McKenzie: Leafs HC Carlyle 'vulnerable' to being fired should the team miss the playoffs

Apr 1, 8:10 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs have authored an epic late season collapse. Losers of their last eight games, the Maple Leafs have gone from a team eyeing home-ice advantage to a desperate club unlikely to qualify for the postseason, in the blink of an eye.

The club's epic struggles in the latter half of March could ultimately cost head coach Randy Carlyle his job, to hear TSN's Bob McKenzie tell it. Here's how McKenzie's summarized Carlyle's situation on an Insider Trading segment broadcast on TSN Tuesday evening:

If the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs and they're certainly trending in that direction, the expectation is that Randy Carlyle is most vulnerable and the most likely to pay the price. General manager Dave Nonis has never fired a coach in his tenure in Toronto and he never hired Randy Carlyle - that was a Brian Burke hire. The sense seems to be that if the masses are crying for somebody's head it would more likely be Carlyle's than anyone else's.

McKenzie's colleague Darren Dreger added that MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke is something of a "wild card" in the internal evaluations likely to take place at seasons end:

Leiweke says there will be no knee jerk decision between now and the end of the regular season, which obviously isn't that far away. (Leiweke is) also well schooled on the long-term plans of the general manager, Dave Nonis, and Tim Leiweke is often around the players as well. 

So if there's improvements the players feel need to be made, then he's going to know that, and he'll be heavily involved in the review process.

Dreger also suggested that Carlyle "is likely to be fired" during an appearance on TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto on Tuesday evening.

May 8, 6:31 PM

Maple Leafs sign Carlyle to contract extension: Nonis discusses retention of head coach

May 8, 6:31 PM

A cataclysmic losing streak that was predictable to just about anybody paying close attention cost the Toronto Maple Leafs a 2014 Stanley Cup playoff berth. On Thursday, it also cost assistant coaches Dave Farrish, Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin their jobs.

But head coach Randy Carlyle, whose Anaheim Ducks suffered through similar issues at even-strength prior to his dismissal, was spared. More than spared, Carlyle was rewarded - the team announced a two-year extension for their head coach on Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis appeared on the Sportsnet 590 the Fan to discuss the decision-making process behind the Carlyle extension. "The analysis from our standpoint was twofold" Nonis said. "One is do we think he's a capable coach, a coach that can put a team into the playoffs, that can win rounds, possibly more than that? The answer is yes."

Continued Nonis: "We felt comfortable that this was a guy who can do it, who has done it before... We're comfortable with the fact that he has had positive influences on a number of our players." Presumably the list of players whom Carlyle has positively influenced did not include Mikhail Grabovski, David Clarkson and Clarke MacArthur.

On what went wrong for his team this season, Nonis repeatedly cited the club's relative indifference in comparison with the 2012-13 season:

Our players, last year, felt they were pushed to a different level in terms of compete. And a lot of guys didn't necessarily like it but felt that the coaches did a good job of it. We need to get back to that. I think we lost it this year... We need our players pushing themselves to an area they're uncomfortable with. 

In particular, Nonis mentioned his team being more reluctant to block shots and being softer to play against at the net-front as significant departures from the season previous.

On the decision to axe assistant coaches Cronin, Gordon and Farrish, Nonis emphasized his belief that all three are capable hockey men, and indicated that rival teams had already called to request permission to interview them. Nonis further suggested that firing the assistants had little to do with their competence and more to do with injecting his coaching staff with some "fresh ideas," albeit with Caryle still presiding over the group:

We felt we needed to change the mix in that group, that we need some fresh ideas, that we need to change the relationship with the players by having different assistants. I think the NHL is probably behind some of the other sports at this point in this. 

In the NFL it happens all the time - that you try and look for different schemes, different ideas by changing some of that personnel... We think the leader of our group is Randy and we wanted to keep that intact.

According to Nonis, Carlyle will have a say in the identity of the eventual replacement assistant coaches. 

Finally, Nonis was asked why the Maple Leafs - a team that gave up the 4th most shots against of any team since 1988-89 - were historically permissive defensively this past season. "I think there's two areas, 1) is we have to come up with a tighter defensive scheme than we had last year," Nonis said. "We played a different system for most of the year the year before  and I think we have to get back to that." 

