Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle speaks to the media during NHL opening day training camp in Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. Carlyle says \"I think the best message when you make a decision is you tell the player that you feel the other guys are ahead of him, and that's the truth. Or else you wouldn't make that decision.\" THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
TORONTO - Randy Carlyle has been in Morgan Rielly's situation before.
During his playing days as a defenceman, Carlyle was made a healthy scratch and didn't like the excuse he was given.
"They said, 'Oh maybe it's better that you look at the game from a different perspective.' I don't think I'm going to use that one," the Toronto Maple Leafs' coach said. "I think the best message when you make a decision is you tell the player that you feel the other guys are ahead of him, and that's the truth. Or else you wouldn't make that decision."
Rielly could be a healthy scratch Friday night against the New Jersey Devils with defenceman Mark Fraser poised to return after missing 13 games with a left knee injury. The 19-year-old rookie was paired up with John-Michael Liles during Thursday's practice, suggesting he'll be out of the lineup.
"I'm not too worried about it at all," Rielly said. "It's great that (Fraser is) back and healthy. I think it's going to help our team a lot."
Rielly wasn't hurting the Leafs terribly, though he has been on the ice for 14 goals against this season. That's second-worst behind only veteran Cody Franson, who has been on for 17.
Even though Carlyle didn't necessarily agree with the notion that Rielly was going through some growing pains, he could be due for some tough love.
"He's made some mistakes as every member of our hockey club has," Carlyle said. "I don't like to say that the young player, especially a player that's cutting his teeth in the NHL, is experiencing anything other than life in the NHL. We have veteran people that are making the same amount of mistakes or the same type of mistakes and they don't get the same recognition maybe because they get a pass.
"What we'd like to do is make sure that Morgan understands, as every player has to understand, that in certain situations those mistakes are not ones that we're going to tolerate."
Rielly acknowledged some deficiencies in his game but brushed them off.
"I'm not really too concerned about it," he said. "That happens to everybody. But I just got to keep playing well. I'm not sure if there's one area of my game that has really been bad or anything like that. Just going to keep working hard here and just keep trying to play a good, team game."
The Leafs elected to keep Rielly beyond the nine-game limit that would have allowed them to not burn a year of his entry-level contract. He has now played in 13 of Toronto's 15 games and has five assists and a minus-3 rating.
Rielly has averaged 17 minutes 49 seconds of ice time.
"He's been put in a situation where he's had to play very well and I think he's done a good job with it," Franson said. "He's playing against the top two lines all night and he's playing pretty decent-sized minutes. When a 19-year-old kid can come in and play those minutes against those lines and do it like he has, it's impressive."
But it's probably not impressive enough to keep him in the lineup every night if Fraser stays healthy. Captain Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson are locks to remain the lineup, while Paul Ranger has shown recent improvement after a long NHL layoff.
Franson's offensive abilities keep him in, which makes it a decision between Rielly and Jake Gardiner for who sits out. For now, Rielly appears to be the odd man out.