Randy Carlyle is very close to going from hero to goat in Leafland if the results don't change and soon. The team was 15-9-0 and in 5th place just a short time ago and all was well, but a recent 0-3-1 slide has the microscope focusing on the bench boss and a few of his curious decisions. It is difficult to be too hard on Randy, however, this Leafs team has played a much more structured style than in years past, and have showed much more focus on accountability. Is that enough to give thim the benefit of the doubt and trust that he knows what he's doing? No. Playing style and team buy-in is 50% of the equation for a coach. The other 50% is personnel decisions, from who is in the line-up to who is on the ice at what time in the game. I'm not saying that the coach should be fired, but if everyone else notices this stuff, why can't (or won't) Randy? Below are a few of the questionable choices Carlyle has made recently. You decide if these decisions have cost the team points in the standings.
This is a big kid (6ft3in, 205lbs) with big upside. He is not a mean guy, but he can lower the boom when he wants to. He will be a very good shut down D man in the NHL one day. Randy Carlyle LOVES him, and so does Nonis apparently, as the German defender just got a two year extension.
What I don't get is why he is put in the situations he's put in. The organization preaches patience with guys like Kadri and Gardiner (get to that later), but they take a guy with 2 NHL games under his belt at the beginning of the season and stick him on the top pairing with Dion Phaneuf? Then they stick him on the ice against the top scorers of the opposing teams, including the Penguins?? Then after admitting he was overwhelmed by Crosby and co. the last time the teams met, they stick him on the ice late in the 3rd period against them again??? I don't know what else to say... You almost feel bad for the guy.
He's not a big guy at 5ft10in and 185lbs, but he has a rare and often sought after quality among NHL defensemen: the ability to move the puck, either by making a good first pass or by skating the puck out of the zone himself. He is also a handy guy to have on your second PP unit. He's also pretty good in his own end.
Aside from his size, I'm not sure why Carlyle hates him so much that he feels he needs to spend more than half of the season so far in the press box in favor of rookies like Holzer or Kostka who have struggled at times. He finally got back into the line-up last night against the Pens and he looked good. I'm not sure why Kostka came out for him instead of Holzer who had struggled mightily against the Pens, but I'm starting to sound like a broken record, so I'll move on.
He is one of the Leafs most talented forwards. Period. He can raise hell in the other team's offensive zone on any given shift with excellent hands and good grit in the corners. This year he does not look like half the player he was in the previous two plus years.
Randy (until last night) had him playing in a mostly checking role, often starting in his own end. He is not the best faceoff guy, though he is a decent checker. People wonder why he's not putting up the points he usually does? He's doing what he's told, but is it a waste of his talents? I thought Jay McClement was brought in to fill the checking Center role.
This kid is a S T U D stud. He was great for the leafs last year at age 21, and is only going to get better with time. He was lighting it up in the AHL during the lockout until he was injured with a concussion that put him out for over a month. When he came back, he was a bit rusty, so he was sent back to the Marlies to get his feet under him again.
That was a month and a half ago. Jake has been back up to full speed for a month, and for some reason he remains in the AHL. I don't know about you, but I would take Jake Gardiner on my NHL team over ANY of the inexperienced guys on the current roster! The leafs can't benefit from a great first pass out of their zone, or someone who can skate it out of trouble all by himself? You're telling me Kostka is better suited on the point on the Leafs PP than Gardiner??? Wrong. I can see it, you can see it, hell Jake's AGENT can see it!
This better be happening because there is a major trade in the works and someone is being showcased, OR... OR... or, I will do nothing and go back to being a frustrated Leaf fan. You'd think I'd be used to this by now...