Georgian Bay Sports Fan

commentary & opinions on the sports and political scene

The Buds are (not ) Alright….

imagesThe recent firing of Maple Leaf Head Coach Randy Carlyle is, and isn’t, much of a surprise.

It’s not a surprise because the  Blue and While juggernaut consisting of player, coaches, management, fans, shareholders, corporations, commentators, analysts, newspaper, radio, etc … demands 24/7 attention much like a child.  And as an overindulgent parent the child gets what they want by being extra whiny.

It is a surprise because from a hockey perspective Carlyle did a fine job and wasn’t deserving of this treatment, but let’s not let not get reality get in the way of the Maple Leafs progress…or lack of.

A coach’s job is fairly simple.  With deference to every couch sitting Saturday night coach-wannabee, line combinations and sitting players is not the focus of the professional coach.  A coaches job is to deal with the players put in front of him by the GM.  The coaching strategy he employs, from game systems to motivational tactics, are based on the personnel he has been given.

Yesterday’s coaches like Mike Keenan don’t work in today’s game, they have a single coaching style that doesn’t adapt well to players that can’t or won’t play the way they want.  Ken Hitchcock understood that his coaching methodology had to adapt to the team put in front of him, he went from a “hard ass” to a master of communication in his development into one of the finest coaches the NHL will ever see.  Roger Neilson knew this and called it situational coaching.

So the question becomes for Randy Carlyle, did he have the personnel in front of him to be successful and he couldn’t manage them….or did he have an inferior level of talent and was doomed to fail ?  In the first case he deserved to be let go, in the second GM Shanahan (uh yes, not front man Nonis) is squarely to blame by making him a scapegoat for years of poor management decisions.

Let’s look at what Carlyle had to play with compared to a truly elite team, the Chicago Blackhawks and value their worth out of 10.  5 is an average NHL quality player, probably 3rd or 4th line on a decent team.  7 is a good NHL player with nice upside.  9 is an elite player on any team.  10 is Wayne Gretzky quality.



Winnik                  5                              Bozak                    6                     Kessel                   8

JVR                         7                              Kadri                      7                   Panik                     5

Komarov              6                              Santorelli             5                      Clarkson               5

Booth                    5                              Smith                    5                       Bodie                    4

Phaneuf               6                              Franson                  7

Rielly                     7                              Polak                     6

Gardiner              4                              Robidas                 5


Team Total = 101



Saad                      8                              Toews                   9                          Hossa                    9

Bickell                   7                              Richards               7                          Kane                      9

Sharp                    8                              Shaw                     7                         Teravainen         6

Carcillo                  6                              Kruger                  5                       Smith                    5

Keith                     9                              Seabrook             8

Hjalmarsson       8                              Oduya                   8

Rozsival             6                              Runblad               6


Team Total = 131


If you go through a few bottom dweller teams like Buffalo or Carolina you will probably come up with Team Totals around 95.

So based on this it seems clear Carlyle was given an extremely mediocre team to work with, and on some nights got an all star performance out of them.  Other nights, and more often, got the team they really were…below average in individual talent.

I’d suggest his coaching strategy was very successful in getting them to play some great hockey on some nights, executing game strategy and bringing high energy.  But on the bad nights the same game strategy couldn’t make up for the reality of talent they had on the ice.

In moving forward Shanahan would have been much better off to take a page from the Nashville Predators and Barry Trotz.  It took 4 or 5 years of poor showings to find the right player talent that could execute the strategy plan Trotz put in place.  Management believed in their coach, the coach believed in his plan and was given the chance to execute it.  Don’t for minute think Trotz after a few years dumped his plans and came up with a whole “new” system of play, his success came from being allowed to persevere in his plans and mold the players that came in for him.

And let’s not forget todays golden boy, Brendan Shanahan has no record of success in management at any level.  The pedestal Toronto fans and media have put him on is quite astonishing.  In his role with the NHL, he made many questionable disciplinary decisions and could not reasonably justify most of them when challenged (see my previous post and video).  While he was a great player, there is an extensive list of the greatest NHL players that failed miserably as coaches and GM’s in the league….look no further than my favorite Mr. Gretzky’s experiences.

So it seems the good ship Blue and White is continuing in on its Titanic voyage.  They refuse to learn from their own past, and refuse to acknowledge the success of other teams building strategies.  Shanahan like his predecessors talks a great game, but is either unable or incapable to follow through.  He said this year’s team was going to be tough, strong in the middle and defensively solid….wrong, wrong and wrong again but he continues on.  He says now Carlyle is gone the players are going to be held to account, why couldn’t they be held to account for Carlyle?  And really what exactly will Shanahan do about it when they inevitably can’t or won’t?

Unfortunately this ship is sailing the exact same course as the doomed Titanic (or the Edmonton Oilers, but I digress), but expects different results.

Hey what’s it called when you do the same thing over and over and over with the same results..…but continue to  expect different results each time?


I   N   S   A   N   I   T   Y….download











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