The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most dramatic teams in the NHL. There always seems to be something happening in ‘Leafs Land’ and this week was no different.
Head coach Randy Carlyle was fired late Tuesday, sending a message to a Leafs squad that is drastically under-performing.
The Leafs named Peter Horachek the interim head coach and in his first game on the bench the team was blown out of the Air Canada Centre by a hot Washington Capitals squad 6-2; the team’s third straight loss.
According to team president Brendan Shanahan the decision to fire Carlyle was made by GM Dave Nonis in consultation with assistant GM Kyle Dubas, assistant to the GM Brandon Pridham, director of player personnel Mark Hunter and Shanahan.
Shanahan met with the team for the first time since the firing Friday and had the following to say, “I felt it was a good time to remind them what expectations are, try to galvanize the group,” Shanahan told NHL.com. “We’re not at the end of the season, we’re at the midpoint of the season; they’re still in the hunt here. How they’re going to be defined is really up to them. I also wanted to make it very clear to them that we’re watching, we’re on it. They’re not getting by us. They’re not escaping us. We’re not going to be a group that is afraid to act if we feel we can make ourselves better.”
The message to the team was a pretty strong one and Shanahan followed up that statement with another bold move letting the media know that Horachek will remain as interim head coach of the Leafs for the remainder of the season and that a new head coach will be hired after the season ends, with Horachek in the running.
Horachek has held numerous coaching positions including gigs as an assistant in the NHL with the Nashville Predators, as well as head coach of the Florida Panthers in 2013-14, so experience isn’t an issue.
The move to keep Horachek around all season shows commitment and you can bet Leafs’ brass want a more consistent team approach from the players and Horachek, which should hopefully end the drama in Leafs land; at least for now.
The Leafs take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, winners of their last two games, Friday at the Air Canada Centre, so let’s see if anything changes or if the move was merely another that doesn’t pan out for the boys in white and blue.