PHILADELPHIA – Back troubles limited Randy Carlyle in recent weeks, but the Maple Leafs head coach was back on his feet and busy at draft weekend in Philadelphia.
Carlyle, alongside team president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Dave Nonis, continued to hunt for the remainders of a coaching staff, following the dismissal of his three assistant coaches – including long-time no. 2 Dave Farrish – in early May. The Leafs plan on hiring two new assistant coaches to support Carlyle, who received a two-year contract extension after Farrish, Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon were fired.
Touching down in the state of Pennsylvania with team personnel on Wednesday, Carlyle has been speaking with prospective candidates all week and throughout the early stages of summer. "We have a criteria," he said of the interview process, minutes before Friday's draft was to begin. "We sat down and we created a few boxes that we felt we needed to fill.
"And it's typical where you're in an interview process you look for people's strengths and the experience is always a factor – where they've worked before or who they've worked with; have they ever been a head coach before; what programs have they run; what were their jobs with their previous employer; did they run power-play or penalty killing units. Those are the kind of things that typically go into an interview process."
Though he managed to hold onto his job, significant alterations to his coaching staff were deemed necessary after a season that rapidly deteriorated into another playoff-less season.
Absent answers to the wreckage amid the unraveling, Carlyle has finally digested what took place and is looking to turn the page. But he remains of the view that "compete" was the downfall of a club that tumbled out of a certain playoff position in the final weeks. "We didn't compete enough in the situations that we were presented with and consistently enough," said Carlyle, noticeably relaxed after a stressful season.
Change is coming, he understands, and not just to the coaching staff.
With a glut of unrestricted free agents – many of whom won't return – and multiple pieces to adjust and rearrange, the Leafs will resemble a different team in the fall. Just how different remains unclear, but it appears that youth should be part of the agenda with Morgan Rielly, Peter Holland, Carter Ashton, Jerry D'Amigo, Petter Granberg, Josh Leivo among others in line to either garner more opportunity or earn NHL jobs.
"They're going to be given more of an opportunity," Carlyle said. "That's our plan. Our team's not going to be the same coming back. It's as simple as that. With the amount of unrestricted free agents that we have and the make-up of our group we know that some of those players won't be back with our hockey club."
A favourite of Carlyle, in spite of his brief Toronto experience, Dave Bolland could be among them. The Leafs have engaged in a back and forth with the Bolland camp – fronted by agent Anton Thun – but have yet to find agreeable terms ahead of July 1st."It's not that we're not speaking to each other," Nonis said Thursday, "it's at this point we haven't been able to find common ground for a deal."
Bolland is one among many potential changes for the Leafs, who are also likely to shuffle their bottom-six forward group (with a glut of unrestricted free agents), defence, and backup goaltending position. Adjustment to the core group, following the second regular season collapse in three years, is also a distinct possibility.
All of which means a busy offseason ahead for Carlyle and the Toronto management team.