The man at the helm of the Leafs ship Titanic may have been jettisoned, but that doesn’t mean that the boat isn’t still on a collision course with the iceberg.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle was relieved of his duties Tuesday morning in the wake of a disastrous 2-5 road trip. With, at best, a precarious hold on his job to start the 2014-15 campaign, Carlyle respectably managed to retain his post through November and December, as the Leafs posted a 10-1-1 record at one point.
But despite the brief rise in the standings, the team’s shot differential consistently ballooned against their favour. A 5-1 loss in Winnipeg – versus a Jets team missing its top four defenceman – was the ultimate straw, particularly after Carlyle took a jab at upper management.
“You don’t always have the luxury to say that you’d like this player or that player or this type of player. That’s not the way it works,” Carlyle said. “How it works is you have an organization that provides you with players, and our job, as we’ve said all along, is just to coach ’em up.”
The cast of players including highly-priced stars such as Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf have looked indifferent and inattentive to detail, particularly away from the puck. Carlyle’s failure to mold the roster into a more cohesive group is his own undoing.
But Carlyle can only be held accountable so far. The erratic play of Nazem Kadri, the lackadaisical effort of Jake Gardiner, the exorbitant contract of David Clarkson, and the adequate – but not superb – performances of Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer aren’t the coach’s fault.
More changes, whether on the ice or above it, are needed to keep this vessel afloat.