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Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, center, smiles as he talks with his team in the final seconds of their 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 15, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (Brian Blanco/Associated Press)
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, center, smiles as he talks with his team in the final seconds of their 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 15, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (Brian Blanco/Associated Press)

Leafs Beat

Randy Carlyle starts picking his favourites Add to ...

New coach. New line combinations.

And, more importantly, new opportunities for some players that might have been buried down the depth chart under Ron Wilson.

Randy Carlyle is now 12 games into his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have gone just 4-6-2 under their new bench boss and remain a work in progress.

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While the Leafs are all but officially eliminated from the playoffs already, what has been interesting to see over that dozen game stretch is what Carlyle makes of this roster and what pieces he believes are worth salvaging from a lost season.

As the man said himself Monday after practice, the more ice time players are getting, the more you know they are in his good books.

So with that in mind, here's a quick comparison of players' average minutes per game under Carlyle as compared to their figures under Wilson.

(Just keep in mind that some high profile bodies like Joffrey Lupul have been on the IR during Carlyle's time with the team.)



Players*

Under Wilson

Under Carlyle

Difference

Clarke MacArthur

15.0

19.3

4.3

David Steckel

12.2

15.7

3.5

Joey Crabb

12.8

14.8

2.0

Matt Frattin

12.5

14.2

1.6

Tim Connolly

16.8

18.3

1.5

Mikhail Grabovski

17.4

18.7

1.3

Nikolai Kulemin

15.1

16.2

1.1

Tyler Bozak

18.4

19.4

1.0

Dion Phaneuf

25.4

26.1

0.7

Phil Kessel

19.9

20.3

0.4

Jake Gardiner

21.4

21.6

0.2

Carl Gunnarsson

22.0

22.2

0.2

John-Michael Liles

21.4

21.4

0.0

Mike Komisarek

16.4

16.4

0.0

Matt Lombardi

13.3

12.6

-0.6

Luke Schenn

16.2

14.1

-2.1

Colby Armstrong

11.2

6.7

-4.5

Cody Franson

16.5

10.0

-6.5

It's been pretty clear the past few games just who Carlyle is leaning on, with Steckel, Crabb and Connolly getting big minutes as part of a checking line and his lower pairing defencemen hardly playing at all.

Carlyle was asked at practice Monday about two players in particular who at opposite ends of this chart – Steckel and Franson – and he shed some light on why they are where they are under his watch.

Carlyle on Steckel: "Not knowing the player very well, just knowing a little of his history, his size, his faceoff ability and not being a pure offensive player, all those three things made it easy for me to make a decision when we were trying to formulate some form of a checking line to put him first on the list... He's getting more of an opportunity because he's earning it, too."

Carlyle on Franson: "I think his mobility and ability to get around the rink and defend to a higher level [need to be improved for him to play more] Aggressiveness is an area of improvement... I think it's just got to be Cody Franson with just a bit more bite and aggressiveness."

Which would all seem to bode well for Steckel and not so well for Franson heading into next season.

At least in general terms, that's what these final six relatively meaningless games mean for the Leafs: We can get a sense of who will be coming back and who won't be.

And how ice time is doled out is something worth keeping an eye on.

*- I haven't included Lupul, Mike Brown or Nazem Kadri here as they haven't played more than two games under Carlyle. Franson has played four games but missed almost all of one with an injury, which skews his numbers down even more than they should be.

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