If Leafs are firing coach Carlyle, they must move quickly to hire his replacement

Adam Proteau
Randy Carlyle (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

There’s something to be said for the Maple Leafs, under new president Brendan Shanahan, taking their time in determining the future of head coach Randy Carlyle. Shanahan never was prone to rushing to judgment in his role as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian and his new role in Toronto demands a similar approach. If he jerked his knee as soon as he was hired and cleaned out the Leafs’ management group, you’d better believe there’d be no shortage of jerks ready to put him over their knee for being hasty.

That said, when the topic turns to the future of head coach Randy Carlyle, Shanahan and GM Dave Nonis can’t wait too long before making a definitive statement. If they’re going to make a change behind the bench, it needs to come sooner than later.

There are already some great candidates on the market who could step in to replace Carlyle, who has one year left on his contract: former Predators coach Barry Trotz would provide the Leafs with the type of defensive structure that disappeared under Carlyle’s watch in 2013-14; Kevin Dineen was fired by the Panthers in November, but availed himself very well with the Canadian Women’s national team at the Sochi Olympics and was highly regarded before he was tasked with making lemonade out of Florida’s lemons; and Peter Laviolette has a Stanley Cup championship on his resume from his time in Carolina and the former Flyers coach understands what it means to work in a major hockey market.

There are others who could be in the mix, including AHL coach and former Leafs defenseman Luke Richardson, one of the most respected young coaches working in the minors right now. He’s in the mold of a Dallas Eakins – someone demanding, but not prone to stepping on a player’s neck if he doesn’t see what he wants. And if a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins dismisses their current head coach, a veteran winner such as Dan Bylsma would be in the conversation.

But wait for a few more weeks, and any or all of these names could be gone. There are vacancies in four markets (Florida, Nashville, Vancouver and Washington) at present and that number will grow if others (including the Sharks, Pens, Hurricanes and the Islanders) make changes. With as many as eight, if not more openings, GMs will move in short order to fill them. And if there’s too much dithering on Toronto’s behalf, the best candidate could be long gone.

If you look at some of the strong statements made by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment honcho Tim Leiweke, it’s clear something significant needs to change with the Leafs and Shanahan’s hiring is the start, but not the end. Unless there are major alterations to the roster, the best option may well be to cut ties with Carlyle and give Toronto’s players a new voice to follow.

Waiting around too long to fire Carlyle won’t do him any favors in the hunt for a new job, but more importantly, it will only truncate the list of replacements available to Shanahan and Nonis.

The late bird catches leftover worms. Best to err on the side of early.