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The Crashing Toronto Maple Leafs: Is it Really the Coaching?

By Savannah Malnar

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a great history as an Original Six hockey team in the NHL. Unfortunately lately they have had more downs than ups and have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967. With this drought has come a multitude of personnel changes. Toronto fans are used to coaches being temporary, so it was no shock to them when coach Randy Carlyle, coach of only roughly two and a half seasons, was terminated.

His success with the Anaheim Ducks (who he led to a Stanley Cup) did not transfer to the Leafs. Fans and management hoped his defensive mind would bring a new perspective to the Leafs’ locker room, but instead the team only made the playoffs once under his coaching and then in the 2013-2014 season went 2-12 to end the season and fall out of what looked like to be a clinched playoff spot.

This was when management and fans really began to look at Carlyle’s effectiveness. The decision to fire Carlyle followed a barely winning record of 21-16-3 that left the Leafs grasping onto a wild card playoff spot to start the 2014-2015 season; it was most likely heavily influenced by recently hired (as of the end of the 2013-2014 season) President of the team, hall of fame player and previous Director of Player Safety, Brendan Shanahan.

Prominent hockey writer Greg Wyshynski for Yahoo! Sports authored an article titled: “Randy Carlyle fired by Toronto Maple Leafs, finally.” A writer for CBS Sports says this shows the Leafs have “learned from their mistakes.” So it seems the national media agrees with the call. A different view comes from an article from a more local source, the Toronto Star. Rosie DiManno instead goes straight to the top, calling out Brendan Shanahan for not doing enough in his first season as President. She stated she believes General Manager Dave Nonis could be the next piece to go if Shanahan really wants to turn Toronto around. In her words, “And Carlyle, for his sins, was miscast as the old-style coach who could reach deep inside this lineup and come up with a fistful of guts. That’s on management, those who’ve departed and those still here.”

DiManno appears to be among the loyal Toronto fans and media who are desperate for a turnaround for a team with such a strong past. Perhaps Carlyle being sacked will be the beginning of that, or maybe they just have to wait for something bigger.