Siegel: Softer Carlyle remains a stickler for details

Jonas Siegel

10/21/2013 8:58:42 PM

TORONTO – Troy Bodie has played for 11 different coaches since he left the junior ranks in Kelowna. Among them was Randy Carlyle for whom he suited up in Anaheim over the course of three seasons and more recently in his second stint in Toronto this fall.

"He's probably the most detailed coach I've had," said Bodie of Carlyle, who will face his former team Tuesday for the first time since he was fired in Dec. 2011. The Ducks have won seven straight games.

Carlyle may have softened somewhat in his transition to the Leafs, but his obsession with the details remains.

Never was that more apparent than throughout an instructive hour-plus practice on Monday morning, this after his team dropped consecutive games for the first time all season, falling hard to the Blackhawks in Chicago on Saturday evening.

As he is wont to do, Carlyle halted drills repeatedly when they weren't performed properly, bellowing at his group to "play fast" and with more assertiveness and aggression than it had in the 3-1 loss to the defending champs.

"More than other coaches I've played for he is a stickler for details, probably more so at practice," said Joffrey Lupul who played for Carlyle during multiple stints in Anaheim and again in Toronto. "He's not going to see something and overlook it."

In one instance, the Leafs head coach stopped practice to highlight to 23-year-old Jake Gardiner that he move the puck up ice with greater urgency and prominence. He first demonstrated what he meant before chirping to the assembled players that he could do so and "I'm old." Moments earlier during the same drill, he pointed to a specific position on the ice where he wanted his defender to be, moving him from an improper place tucked along the wall to a point two or three few feet away.

"He wants a guy two feet to the right of where the guy is, he's going to stop practice and say 'Move two feet to the right'" said Lupul. "Not in a negative way, just in a way that if you keep doing it over and over, guys pick up on it."

"He's not going to see something and overlook it."

Known to be an obsessive and creative line-matcher – his efforts in freeing Phil Kessel from the grips of Zdeno Chara during the Leafs first round series with Boston last spring were quite impactful – Carlyle's passion for details extends into games.

"The one thing I really admire about Randy is he comes in after every period and he'll have something to write up about what they're doing instead of just coming in with a rah-rah speech or 'you guys are playing awful' speech," said Bodie. "He'll have answers to the questions on the ice.

"He'll draw things up and show us what needs to be done."

His grip on every function of his team's operation extends off the ice as well, even in areas that might not be so obvious.

Upon his arrival with the Leafs in March 2012, following the dismissal of Ron Wilson, Carlyle ensured that the brief walkway between the home dressing room and Air Canada Centre ice surface be mopped and cleaned in between periods so as not to impact the quality of his players' skates.

No detail is too small.

His reputation bestowed as much before he came to Toronto, Carlyle's old-school ways helping the Ducks to their first Cup in 2007.

"What I heard about him was, 'it's going to be tough, he's a hard coach, he's tough'" Carl Gunnarsson recalled. "Yeah, he is [tough]; practices are long, practices are tough, he demands a lot from the guys. But I think he's fair too. If we don't give 100 per cent we don't have a chance to win."

It was for that reason that Carlyle stressed over his team's "loose" play in all three zones throughout a 6-1-0 start; he saw the underlying details of their game lacking and in need of a jump-start. Losses to Carolina and Chicago only served to underscore that point.

"I think he's doing it for the sake of the team," Gunnarsson said. "Of course it's tough, but you've got to see it the right way; he's doing it for you and not trying to be a dick about it."

Though he hasn't changed in his rigidness for order, Carlyle has softened somewhat from his 7-year run with the Ducks. He's ceded to giving his team the morning off on more than a few game-days early this season – at the request of his players no less.

"There's things that you learn and you take from your history or your experience, things that you did then that you might change," Carlyle said.

Carlyle claimed, early in his Toronto tenure, to have learned from the experience Blues coach Ken Hitchcock spoke of in his return to the bench in St. Louis. "He tried to bring a positive attitude day in, day out, no matter what was happening outside of the rink or outside of the playing surface or what had happened the night before that he was going to take a positive approach and try to do that on a day-to-day basis," Carlyle said.

And so it was on Monday morning that, two days after his team was thoroughly outplayed by the Blackhawks, Carlyle brought out the bright orange street hockey balls to open up practice, rather than grinding his group with a depressing skate. Order and instruction came later.

"At times we feel that that's counter-productive," Carlyle said of hammering a message home with a bag-skate. "We have to change the mood of our group to a positive one."

"He's changed a little bit," said Lupul who had previously clashed with Carlyle in Anaheim.

"More so in the day-to-day stuff, coming in chatting with guys and trying to have a bit more of a relationship with the players I think. He's still a demanding coach and everyone knows what's expected from them – I don't think that's going to change anytime soon – but you can certainly see maybe a little softer [side] in his old age."

The details notwithstanding.