Tag: coach firings

Randy Carlyle

Randy Carlyle is the new Toronto Maple Leafs head coach


Call it another example of loyalty or merely familiarity, but definitely call it official: Brian Burke has made Randy Carlyle the new coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Carlyle will replace Ron Wilson, who was relieved of his duties Friday evening.

Carlyle and Burke were together in Anaheim, where they won the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in 2006-07 before Burke pursued his dream gig in Toronto.

Carlyle’s time with Anaheim

Carlyle will bring a different voice to the Toronto locker room because he’s more of a “taskmaster” type — an act that some would say eventually wore thin with the Ducks. Still, it’s tough to argue with his results as he compiled a 273-182-61 record (the most wins in franchise history) during his seven seasons as Anaheim’s head coach.

Burke’s big gamble

This is a bold move to a) help Burke protect his own job and b) stop the bleeding and make good on the franchise’s best chance to break its post-lockout playoff hex.


The irony of this situation is that Carlyle and the man he’s replacing, Wilson, were turfed a short while after signing extensions. Carlyle re-upped with the Ducks this past summer but was canned on Nov. 30; Wilson was extended earlier this season (though he infamously announced the news on Christmas Day) but was fired with 18 games left in the regular season.

— Six degrees of separation: Wilson, Carlyle and Bruce Boudreau (who replaced Carlyle in Anaheim) all played together on the 1977-78 Maple Leafs. Carlyle becomes the 16th man to have both played for the Maple Leafs and then taken on the reins as the team’s coach.

— This move reunites Carlyle with All-Star Joffrey Lupul, who’s enjoying a fantastic season in Toronto. Lupul was traded away twice during Carlyle’s tenure in Anaheim and their relationship wasn’t great:

“You want to prove people wrong,” he said. “(Carlyle) didn’t give me any opportunity on left wing. His words to me were, ‘You’re not able to play left wing in this league.’ It’s something I’ve worked on since I got to Toronto, and now I feel more comfortable on left than I ever was on right.”

Told of Lupul’s post-trade sentiments, Carlyle smiled: “Players make comments. It’s not up to management or coaches to throw any dirt one way or the other.

— Burke and Carlyle will address the media on Saturday at 10am ET.

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Brian Burke faces tough task if he fires Ron Wilson

Dion Phaneuf, Ron Wilson, Brian Burke

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is different from a lot of other NHL general managers for a wide variety of reasons – not just because he’s one of the sport’s great executive showmen.

His fierce – some might say stubborn – loyalty stands out among those qualities. While neighboring GM Bryan Murray seems to shed head coaches like snakes lose skin, Burke has allowed Ron Wilson to stay despite increasing pressure to remove his beloved bench boss.

As Michael Woods reports, it would be more than just a “hockey decision” for Burke (even if he claims otherwise).

Burke and Wilson were born a month apart, were college roommates and teammates on the Providence College Friars hockey team in Rhode Island in the 1970s and have been friends ever since.

(If more details like that aren’t enough for you to follow the link, go there for the mind-blowing photo of Burke and Wilson as co-captains at Providence College.)

Sports front offices base a lot of their decisions on loyalty and familiarity – just look at how wildly predictable Darryl Sutter’s hiring was in Los Angeles – but even with that in mind, Burke and Wilson’s roots go deep.

It’s not like that’s the only instance when Burke’s been a man of his word almost to a fault, either. Personally, his handling of Ilya Bryzgalov in Anaheim was particularly memorable. Instead of holding onto the talented (then) backup, he allowed Breezy to get a real chance to start with another team. He ended up putting outstanding numbers with the Phoenix Coyotes and earning that huge contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in the process.

If you ask me, Burke’s moving the Maple Leafs in a solid direction. There’s the instinct to believe that the two might go off the cliff Thelma & Louise-style if Toronto’s playoff drought continues this season, but it might just come down to Burke firing his friend and coach.

Don’t expect it to be an easy leap, though.

Columnist believes Joel Quenneville’s job could be in danger

Joel Quenneville

The NHL ranks pretty high among professional sports leagues when it comes to treating its coaches with a “What have you done for me lately?” approach. It’s almost comical how a bench boss can go from a Jack Adams winner to unemployed – sometimes in the span of a couple seasons.

With that in mind, it’s almost not too ridiculous to read some murmurs about Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s job security. (Almost.)

