Under pressure: Randy Carlyle

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This is part of Anaheim Ducks day at PHT…

The big move for the Anaheim Ducks this summer was the decision to fire coach Bruce Boudreau and bring back Randy Carlyle to run things behind the bench. Even though the decision to fire Boudreau wasn’t entirely unexpected given the way the Ducks season ended (yet another Game 7 loss), it is still an extremely risky move given the resumes — and reputations — of these two coaches over the past few years.

In terms of on-ice success and team performance, they have been at very different ends of the coaching spectrum.

The Ducks won a lot of hockey games during Boudreau’s tenure, not only making the playoffs in each of his four full seasons behind the bench, but also winning a division title every season.

Since the start of the 2012-13 season, Boudreau’s first full season in Anaheim, the team won 181 out of 294 regular games (62 percent) and had a pair of 50-win seasons during that stretch. They are just one year removed from being in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.

But because of that Game 7 loss, combined with all of the other Game 7 losses during the Boudreau era (including the one that knocked them out of the first round this past season against the Nashville Predators), the Ducks made the decision to move on and bring back Carlyle, the man that coached them to their 2007 Stanley Cup championship.

If nothing else, it showed where the level of expectation is with the Ducks front office right now. Simply winning a lot of regular season games (more than just about any other team in the league over the past four years) and losing Game 7 is not going to be good enough. This is a team that feels it can win the Stanley Cup right now, and they expect to get closer to that goal than they have been. That is certainly a fair expectation.

That is also where the pressure on Randy Carlyle comes in, because even though he does have his name on the Stanley Cup as a coach, it is a pretty distant memory at this point. Everything that has come since that championship has, well … it has not been great.

He is also following a coach that, again, has had an extremely impressive resume in the NHL, and even though it hasn’t resulted in a Stanley Cup Final win (or even in a Stanley Cup Final appearance) it is still a consistent and sustained level of success with two different teams. You can certainly criticize his team’s postseason shortcomings, especially when it comes to all of those Game 7’s, but he still puts his team in a position to win every single year.

Carlyle, on the other hand, has qualified for the playoffs just four times in his past eight seasons behind an NHL bench. He has made it beyond the first round only once during that stretch. To be fair, a lot of that time came in Toronto where the talent level on the ice was definitely lacking. But even there the team didn’t quite play as well as it probably should have. Two of his last three seasons in Anaheim (including the 2011-12 season where he was replaced by Boudreau early in the year) also resulted in no trips to the playoffs with a significantly more talented team than what he had to work with in Toronto.

Talent should not be an issue this season because he is going to have a great team to work with.

The Ducks have an outstanding young defense, really good goaltending (even after trading Frederik Andersen to Toronto), and a couple of superstar players at forward. This is a team that this past season was the top team in the league in goals against, had the best power play, the best penalty kill, was top-five in terms of preventing shots on goal, and a top-five possession team.  It should be a top Stanley Cup contender.

If it’s not, and if it takes a step backwards from where it was a year ago, that is not going to be a good look for Carlyle or the decision to replace Boudreau with him.

That is the pressure Randy Carlyle is going to be facing this season.

Sometimes making a change just because you feel like you have to make a change ends up doing more to set the team back than it does to help it get ahead. That is the risk the Ducks are running with this move.