11:05 PM EST
The Pittsburgh captain reaches point No. 800 in the win.
Nov 26, 2014, 10:20 PM EST
Scores his seventh of the season.
Nov 26, 2014, 9:45 PM EST
Also touches on Martin St. Louis’ return to Tampa Bay.
Nov 26, 2014, 9:08 PM EST
Appeared to hurt his left shoulder. Team calling it an upper body injury.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:42 PM EST
The Winnipeg forward was tossed from the game.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:35 PM EST
Has the game’s opening goal tonight.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:20 PM EST
Gets a double-minor on the play.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:10 PM EST
Spent 13 seasons in Tampa Bay.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:05 PM EST
Opened the scoring for Tampa Bay.
Nov 26, 2014, 7:45 PM EST
Expected to join the Blues for practice on Friday.
Nov 26, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
Replaced by Andre Benoit.
Nov 26, 2014, 6:30 PM EST
Was hurt during Tuesday’s practice.
Nov 26, 2014, 5:31 PM EST
Two teams meet for the second time this season.
Nov 26, 2014, 5:12 PM EST
After an injury to Brian Elliott.
Nov 26, 2014, 5:00 PM EST
Yappy Lappy was at it again.
Nov 26, 2014, 4:06 PM EST
“Anybody can GM, anybody can be a president… whether you’re going to be good at it or not, who knows.”
Nov 26, 2014, 3:54 PM EST
San Jose coach is feeling the heat.
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- Video: Panthers’ Luongo leaves game due to injury (Updated) 0
- Video: Jets’ Lowry hits Sabres’ Kaleta from behind 5
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- He’s baaaaack: Brodeur joins Blues on tryout basis 19
- Chelios calls ex-teammate Shanahan an inexperienced ‘politician’ 16
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- Jack Johnson filed for bankruptcy, parents allegedly took advantage of him (58)
- Bruins’ Lucic expected to play against Habs after getting one-punched (Updated) (47)