The Toronto Maple Leafs unquestionably have their deficiencies, particularly on the back end. Last season they ranked 26th in the league in goals against per game, with a 3.07 average. This season has been almost identical, as they’re currently sitting at 25th with a 3.07 goals against average (yet somehow Jonathan Bernier has managed to maintain a solid save percentage). Clearly, changes need to be made in Leaf Nation, but is firing the coach at this current time really going to solve anything?
This entire franchise is in disarray. Don’t believe me? Let’s have a look at the Leafs hierarchy before the Carlyle firing. They had a president that didn’t hire the GM, a GM that didn't hire the coach, and a coach that didn't hire his assistants. Oh, and the CEO (Tim Leiweke) that hired the president (Brendan Shanahan) announced that he’s stepping down. As we sit here cross eyed trying to figure all that out, one has to wonder how they can possibly be on the same page.
As it pertains to on ice play, the team is very erratic. They will go on an absolute tear and look like contenders, only to flop weeks later and look like the worst team in the league. The coach is surely partially responsible for that, but there are a number of reasons why the timing of this firing doesn’t really make sense. Let’s have a look, shall we?
8 Timing and Expectations
7 Mixed Signals
6 Lack of a Plan
5 Dave Nonis is Handcuffed
Even if he had a plan, it's apparent to everyone that he is a dead man walking and he will ultimately be relieved of his duties. It's highly unlikely that he is calling any major shots at this point. Even if he had a great coach in mind, it would probably be vetoed by Brendan Shanahan.
Nonis has done some good things since he's arrived on the scene. Trading Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin and a 2nd round pick to L.A for Jonathan Bernier was sheer larceny. Bernier has provided more than solid goaltending and is just a smidgen away from being considered a top goaltender in the league. He's also done little things to improve the team this year, like bringing in Daniel Winnik who has become a reliable centerman and boasts a +15 rating. He also signed Mike Santorelli to a one year, $1.5 million dollar deal, which is peanuts for a guy that currently has 25 points in 42 games.
4 Inexperience of Peter Horachek
3 Interim Coaches Generally Don't Work
The players are not stupid. They know that Peter Horachek will not be the head coach next season and will most likely not listen to a word he says. Let's take everyone's favorite whipping boy Phil Kessel for example. He was deemed "uncoachable" by his former head coach. If he was that difficult to deal with under permanent coaches, what's going to happen when someone with an interim tag tries to tell him what to do?
2 Poor Contracts/Trades
Well, we did give Nonis some love a little earlier but we knew it wouldn't last long. There has been some dreadful contract signings and moves that have set the Leafs back. Nobody in their right mind would give Dion Phaneuf a seven year extension worth $49 million dollars. Unless they're paying him per turnover, that amount of money and term is ridiculous.
It's hard to believe that there was actually a bidding war for David Clarkson's services, as this signing is even worse. A seven year contract worth $36.75 million is rather steep for someone with 24 points over 101 games played with the team. But the ultimate failure for this team is still Brian Burke acquiring Phil Kessel rather than having a crack at Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. That's the one move that severely hampered the rebuild and set them back years (and continues to).
1 Refusal to Change the Core
This one is going to be short and sweet. The core of the team hasn't changed in years. If the core does not change, then neither will the result. Ron Wilson's winning percentage during his time in Toronto was a brutal .492. Randy Carlyle's was better at .535, but not nearly good enough.
These numbers demonstrate that a revolving door of coaches is not the answer and that their woes go way beyond coaching. The core and identity of this team needs a major shake up.
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