Goodbye Randy

View image |

Today, Randy Carlyle was relieved of his coaching duties with the Toronto Maple Leafs, bringing an end to his 195 game tenure behind the Leafs bench.

Carlyle’s tactics have long been a sticking point for many fans causing a pretty big divide between the compete and calculus crowd, but as the losses piled up the divide became noticeably smaller as even those that shouted “He won a Cup!” from the rooftops couldn’t deny that the process just wasn’t working.

Yes, this team is still on pace for 95 points, but they certainly aren’t playing like one that belongs in the playoffs and their most recent losing skid has only amplified the problems that beget this team. Night after night the Leafs get dominated by literally any team, and night after night there’s no explanation. 

Mind boggling, right?

Carlyle will get credit for bringing this team to the playoffs two years ago, but that team wasn’t getting anywhere close without Vezina calibre goaltending. That hasn’t changed, and while they may be above .500 now, that would inevitably implode sometime soon if the Leafs keep playing the way they have been.

Carlyle didn’t get fired because of that most recent skid though, the last loss being an embarrassing one to a depleted Jets team. This isn’t a panic move to save the season because of a few losses, this is Carlyle failing his evaluation, his second chance to show he can turn the ship around. In reality, Carlyle should’ve been fired after last season’s epic collapse. It was an obvious mistake at the time because Carlyle was clearly  the problem, or at least the biggest one. Shanahan and co. needed to buy time to evaluate the team, but evaluating a team that’s being shackled is a fool’s errand.

To think the Leafs suddenly weren’t playing well is wrong, they haven’t been playing well for a while, the losing streak, the embarrassing defeats, they were likely the last straw.

No, the losses can’t solely be pinned on the head coach, and you can blame the players if you want, there’s definitely fault there, but it’s certainly interesting that good players become ashes when they arrive and resurrect like a phoenix once they leave. It’s been clear for awhile now that what Carlyle is preaching is not working. It hasn’t worked from day one.

The Leafs have been a brutal possession team that has cratered near the bottom of the league under Carlyle. This tweet by @SkinnyPPPhish is evidence of that.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 2.44.59 PM

Just one steep decline. Since he was hired, the Leafs are second last in Score Adjusted Corsi ahead of only Buffalo. The thing that correlates to future winning most and the Leafs are hanging out with a team that is actively trying to lose.

And I’ll hear some people say “I can’t believe the Leafs are losing to _______.” Really? During his tenure, the Leafs have a positive Score Adjusted Corsi against just two teams: Buffalo and Colorado. Every single team that plays Toronto, outplays Toronto.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 1.57.01 PM

Maybe, you don’t buy advanced stats though. So let’s just forget them. Forget 5-on-5 play. Let’s use every situation, and let’s use just good ol’ shots. Being outshot is bad, that’s something everyone can agree on, right?

195 games. 186 distinct 10 game stretches. How many times did the Leafs collectively outshoot their opponents over any 10 game stretch? Twice. Twice. Just twice. TWICE. Literally, 1 percent of the time. Over the entire tenure, the Leafs have surrendered 1291 more shots than their opponents.

You. Can’t. Win. Like. That.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 1.34.55 PM

And you can’t even see those two good instances above. Because it was by exactly one shot each time. How about individual games? In that case, the Leafs have outshot the other team a grand total of 48 times. One of every four games.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 4.14.28 PM

The Leafs hemorrhage shots on a nightly basis and need goaltending to bail them out every night. When that well dries, you get ugly, ugly hockey. Ugly hockey we all watched over the past few weeks as the Leafs dropped seven of their last nine. But it’s been ugly when they win too. Hemmed in their own zone for minutes at a time, praying that dam doesn’t burst open.

There is no doubt in my mind that this team has the talent to compete, to make a push for the playoffs. But we would’ve never seen that with Carlyle at the helm; a coach that has proven too stubborn to change what clearly wasn’t working. Maybe he wasn’t the problem, maybe it runs deeper than that. But he wasn’t the solution, and his departure was long overdue.

Today, Leafs Nation was relieved of Randy Carlyle.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Great piece, Dom. Those curves are a repudiation of whatever coaching system was in place.

