There he was – again – as he’s often fond of saying, standing at a podium in the Air Canada Centre and deconstructing a collapse that has become hockey’s most beaten dead horse in the aftermath.
Yes, Randy Carlyle is still head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but even he has little idea how long that will last.
“I’m here today,” he said when asked about his job status as part of a lengthy season-ending press conference Tuesday afternoon. “In this business, you take on the responsibility of wins and losses. All you do is you put your best foot forward, you be honest and forthright with people, and that’s what we tried to do as a coaching staff.
“Decisions will be made whether this person or that person will be back, and I’m not the one making those decisions.”
No, that will fall to Brendan Shanahan, and his hiring as president earlier in the week has obviously slowed the machinations on a potential coaching change.
Shanahan wants to review the organization and what went wrong as part of the Leafs 3-13-0 slide to end the year and that’s bought Carlyle a little time to twist in the wind here. Both Shanahan and GM Dave Nonis gave Carlyle mild endorsements on Monday but said decisions had yet to be made on the coaching staff.
A review of his time with the team to date isn’t particularly pretty.
In 148 games as Leafs coach, Carlyle has won only 70. In a league where roughly 92 points is now an average team, Toronto has been an 86-point one under his guidance, one outscored 442 to 406 even though his goaltenders have had a very respectable .913 save percentage in that span.
More troublingly, the Leafs have been outshot progressively worse as the seasons have gone on, with their shot differential under Carlyle now ballooning to an average of minus-7.1 per game.
While he had success with the Anaheim Ducks seven years ago in winning a championship, Carlyle’s teams also developed these same issues at the end of his tenure there, which eventually led to his firing at the start of the 2011-12 season.
Despite recognizing and consistently stating the possession problem throughout the year in Toronto, there was never any indication he was able to fix it, and the Leafs dropped to an embarrassingly low 41.5 per cent possession rating – ahead of only Buffalo – by season’s end.
It’s a number that has dropped in five successive seasons for Carlyle’s teams.
“You have to compete on the defensive side of the puck with will and commitment, and we did not want to do that on a day-to-day basis,” Carlyle said, in the closest he came to blaming his players on Tuesday. “And that’s what our struggles were.
“We’ve talked about being a puck possession team and trying to change the model [away from] being a rush team. We wanted to create more offensive zone time, thus allowing our offensive players to play with the puck 200 feet away from our net.
“When we did that effectively, we were an effective hockey club. But we just didn’t do it consistently.”
Carlyle admitted his faith in his system had been shaken this season, especially as the Leafs fell from ninth overall to 23rd in the final month of the year and didn’t looked particularly engaged with their playoff lives on the line.
That freefall was payback, he mused, for when they had won games despite playing poorly early in the year.
Carlyle also expressed regrets over how he handled certain situations, although he didn’t shed a lot of light on what exactly those were, noting only that he wished he was more committed to decisions made early in the year.
“If you think that you have all the answers,” he said at one point, “then you’re in the wrong business.”
Now all that remains to be seen is if Shanahan and Co. still believe he has some of them.
The Leafs under Carlyle, in a nutshell