Carlyle Deserves Respectful Departure

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Apr. 16) – I am of two minds when it comes to the Maple Leafs muddled coaching situation. On one hand, I think Brendan Shanahan has already made his first mistake as president of the club by dithering – if even for 72 hours. Barry Trotz is available and probably not for long. On the other hand, I believe Randy Carlyle has earned a respectful farewell. He’s got a Stanley Cup on his resume and has given every ounce of himself to the job. This assumes, of course, that Leafs will make a coaching change but I’ll dress up as Lady Gaga and stand for hours in the middle of Nathan Phillip’s Square if they don’t.

Shanahan knew of his incoming role well before Saturday night, when Carlyle coached the Maple Leafs in their season finale. This begs a question: What is there for the new boss and his GM – David Nonis – to “evaluate?” We all saw the ugly result of Carlyle allowing his No. 1 goalie to play injured at Los Angeles, Mar. 13: Merely an eight-game losing streak and a 2-12-0 meltdown in the final month of the season. Last I checked, there are no further games to be played until October.

So, Shanahan can go the political route and call an inquiry. He can assemble people to waste time discussing the obvious and miss out on hiring an accomplished replacement for Carlyle. Or, he can quickly, smoothly and justifiably make a change – allowing Carlyle every chance to hook on elsewhere while ensuring that all prime candidates are available to the Maple Leafs. There is no logic or benefit to waiting.

RANDY CARLYLE – TUESDAY AFTERNOON – IN WHAT SHOULD BE HIS FINAL MEDIA GATHERING AS COACH OF THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS. LEAFS-TV IMAGES

The best three coaches in the National Hockey League over the past decade are (in whichever order you prefer) Mike Babcock, Dave Tippett and Barry Trotz. One of them is currently on the market after an unprecedented term with an expansion team. Given a Twitter exchange Tuesday night, I am astonished at how ignorant people are about the history of Trotz and the Nashville Predators. “Couldn’t get them into the playoffs this season; how good can he be?” were the insipid replies. Forget that Nashville made it to the Stanley Cup tournament three or four times when it shouldn’t have while performing, almost exclusively, with direction and discipline behind center ice. These, of course, are words that require a dictionary here in Toronto.

Though I respect my pal Mike Brophy professionally as much as I like him personally – both being limitless – I don’s share his view that Carlyle be retained by the Leafs. That’s what Broph Tweeted with his column for CBC.ca. First, Carlyle did nothing when it mattered this season to warrant another opportunity. Second, there is one year left on his contract and the Leafs would be alternately ridiculed if they retained him without an extension or provided him one that he didn’t earn. And third, just imagine the hullabaloo around here after a three-game losing streak in October. Carlyle would come back with the shortest coaching leash imaginable… and, therefore, without integrity.

The time for a switch is now. Not three weeks from now after pointless evaluation; seven months from now after a crappy start to the 2014-15 schedule or a year from now after the club’s ninth playoff absence in ten seasons. Except for an illusory span in October and January, the Leafs did not respond to Carlyle and absolutely fell to pieces under his direction in March and April. Naturally, it wasn’t all Carlyle’s fault but changes to the composition of the team came very much at his behest last summer. And, he made an unpardonable mistake by fooling with Jonathan Bernier’s groin injury just one month before the playoffs.

Some will point out that 18 coaches have failed in guiding the Leafs to a championship since Punch Imlach in 1967. That may be true but it’s not nearly justification to stop trying. We all know the Leafs cannot go into next season without some roster renovation; nothing could have been clearer over the past month. But, just as important is a navigational shift behind the bench. And the sooner the better – for all parties.

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

EASTERN CONFERENCE

BOSTON IN 7.

MONTREAL IN 6.

COLUMBUS IN 6.

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PHILADELPHIA IN 6.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

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COLORADO IN 5.

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ST. LOUIS IN 7.

ANAHEIM IN 6.

SAN JOSE IN 7.

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STANLEY CUP FINAL

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