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.”
Sep 21, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
Head coach Todd McLellan thinks he can play, at least.
Sep 21, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
“But sometimes you have to lose what you have to realize what you had.”
Sep 21, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
Players nursing bumps and bruises as camps wrap.
Sep 21, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
“In a perfect world, it would be three.”
Sep 21, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT
“He’s thinking usually two or three plays ahead.”
Sep 21, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT
“God, defense was just so much fun though.”
Sep 21, 2014, 4:49 PM EDT
The team’s still trying to determine if surgery is necessary.
Sep 21, 2014, 3:48 PM EDT
He won’t play in either of Ottawa’s Monday exhibitions games.
Sep 21, 2014, 3:02 PM EDT
Seasoning in the AHL should serve the 20-year-old well.
Sep 21, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Agent confirms talking to several KHL teams.
Sep 21, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
With Giroux out, Craig Berube juggles lines.
Sep 21, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Not at Oilers camp for the first time in his career.
Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Columbus looking at options with Johansen not at camp.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:36 PM EDT
The restricted free agent seems to be at an impasse with Columbus.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said he’s “fine,” but he initially said the same of Clowe when the player had a concussion.
Sep 20, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
The knee injury he sustained during the lockout shortened season might be partially to blame for his struggles.
Sep 20, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT
That’s after years of being the center of a goaltending controversy in Vancouver.
Sep 20, 2014, 8:09 PM EDT
Can they be the first repeat winners since Detroit in 1997-98?
Sep 20, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT
He was asked how he would have handled the Ray Rice situation.
Sep 20, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT
Do Thornton and Marleau disagree with coach Todd McLellan on this point?
- Injuries piling up as preseason schedule begins 11
- Report: Fedorov denies contract offer was made to Johansen 7
- Report: Johansen has gotten no shortage of KHL offers 36
- Update: Drouin out with upper body injury, not expected to miss preseason 1
- Report: NHL officials to participate in preseason without new CBA 1
- Evander Kane: I know I can score 50 goals 14
- ‘C’-less Thornton comes out swing against Wilson’s ‘tomorrow team’ talk 18
- Joe Sakic’s now general manager in name too 6
- Update: Giroux out two weeks with lower-body injury 26
- Update: Crosby on ice with Penguins teammates Friday, leaves early 5
- Jackets reveal Johansen offers — including an eight year, $46M deal (55)
- Will the NHL publicize divers? (48)
- No icing on the PK? The USHL will see how that looks (43)
- Just how damaging are heated negotiations between Jackets, RFA Johansen? (38)