Adrian Dater brings up that question in his Sports Illustrated column. Before you call Dater a buffoon, sample his historically-backed argument:

Think it can’t happen? This is the NHL. Peter Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and was fired in 2008. John Tortorella won the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and was axed three seasons later. Bob Hartley won it with Colorado in 2001, went to Game 7 of the Western finals in 2002, and was canned 31 games into the ’02-03 season. Randy Carlyle won the Cup with Anaheim in 2007, and now he’s looking for work.

Quenneville has a contract that runs through the 2013-14 season, but money is about the only thing it guarantees. The pressure is always high on coaches in a league where financial profit usually only comes with a playoff berth. Quenneville is not immune to such reality. If his team’s current six-game losing streak (0-5-1) continues, and the postseason starts to look at all like the dicey proposition it was last year, sources close to the situation tell SI.com that a change behind the bench is possible.

Much like when the Pittsburgh Penguins hired Michel Therrien and the Washington Capitals promoted Bruce Boudreau, there was a noticeable difference when Chicago brought Quenneville in. Still, the Blackhawks are spending a lot of money and are far removed from the low-profile days of Daze and Zhamnov, so you never know.

Let me ask, then: is Quenneville’s seat getting hotter in Chicago?

Inevitable: Blue Jackets fire Scott Arniel

Scott Arniel

You can make it seven.

Scott Arniel is the seventh head coach to be fired this season as the Blue Jackets have decided to let Arniel go after leading Columbus to the worst record in the NHL. Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reports that assistant coach, and former Wild head coach, Todd Richards will take over as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Arniel’s record with Columbus this season finishes at a miserable 11-25-5 with just 27 points in the standings. Through one and a half seasons in Columbus, Arniel finishes 45-60-18.

This summer, the Blue Jackets spent big to get James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter and tried to set things up for a possible run at the playoffs. Instead it saw suspensions and injuries get the worst of things on top of miserable goaltending by Steve Mason as well to see the Blue Jackets fall to the bottom of the West and 20 points out of eighth place in the Western Conference.

Arniel also struggled to figure out just what he wanted to do with his lineup and had his ups and downs in handling the team’s potential young stars. The most obvious situation came when Derick Brassard ended up in the doghouse leading to his agent pointing the finger for Columbus’ struggles at Arniel just last month.

A ton of blame falls on Arniel for not being able to figure things out, but now it’s on GM Scott Howson to figure out how to save his own job as well. This is a situation that isn’t going to change overnight the way it did in St. Louis.

Firing Terry Murray wasn’t easy for Dean Lombardi

Dean Lombardi,

Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi might not work in a hockey fishbowl like Brian Burke does, but he’s just as fiery as the oft-quoted Leafs executive. Lombardi is also intensely loyal, so it should be no surprise that he hammered home how difficult it was to fire head coach Terry Murray in a conference call transcribed by Rich Hammond.

“I don’t think words can ever describe how hard something like this is,” Lombardi said. “You’re talking about, first off, a really good man. As far as a coach, if you look at what he’s done for us, he really stabilized this franchise, pointed it in the right direction. He taught these players a lot. When they look back, they’re going to realize they learned a lot from him.”

Lombardi’s guarding his choices

Lombardi said that he hasn’t spoken much with interim head coach John Stevens and justified suspicions that the Kings might hire a different bench boss. He said that there’s “no timetable” for that move and evaded questions about Darryl Sutter’s candidacy by simply implying that there’s a “very short list” of the possible choices he has in mind.

Making players accountable

As much as he lingered on the difficulty of canning Murray – even if he admitted that it was building in that direction rather than hitting him like “a ton of bricks” – Lombardi was critical of the players. Perhaps most interestingly, he deflected some of the criticism of the work of the team’s younger guys and looked at the group as a whole.

“I saw it with Marleau, Stuart and Nabokov, but it’s collectively across the board here,” Lombardi said. “You can’t just say it’s the young players. The Stolls, the Williams, the Greenes, the Browns, certainly have to look at themselves as much as the young players.’’

Dustin Brown ranks as one of the players who will be called upon to respond the most. He doesn’t have the all-world skills of Drew Doughty or Anze Kopitar, but he wears the captain’s “C” on his chest and needs to do more. He’s currently on a four-game pointless streak, so a coaching change might just light his fire like it did for David Backes, a similarly bombastic captain who’s currently on climbing the two-way forward ranks in St. Louis.

This time around, Murray was the fall guy. If the Kings’ disappointments continue, then some of those criticized players and even the outspoken GM could be next, though.