Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle Turning Toronto into Bigger, Tougher and More Competitive Team
By Tony Ambrogio (@SNTonyAmbrogio)
Randy Carlyle isn’t afraid to put his stamp on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He has benched John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek.
He sent Jake Gardiner to the American Hockey League. He’s been playing rookie defencemen Mike Kostka and Mark Fraser big minutes.
He’s returned Nazem Kadri to centre, who has excelled on centering the 3rd line.
It’s all part of Carlyle’s plan to turn the Leafs into a bigger, tougher and more competitive team in the hopes of returning the club to the
playoffs for the first time since 2004.
“When you get into the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s a war,” said the head coach. “It’s a man’s game.”
Carlyle has talked in recent days about about how much tougher playoff hockey is. How important it is to win the 1-on-1 battles in the post
season. How the game is so different in the playoffs.
He did this a quarter of the way into the regular season.
Randy Carlyle is putting his stamp on his team.
“A lot of what we’re doing is paying attention to detail,” said forward Mike Brown. “We are not trying to do too much.”
There is more structure to the way the team plays. The defence doesn’t try to get too fancy when they have the puck in their own zone.
Nothing puts a smile on Carlye’s face more than seeing a blueliner bank the puck off the glass to get it out of trouble, instead of trying to
skate it out of the zone.
He has constantly juggled the lines in an effort to give each line some size and toughness.
Colton Orr played nearly 13 minutes on the 3rd line Saturday with Kadri and Clarke MacArthur. Orr played nearly 10 minutes on
Monday against Florida and again did little to hurt his team, while playing with an edge – fighting George Parros.
Yes, the same George Parros who knocked Orr out with a concussion more than 2 years ago.
“I thought he gave us what we needed,” said Carlyle after Saturday’s win over Ottawa, after Orr played in his 394th NHL game
receiving the 2nd most ice-time ever in a single contest. “It’s amazing how things get quiet when he’s out there.”
“His presence is felt out there,” said Kadri.
“It’s nice to get rewarded when you work hard,” said Orr who is in the best shape of his hockey career.
This structure; this attitude; the toughness the team is displaying is all part of Carlyle’s plan: To not only get the team into the
playoffs for the first time since 2004 but to be prepared for what playoff hockey is like.
Frazer McLaren scored his 1st goal since November of 2009 in the Leafs win over Ottawa on Saturday. McLaren is the 6-foot-5, 230
pound McLaren who is the enforcer on the Leafs 4th line.
His goal was – to put it nicely – an ugly one. He went to the front of the Ottawa net and the puck bounced off him.
“Go to the front of the net, funny things happen,” said Carlyle.
It was the kind of goal you see in the playoffs.
“If anyone remembers the first round of last year’s playoffs, it was a man’s game and I would expect it to be the same. The games are going
to get tougher and the points are going to be a lot harder to get as we go deeper into the season.”
Carlyle is doing his best to get his team ready.