Say this about Randy Carlyle — he’s a realist.
On the eve of the final game of the regular season — one in which Toronto looked like it was playoff bound, then crumbled, then fired Ron Wilson, then hired Carlyle — the Maple Leafs bench boss acknowledged his team is far from a finished product.
“I think that there’s obviously some work to be done from a coaching standpoint,” Carlyle told the National Post. “We’re trying to create a hockey club that can play somewhat of a different style than what they were previously. I don’t know if you can say the results were where we wanted them, but I think at times we’ve displayed that we have the ability to do that.
“I think there’s an adjustment period that’s taking place here that’s one where there’s an understanding of what’s expected.”
(I have no idea what that last quote meant either.)
Understandably, Carlyle is looking ahead to next season and the prospect of a full year of playing his preferred style of hockey. There’s just one catch — will he have to teach it all over again?
The Leafs face a number of personnel decisions this summer. Nikolai Kulemin, Matt Frattin, Joey Crabb, Cody Franson, Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens are all either restricted or unrestricted free agents and it became clear that, as Toronto plummeted out of the playoff picture, the current roster simply isn’t good enough.
GM Brian Burke will need to upgrade his core group while trying to retain some of his UFAs/RFAs, but that’s no easy task given the Leafs already have $57 million committed in salary next season.
As for Carlyle, he wasn’t ready to dismiss his current group of players…but he wasn’t exactly ready to endorse them, either.
“I think there are times where they have proven they can and there are times when they have proven they can’t,” he said. “For you to ask that question about personnel, I think it’s a little premature … to me, I don’t think you make statements about your team’s ability to make the playoffs in the summer, in the spring or in the fall.