Continued the Maple Leafs executive: "Then it's the players, and it's not just the defense or the centers, but as a group they need to play that system and play it hard. It's about execution and a willingness to do what they might not want to do... Player commitment is a big factor in us playing better team defense."

Feature photo courtesy of John E. Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports

May 8, 4:37 PM

Maple Leafs sign Carlyle to contract extension: 'the right person to lead this team' says GM Nonis

May 8, 4:37 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced a two-year contract extension for head coach Randy Carlyle on Thursday, and general manager Dave Nonis explained the decision by saying Carlyle is "the right person to lead this team."

It was important, after a disappointing end to the season and the arrival of Brendan as team president, to conduct a thorough review of the organization as we continue the work of building a winning tradition and culture for the Maple Leafs. 

That process started with the head coach, and as we analyzed it, we decided together that Randy Carlyle was the right person to lead this team. In Randy we know that we have a leader who has enjoyed a high level of success as both a player and a coach, including a Stanley Cup championship. It was important that the positives Randy brings to our team were not overshadowed by a finish to the season that we all must take responsibility for.

Carlyle has posted a coaching record of 70-62-16 in 148 regular season games in Toronto; the Maple Leafs have failed to make the playoffs twice in three seasons under his watch, and lost in the first round of the 2013 playoffs at the hands of the Boston Bruins.

Toronto, of course, lost 12 of their last 14 regular season games to fall out of playoff contention this season, but the head coach believes his team is built for success.

“I appreciate the support of Brendan (Shanahan), Dave (Nonis) and the entire organization and am looking forward to working with them to get the Maple Leafs back into the playoffs,” said Carlyle. “We have a strong foundation here and everyone wants to get back to work to deliver the results that we know this team is capable of."

May 8, 3:06 PM

Maple Leafs sign Randy Carlyle to 2-year contract extension despite collapse

May 8, 3:06 PM

Not only are the Toronto Maple Leafs retaining the services of head coach Randy Carlyle for the final year of his current contract, but the team also granted him a two-year extension on Thursday.

The deal will keep Carlyle behind the Maple Leafs bench until 2017. 

General manager Dave Nonis called Carlyle "a leader who has enjoyed a high level of success" when announcing the extension. However, Carlyle's career trajectory shows that "high level of success" disappeared a few seasons ago:

[Source]

While Carlyle will remain, Toronto fired three of his assistant coaches: Dave Farrish, Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin.

May 8, 2:47 PM

Reports: Maple Leafs keep Randy Carlyle, shuffle assistant coaches

May 8, 2:47 PM

Reports suggest the Toronto Maple Leafs will retain the services of coach Randy Carlyle for another season, while making changes to his assistant coaching staff.

According to Darren Dreger, Carlyle spent some time at the Maple Leafs' meetings in Las Vegas earlier in the week, where he was told he would not be fired.

Toronto is expected to make an official announcement shortly.

As expected, reaction from the Maple Leafs fanbase on Twitter was less than enthusiastic:

May 8, 1:56 PM

Dreger: Maple Leafs' inaction on Carlyle 'indicates he will [be] back'

May 8, 1:56 PM

TSN's Darren Dreger now believes the Toronto Maple Leafs will retain the services of coach Randy Carlyle for at least one more season because the team has not fired him yet.

Plenty of time remains for Toronto to move in a new direction with a new coach, but Dreger seems to suggest the Maple Leafs' Vegas meetings are connected to decisions such as whether or not to retain Carlyle.

Dreger thought Carlyle was "likely to be fired" during a radio appearance in April.

May 5, 9:05 AM

Cox: Maple Leafs to determine Randy Carlyle's future this week

May 5, 9:05 AM

With the Toronto Raptors' season ending over the weekend, the powers that be at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can now refocus their attention on mending the Dinos' hockey brethren. 

The Toronto Star's Damien Cox is reporting that the Maple Leafs will make a decision on the coaching future of Randy Carlyle this week, the first domino in what newly appointed president Brendan Shanahan promises will be an offseason dedicated to changing the team's culture. 

Since assuming the helm late in the 2011-12 season, Carlyle coached the Maple Leafs to a 70-62-16 record, but the team took a notable step back this year after making their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade last season.