    But there is a lingering question: are you over-isolating one variable?

    1. The trend began before Carlyle.

    2. There is a positive correlation between the sliding indices and players enlisted under Burke.

    One could tell a different story: that Wilson and Carlyle were victims of a more embedded problem. It is possible that the Burke model (shorter time horizon, FA’s & trades, no deep drafting) was flawed, in which case the clean-up is not done.

    It will be interesting to hear what story Shanahan is reading aloud.

  • I’d have bought all this if it weren’t for one thing. Didn’t you guys want Wilson fired?

    Now you put all these fancy stats about how Wilson was a better coach than Carlyle, then why did you want him out in the first place?

    This team, this organization, is a total gong show.

    The problem is the upper management, not the coaches ! Next year Babcock will come to town and you will want him fired two years later like all the previous coaches.

    • STAN

      It’s ok to recognize that Wilson wasn’t a good coach, but that he’s still a better coach than Carlyle. It’s damning with faint praise – no, Wilson wasn’t good, but he was better than the train wreck that Carlyle was.

  • «There is no doubt in my mind that this team has the talent to compete, to make a push for the playoffs»

    I don’t think you’re right, but even if you are, even if, by chance, the Leafs make it to the 8th spot, will they have a chance of making it for the Cup? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

    I’d rather have a Chicago Blackhawks team, finishing dead last for 3 to 4 years and then becoming one of the best franchise in the early 2010’s decade, than being the Sharks, always making the playoffs but never reaching the top.

  • TGT23

    Burke took a short cut by trading for Kessel and somehow thinking that was going to make the Leafs into a playoff contender without really building from the bottom up. Had the Leafs been patient and just accepted stinking for a while longer (i’ts not like we’re not used to stinking) we could have had Seguin, Hmailton and parts. Instead we’re stuck with Phil (not that he’s not great when he wants to be) and his best friend as the number one center and a team that collectively seems to care one day and forgets their skates the next.
    The only people you can’t blame on the leafs team is the goalies, heck if it wasn’t for the goalies, Carlyle would have been gone long ago. So yes, it’s a start that Carlyle is gone but this team still sucks, they can’t win close games and there’s no way they can score 3+ goals every night especially when things tighten closer to the playoffs. But ask JVR about what justifies a good win and he’ll ask you “how do you justify a win?” he apparently sees nothing wrong in being outshot and hanging on desperately for a win only because Bernier/Reimer stole the show. I think that sort of attitude is contagious, no wonder this team doesn’t get it. So all in all, we will see what happens here. But i’m ready for a blow up if need be. It’s been far too long for mediocrity, Kessel can get his 35+ goals per season, but I’d rather a playoff team every year.

  • STAN

    Excellent piece, although simply watching this team night in and night out you would come to the identical conclusion.

    I also disagree with “this team has the talent to compete” phrase. I’m not sure anymore. I like the hustle and possession time of Santorelli, the hustle, grit and even scoring of Komorov, the slick moves, great possession and penalty-drawing abilities of Kadr, the huge potential of Rielly and the leadership abilities of their best defenseman Cody Franson. Also, Franson is eloquent, doesn’t grunt out cliches like Phaneuf and seems to be the only adult in the room.

    Other than that? I’d say start moving out as many bodies as possible. Even though their are some truly horrific contracts in that room thanks to Dave Nonis, teams might bite if the asking prices aren’t insane.

  • I hope a new coach will bring about good change. But I no longer believe this team, particularly the core of this team, is good enough for success. Maybe a playoff appearance, but I’m really starting to doubt that the work ethic is there.

  • Wow seeing mom is looking over the shoulder I’ll suggest this article is out standing. In fact it is Nobel prize winning in its analysis of what is wrong with the leafs.

    One problem Dom. You miss the fact that Scotty Bowman wanted no part with this team. Sorry to pull you away from all your so neat and tidy stats there but Scotty enquired about taking over operations but when he realized he wouldn’t get the key to the executive washroom to run the whole show he went over to Chicago.

