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Goodbye Ron Wilson – Whatcha Gonna do Randy Carlyle?

March 3, 2012

Toronto Maple Leafs Coaching Timeline:  Lockout – Present

Between the lockout of 2004-05, the Leafs have yet to make the playoffs. Over this time, they’ve had three coaches: Pat Quinn (tossed after his first losing season in 7 years), Paul Maurice (turfed after two lacklustre seasons) and most recently, Ron Wilson (booted just short of four seasons). Enter Randy Carlyle, Leafs alumnus and recent ex-head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.

The Buds are the second-youngest team in the league behind the Colorado Avalanche, and lately this has shown.  Some see this as a lack of maturity and some a lack of identity.  When Brian Burke took over the team, he wanted to ‘build from the back-end out’ and install some ‘truculence.’  The back-end defence led by Dion Phaneuf (26) is deep, ranging from stellar rookie, Jake Gardiner (21) to veteran John-Michael Liles (31).  Goaltending that had high expectations after last year’s strong finish and a solid opening few months has become a liability. Since experiencing ‘concussion-like symptoms,’ James Reimer (23) has been terrible and Jonas Gustavsson (27) has not been an improvement.

Aside from Phil Kessel (24) and Joffrey Lupul (28) are having stellar offensive years, but after career years in 10/11, Clarke MacArthur (26), Mikhail Grabovski (28) and especially Nikolai Kulemin (25) have seen their production drop off.  Tyler Bozak (25) has improved his game, posting career numbers offensively and becoming solid in the circle, but he is not a first line centre.  David Steckel is as solid as ever in the face-off circle, but Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi et al. have not contributed as hoped. A rotation of rookies Nazem Kadri, Matt Frattin and to a lesser extent Joe Colborne have shown promise, but are not capable of sticking just yet.

Here’s the low-down:  there are just 18 games left in which to rescue this season, the team has lost 9 of its last 10 games and has fallen 12th place, 5 points out of the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.  Toronto has the second-worst penalty kill in the league so it’s a good thing they average just above 3 penalties per game. This is slightly offset by the fact that the Leafs also have the 9th best power-play and average about 4 power-plays per game.  A team goals against average hovering around .900 is not encouraging even when supported by the league’s 8th best offence.

So Randy, the last three Leaf coaches were said to have lost the room due to: a) big egos and veterans with a sense of entitlement (Pat Quinn), b) big egos, veterans with a sense of entitlement and poor mix of youngsters and veterans combined with a limited talent level (Paul Maurice), c) turnover of veterans, limited talent, inability to connect with youngsters and possibly veterans alike (Wilson). What are your plans to overcome the various issues that appear to have lost Ron Wilson his job?

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