Toronto Maple Leafs May Need Coaching Change


Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

After yet another loss and with a tough schedule ahead Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis may be looking to move on from Randy Carlyle.

It’s clear there is a real disconnect between the GM and the coach. That was illustrated yet again today when Jerred Smithson was placed on waivers.

Nonis brought in Smithson when Bolland and Bozak were both out with injuries and Nazem Kadri was suspended. Simply put, the Leafs needed a centre.

The problem is Carlyle kept playing Smithson when he shouldn’t have. Last week Smithson was twice dressed over Peter Holland. In his 13 games with the Maple Leafs, Smithson managed no points and only one shot. Peter Holland has a goal and seven shots in half the games.

After seeing Carlyle bench Holland for Smithson, Nonis did what he had to do to fix the problem. He removed Smithson by placing him on waivers. Now Carlyle has to play Holland.

Often this season it appears that Randy Carlyle is simply being out coached. He continues to dress a two enforcer fourth line that most teams view as a joke.

Last night the fourth line was stuck in their zone for nearly two minutes before Brad Stuart scored on a lucky bounce. The goal, which turned out to be the game winner, was possible because Stuart pinched all the way in to the goal line. It’s like he knew who he was on the ice against.

"They’re tired and it’s their fourth line. No disrespect, but maybe you could try things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. We had a lot of good looks on that particular shift anyway. We were able to get a bounce and capitalize on it.” – Brad Stuart"

That’s a very polite way of saying the fourth line is terrible and everybody knows it. To make matters worse, it was Carlyle who decided to send his fourth line out there for a defensive zone faceoff.

Now a lot of people will argue that the fourth line of every team is terrible. Here’s what the San Jose Sharks head coach thought of his fourth line yesterday.

"I thought they were the difference in the game, to tell you the truth. Maybe their minutes don’t reflect it, but their energy and the passion which they played with rubbed off on others.” – Todd McLellan"

San Jose’s fourth line also got the first goal of the game when Mike Brown scored.

The numbers for Orr, McLaren and Smithson in terms of shots on net are staggering. With Smithson on the ice the Leafs only get 25 per cent of total shots. That means for every shot for the Leafs, the other team gets three. McLaren or Orr on the ice gives the Leafs a slight bump, up to the low 30s. That puts Smithson, Orr and McLaren all 11th or lower among players with at least 10 games played when it comes to shot differential.

Somehow dressing three of the worst players in the NHL when it comes to shot differential and putting them on the same line doesn’t strike me as a good idea.

For a team that gets brutally out-shot on a nightly basis, wouldn’t you want to play players who open up more offensive options?

Carlyle could be icing players like Holland, Ashton and Leivo. Heck even Troy Bodie is a better offensive option and he can still brawl.

Now some blame the cause of the Leafs woes on injuries.

But even a quick check with show the Leafs are in the middle of the pack when it comes to man games lost to injury so that’s a hollow excuse.

This isn’t the first time Nonis and Carlyle have butted heads. Last year Carlyle refused to play Gardiner and stuck with Korbinian Holzer. Nonis forced the issue then too, sending Holzer down just hours after Carlyle praised him to the media, forcing him to play Gardiner.

And the Leafs defensive struggles can’t continue to be ignored. When Carlyle was brought in he was hailed as a defensive specialist. He took one of the worst penalty killing units in the league and turned it into one of the best.

But the Leafs PK has gone to the dogs. It’s now 24th in the league, with a kill rate of only 78.5 per cent. To put that into perspective, Buffalo and Carolina are ahead of the Leafs and only Ottawa and the New York Islanders have given up more short handed goals.

Now a coaching move is far from imminent and a string of wins will go a long way to making everything I just mentioned fade into the background, but with a brutal stretch of games in December against top tier teams and with the Leafs already on a five game losing streak, how long will it take for Nonis to make a move?

Ron Wilson, the last coach of the Maple Leafs, was let go by Brian Burke after a 1-8-1 run. The Leafs are now 3-5-2 in their last 10.

Also it’s important to remember that Dave Nonis didn’t choose Randy Carlyle. Carlyle was already the coach when Burke was let go.

If the Leafs drop out of the playoff race during the Christmas season the 24/7 cameras may just catch something nobody would have seen coming when the Leafs were the top team in the Eastern Conference.

They may catch the firing of Randy Carlyle.