Rumor Roundup: Trade winds blowing after Maple Leafs fire Carlyle

Lyle Richardson
Cody Franson, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk

It didn’t take long to for the Toronto Maple Leafs firing of head coach Randy Carlyle on Jan. 6 to ramp up the Leafs trade speculation. Before the day was over the Toronto media was ruminating over which Leafs were most likely to hit the trade block.

Leafs GM Dave Nonis fuelled the conjecture during the press conference announcing Carlyle’s firing, pointing out his players were “moveable” while noting none had full no-move clauses. TSN’s Darren Dreger went one step further, claiming all the Leafs players were “potential trade targets.” Read more

Varlamov’s 54 saves one of the 10 best goalie performances this season

Semyon Varlamov

The way Semyon Varlamov played on Tuesday night, you’d have to think the puck looked like a beach ball to the Colorado Avalanche netminder.

With 54 saves in a shutout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, Varlamov not only posted one of the best performances of this season, he posted one of the best in Avalanche history. He became only the fourth Avs goalie to ever make 50 stops in a game, and one of only four netminders with 54-plus saves in a shutout victory since 1995.

The incredible feat of puck stopping isn’t enough to take top spot on this list of the 10 greatest mid-season goaltending performances, however. That spot goes to a very special game that a certain San Jose Sharks netminder will never forget. Read more

Still McDavid over Eichel for No. 1…and other World Junior leftovers

Denis Godla (left) and Martin Reway  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

It was awfully nice of the Toronto Maple Leafs to hold off on firing their coach until Tuesday, and your trusty correspondent means that in all sincerity. The Maple Leafs probably knew they wanted to fire Randy Carlyle on Monday, but held off the gong show and allowed the best teenagers in the world to have the stage all to themselves without turning it into a gong show. Good on them for doing that.

The day after the night before, here are some final thoughts that never made their way from the notebook:

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Toronto Maple Leafs need to change a lot more than just the coach

Ken Campbell
Dion Phaneuf (left) and Phil Kessel  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Regardless of whether the Toronto Maple Leafs bring in Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher, or while we’re the ‘B’ theme, the second coming of Toe Blake or Scotty Bowman, two essential elements of the culture of this team are going to have to change if it has any hope of success.

The first is way up where the guys who have the key to the executive bathroom reside. At some point, team president Brendan Shanahan is going to have to decide who is ultimately responsible for the on-ice product. Is it Shanahan himself? Is it current GM David Nonis, or is it someone with whom Shanahan is comfortable working? Read more

Where do the Maple Leafs go after Carlyle – Bylsma, Babcock, Boucher or beyond?

Matt Larkin
Randy Carlyle could never get Toronto to stop allowing oodles of scoring chances during his tenure. (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s one of the least surprising moves of 2014-15. And yet, it’s the talk of the hockey world. Randy Carlyle coaches the Toronto Maple Leafs no more.

Hiring Carlyle in the first place three years ago always seemed an odd fit. He carried a Cup-winning reputation from his days helming the Anaheim Ducks, but he was also “the coach who made fighting en vogue” on that 2007 championship team, and there he was, taking over a 2012 edition of the Leafs that made its hay on speed and finesse, icing fleet-of-foot units like Mikhail Grabovski between Clarke MacArthur and Nikolay Kulemin.

The square peg stuffed itself into the round hole with reasonable success in 2012-13, as Carlyle helped Toronto reach its first playoffs since 2003-04, but it was speed, not brawn, that had the team within a whisker of upsetting the Boston Bruins in seven games. Nevertheless, Grabovski, MacArthur and Kulemin don’t play for the Leafs anymore, and GM Dave Nonis gradually molded the team into more of a “Carlyle” blueprint. That included signing David Clarkson, swapping John-Michael Liles for Tim Gleason and, this past summer, dealing Carl Gunnarsson for Roman Polak and signing Stephane Robidas.

Carlyle guided Toronto to a respectable 91-78-19 record during his tenure, and he had the Leafs 21-16-3 this season, good enough to cling to the Eastern Conference’s bottom playoff rung for now.

The wall, however, was so covered in writing you’d mistake it for a graffiti mural. The hirings of Kyle Dubas, Cam Charron, Darryl Metcalf and Rob Pettapiece signalled Toronto’s shift toward an analytics-first philsophy, and we all know the enduring hallmark of the Carlyle era was horrible analytics. Per puckalytics.com, the Leafs’ Corsi Close ranks in each Carlyle season or half-season: 24th, 29th, 29th and 28th. The ice consistently tilts the other team’s way. The Leafs have always given up far more chances than they’ve generated under Carlyle, making them too dependent on goaltending. That’s why the stat geeks correctly predicted the Leafs’ regression last season and why no one’s heart rate climbed when Toronto sat 19-9-3 after six straight wins in mid-December. The numbers said this team was due for a tailspin again. That’s exactly what happened, and that’s why Tuesday’s firing was utterly predictable.

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Toronto Maple Leafs fire coach Randy Carlyle

Jared Clinton
Randy Carlyle David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced early Tuesday morning that they have fired coach Randy Carlyle. Assistant coaches Peter Horachek and Steve Spott will take over interim duties.

With the Maple Leafs currently mired in a slump in which they’ve won only two of their last nine games, Toronto makes the move long after many had thought it would come. Carlyle’s coaching has been much-maligned over the past few seasons, and his firing comes on the heels of a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. Read more

Russians shrug off chaos, as usual, to advance to gold medal game

Russian goal celebration  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Russian defenseman Rinat Valiev was asked whether his coach Valeri Bragin had ever mentioned the 2011 Russian team that looked an awful lot like this one. It took him a while to figure out the question. Once he did, he broke out into a wide smile.

“Like, everybody knows that,” said Valiev, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who plays with Canadian captain Sam Reinhart on the Kootenay Ice of the Western League. “He don’t need to talk about it.”

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Canada’s ‘big’ unit is heating up at just the right time

Canada's Lawson Crouse (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Not that Canada needed it, but the host nation’s fourth line had a big night against Denmark with two goals in an 8-0 quarterfinal romp. Because Canada’s so deep, that fourth line is comprised of two top-25 NHL draft picks and the youngest player on the team – who is threatening to go top-10 this summer.

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