    Let me simply put into context what is wrong with this addition of the leafs which will be the 48th not to win a cup. It all started in training camp Dom when Phil the $8 million dollar man reminded Randy Carlyle that he had a long leash which enabled him to float more, you know around the blue line while his teammates frantically tried to get the puck out of their zone. You see Phil as a so called leader was telling his comrades such as Bozak, J.V.R., Lupul etc. that there was no need to play a 200 foot game. No siree you won’t get benched.

    Now I’m sure you are convinced that Shanahan will do wonders. But like Ken Dryden, now that might be before your time when he was a figure head president of the leafs with no powers or the keys to that all important executive washroom.

    Did you notice that Shanahan hired Hunter but somehow couldn’t fire the architects of leaf drafting led by Dave Morrison that for the past decade has been pitiful, horrid and abysmal. Yep you see it is the board similar to old crazy Harold Ballard who make the on ice decisions. It is the boarad that told Nonis to give Clarkson that iron clad contract, to give Kessel and Phaneuf the huge contract extensions.

    So you see Dom you could bring in the equivalents of Pete Caroll, Tony Larussa, Phil Jackson in the sport of hockey and the leafs will continue to flounder on the ice but be numero uno at the all important bank.

    Yesiree as long as the incompetent board members make the key ice decisions, the leafs will remain the embarrassment they truly are today.

  • Bester27

    Great article Dom.

    Been smiling all day at the news about Carlyle being let go and then I heard this:

    @wiski @NotSince67 @Leafs_17

    Obviously, the coach is not the only problem, but when you read between the lines of what giggy is saying, there is an obvious problem with our top leaders. I am a huge Kessel fan. As well, I am also excited of the young pieces we have (Kadri, Nylander, Reilly, JVR, Bernier), but after listening to the interview, I think we are looking at darker times!

    Sad to say but our only solution might be trading Kessel. I beg for a ph9 to leave, he is slow, and lazy; and after 3 collapses, it is obvious that he is not a leader nor has control of the group as captain. Hopefully Shanny uses his resources and patience and doesn’t pull a JFJ…

  • jasken

    Nice article dom

    Looks like you got all the answers look at those graphs and Fancystats. You obviously know about Defence partners not listening to Phaneuf, You know about Kessel saying “yeah I not doing that to Shanny” when he had his meeting with Shanny.

    Giguere says it all you cant play pond hockey in this League but that’s exactly what they are doing. I have said it the past few years and I gave up trying to have a half decent conversation with people about it. For Carlyle to change these core players wasn’t going to happen no coach can. Now they have no obstacles protecting them from management, Carlyle is gone simply because he stood in the way of progress. Getting a message to the players you do as you are instructed or your next. There is no one else to throw under the bus as they say. These players will now understand play 200 ft of hockey or pack your bags.

    Carlyle was only part of the problem of what was happening. But his firing is all on the players their unwillingness to perform in the system, management made them and their contracts untouchable its upto them to correct the problem not Carlyle or any other coach.

  • jasken

    “I don’t Like RC! do I think he sucks as a coach??? NO

    Don’t care for his Treatment of Reims since the Game 7 loss, but to blame him or not for this sad excuse of a team is sad…..

    This team hasn’t changed anything with regards to their play or lack of it….this team has to depend on themselves and their team mates not who is or isn’t in the Coaching Chair….The Coach can only Coach it’s up to the players to play the games with a passion and compete at every game, and not expect their net minders to do it for them….

    Randy will be back just not here, just as Reims with be a Starter just not here…..

    Good Luck Leafs your gonna need it…..

  • TGT23

    You know… I’m glad he’s gone and all, but I cannot say I am at all pleased with how it was handled.

    They know he’s driven his wife and mother-in-law out of town to be with his dying brother-in-law and they call him and tell him to come in for a meeting? They want him to drive 5 hours away from his grieving family so they can fire him and send him back?

    I get that it’s a business but if you’re doing this you either fire him before he leaves or you drive your lazy ass (Nonis and Shanny) out to him and tell him in person. Or, you call him before he leaves to come back to work. You don’t call and ask him to drive to you.

    Luckily, he didn’t do that. He called them and told them to do what they were going to do.

    Way to have a heart guys. Way to act just like the faceless, heartless, uncaring corporation you work for.

    Yes, I’m glad he’s gone. But no, I do not respect they way it was handled by the team.