MIKE TOTH

Hot tempered coach on hot seat

Posted By: Mike Toth · 1/10/2014 9:20:00 AM

To be honest, I wasn't a big fan of the HBO "24/7" documentary surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs-Detroit Red Wings NHL Winter Classic. These Candid Camera-type shows have been done to death and there really wasn't anything new or enthralling on display.

However, one thing did surprise me;  how grumpy Leafs coach Randy Carlyle is with his hockey club. It was clear in the HBO doc that happy-go-lucky centre Nazem Kadri drives Carlyle completely bonkers. But the coach seems to be crabby with all his players, using putdowns and profane language to try and get his message across.

But is that message starting to fall on deaf ears?

James Reimer was blasted between the pipes in Thursday's humiliating 6-1 defeat against the Carolina Hurricanes. However, Reimer was preaching a more positive attitude following the game.

"Sometimes all it takes is a pat on the back," said Reimer. "Right now we've just got to stand up for each other and stay strong and believe that we're going to get rolling."

If the Leafs are looking for a pat on the back, however, they can't expect it to come from the coach. Reimer's last start prior to Thursday's debacle was on December 21st, a night he was pulled after giving up three first period goals. When informed of the decision, "Hockey Night in Canada" cameras captured Reimer on the bench staring daggers at Carlyle.

Reimer isn't the only Leaf who hasn't always been enamored by Carlyle's prickly personality. Scoring star Joffrey Lupul  had run-ins with Carlyle in a previous player-coach relationship during their Anaheim Duck days. Lupul wasn't thrilled to learn a few years ago that Carlyle would now be calling the shots in Toronto and although the veteran sniper says Carlyle has toned down his Anaheim act, Lupul also stated recently that Carlyle still has things to learn about handling the various personalities that make up the Maple Leafs.

Departed Leafs have also lashed out at Carlyle, with Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski both taking well-publicized shots on their way out the door. 

"I didn't have a relationship (with Carlyle)", said MacArthur. "Not many guys do."

"If you feel support from your coach (you'll find success)," Grabovski ranted. "I don't feel support from this (expletive) idiot (Carlyle)."

Looking into the crystal ball when Carlyle was hired, the Leafs performer I really thought he'd clash with was Phil Kessel. Ron Wilson wasn't exactly Mr. Sunshine himself behind the Leafs bench but he did have a solid relationship with Kessel, as Wilson seemed to treat the shy sniper with kid's gloves. 

These days, however, Kessel has fallen into the same post-New Year's doldrums as all the other Leafs; goalless during the current three game slump and a shaky -4. Sure, "Phil the Thrill" recently signed an 8 year-$64 million contract extension to stay in Toronto. But you wonder if he did that in spite of Carlyle, as Kessel may have said to himself, "Hey! I'm gonna be here a lot longer than the coach."

And unless he can find a way to get Kessel and company off their butts and playing some hockey instead of simply getting on their nerves, Carlyle might soon have to find another team to scream at.  

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