TORONTO – In their final address of the 2011-12 season, Leafs general manager Brian Burke and head coach Randy Carlyle assessed the ills of a season gone wrong and the course of action lying ahead.
A selection of 18 critical points from their remarks.
1. Stay The Course
"My view on how hockey teams are built and how hockey games are won has not changed. I still believe that big, physical teams win hockey games and if you have two evenly-matched teams from a skill perspective the bigger team is going to win. We need to get bigger. That's my top priority as far as an overall priority."
2. Difficulty of Rebuild
"It's not easy to fix a team that's broken. It's not. And I had no illusions or delusions about that except that I watch general managers in all sports get up there the first day and they say 'We've got a five-year plan' and they're just buying five years right out of the gate. And I don't respect that. My view is I was hopeful we could do it quicker. We haven't. But I haven't changed the plan."
"It wasn't good enough this year. I think James Reimer is the real deal. I think that we can still plan on him being a number one guy, but we have to look at if we can bring in a guy that gives us more options and more performance right from the get-go next year."
4. Partial Seasons
"We've played partial seasons since I've been here. And it's time for this team to play a full season, not to play 30 good games or 40 good games or talk about 'if you combine this half with that half', that's not going to fly any more."
5. Second Half Collapse
"I think it was a perfect storm of a lot of things. I think our special teams faltered right about then. I think we had a couple really disheartening losses. I think our lack of size showed up. I think it was a lot of things."
6. Burke/Carlyle vs. Ron Wilson
"The one place where Ron Wilson and I were not on the same page is that central issue is how we play the game. I like to dictate how the game is played, I don't like to have it dictated to me. We're not big enough to play it my way, we're not big enough to play it Randy's way and that has to be addressed. That's not optional. We can't play the way Randy wants to play with this group. We have to make some changes. We have to get bigger. We have to get more hostile."
"I think Tyler Bozak made great strides, but I would say for us goaltending and a number one centre would be the biggest positional needs."
8. Offseason Trades
"At the trade deadline we didn't panic. We kept our assets. We have all the players that teams came after. We kept those assets and we have them available to make hockey deals. And there will be change."
9. Free Agency
"I intend to address the positional needs the old-fashioned way which is through trades, not through free agency. Looking at the pool, I can't see a lot of impact there."
10. 2012 First Round Draft Pick
"When you're at the draft lottery, it's a nail-biting time, but it's also a time of admitting failure. You're up there for a reason."
"We're content that we can get a player at that point with any of those picks [1st, 5th or 6th] – that there is depth in this draft – that we can get a player that will make a difference for us down the road. Maybe not right away, a couple of the players that I've gone and watched in the last couple weeks are guys that I have high hopes for, but I'm not sure they can play right away."
11. Adding Leadership in the Offseason
"I think we might have to, yes. I agree with Randy's assessment. We need to support Dion, not in any way replace him. I think we got the captain that we were hoping to get."
1. Three Areas of Improvement
"The situation is the work ethic first and foremost. The accountability in our group. And the conditioning level of our group has to go up. I feel those are the three things that can make a huge difference with our group from the word 'go'. They've understood that there was going to be a higher level of expectation put on those three areas right from the first day we came together."
2. Lack of Confidence
"Confidence is the number one thing that I would say that this team did not have. We were not a confident group. There was a player that went to Anaheim, Frankie Beauchemin in a trade. I was coaching him in Anaheim. When we got Frankie Beauchemin back in Anaheim, it seemed to take about three weeks for him to get his confidence back, where when he first got there he was just coming back and playing, he was just slapping the puck around and running all over the place. And I was saying to him 'Why did this happen to you?' And he said 'I don't know.' He didn't skate, he didn't move the puck, he was kind of paralyzed. And in some situations, some things that have happened with this group have happened to the same level, the same degree."
3. Trust in Burke
"When you have an experience with an individual previous, I think there's that trust factor. The trusting factor for myself and Brian Burke is that he's proven to me in numerous situations that if we needed something to get done he was quite capable of finding a way to get it done. And two, it was when his commitment to the hockey club is the same as the coaching staff and sees the game in a lot of ways similar to what the coaching staff sees then there's a marriage there. That if he's off on a different tangent on a way he feels the team should play versus what the coaching staff feels how the team should play then I don't think there's a marriage there."
4. Personal Change
"There's been a lot of turmoil. It's been a new experience in both ends of it – first time I've ever been replaced as a head coach. You see some similarities from the standpoint of having changed addresses and the upsetting of your family life and the turmoil. I haven't been home in seven weeks – I've been on the road basically. The professional side of it is you have to adapt to the changes that are taking place on both of the rosters. And in the situation that I was put in I felt very fortunate that I coached in Anaheim almost seven years – this was my seventh season – and I felt very, very fortunate that I get an opportunity to come back and work for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second time in my life. And I look at those situations as positives."
5. Conversation with Kessel
"I think with Phil Kessel the challenge has been put to him and I that we wouldn't get along and I think that was totally unfair. My expectations for Phil Kessel were A) that he had to play more stop and go and I think he tried to do that, B) I think that he created a lot of offence from a chance-standpoint. [But also] that he had to make some adjustments in the way that his minutes were going to be distributed. We talked about that, Phil and I. And we talked about it yesterday, that he still got the minutes that he was accustomed to getting, but with me being more of a line-matching coach that the minutes were distributed at a different rate. There wasn't as much free-flow, there was more line-changing and matching that was going on. And the conditioning level of Phil Kessel was in my mind where it needed to be. And he fit in with the rest of our group from training camp – our expectations – that we can improve in that area."
6. Questions of Leadership
"The captaincy is a heavy letter when things don't go well. I think that Dion has tried and has maintained a level of competitiveness. We judge our players based on their ability to come in and compete night in, night out. And I think that he's done that. I have no qualms looking at Dion Phaneuf and saying that he didn't come and give everything he possibly could to the hockey club. I think it's totally unfair when people select one individual and expect him to shoulder the responsibility of the hockey club. Yes, he's the face of the hockey club, but we [as a coaching staff] have to accept responsibility and there's a leadership core that's within the group that has to accept that. I think it's totally absurd that you're going to blame that on one person."
7. Changes to the Coaching Staff
"I would say that right now we're in an assessment mode. I haven't met with all the coaches yet this morning. I've met with two of the four that we're involved with on a day-to-day basis and just trying to get more of a feel on what they feel is necessary going forward. We'll have another conversation probably in the next five or six days and go over the assessment and try to formulate a plan going forward. At this point, I don't see any changes."