Maple Leafs lack identity, says coach Carlyle | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMaple Leafs lack identity, says coach Carlyle

Posted: Monday, November 18, 2013 | 03:19 PM

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Randy Carlyle's Maple Leafs are 12-7-1, but the coach is not comfortable with his team's play at the quarter mark of the season. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press) Randy Carlyle's Maple Leafs are 12-7-1, but the coach is not comfortable with his team's play at the quarter mark of the season. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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Despite the Maple Leafs' solid 12-7-1 start to the season, Randy Carlyle is not satisfied with his team's play. The coach wants more puck possession, a more physical approach and better performance in the defensive zone.
The good news for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they hit the season's quarter pole is the fact they have a winning record. At 12-7-1, the Maple Leafs rank 11th overall, ahead of the likes of the Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The bad news is Randy Carlyle is not satisfied with his team's play. The coach wants more puck possession, a more physical approach and better performance in the defensive zone.

"We have to continue to focus on the big picture and we feel this hockey club can play to a higher level," Carlyle said Monday. "We think that we can be more consistent. We don't think we have played a stretch of games, outside of say three or four, where we can say, 'That's the type of team we are.'

We haven't created an identity, and there are reasons for that -- injuries and suspensions, a lack of commitment...a bunch of different reasons. We think if we can continue to strive and push for the things we do well, that we can reach that identity and it's going to take time. This isn't a development league, so we have to continue to find ways to win."

Kessel missing in action

Right-winger Phil Kessel was absent from practice Monday, but could play Tuesday when the Maple Leafs host the New York Islanders.

"He called in with flu symptoms this morning and we felt it was in his best interest to stay away," Carlyle said. "He'll visit with our doctors this afternoon to see what medicines can be prescribed so that he'll be available to us Tuesday night."

Fraser on the mend

Defenceman Mark Fraser left Saturday night's game against Buffalo late in the first period with what the team is calling a lower-body injury. A knee injury earlier in the year kept him out of 13 games, but Carlyle would not say if this latest setback is related to the first injury.

"He skated half an hour before practice along with Tyler Bozak and both players felt they were making progress," Carlyle said.

Bozak will remain out of the lineup on Tuesday, but Carlyle said, "After that it becomes day-to-day. If he shows the same progress as he has the past three or four days it'll possibly be closer as we approach Thursday night."

Carlyle testy on goalie question

James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier have a combined 2.30 goals-against average, which ranks the Toronto duo eighth in the NHL. Reimer is sixth in save percentage at .942 while Bernier is seventh at .938.

Still, Carlyle doesn't like to dwell on the accomplishments of the dynamic duo.

"I don't know if you can just focus on the goaltending aspect of our hockey club," Carlyle said. "I think if you went through the rest of the league there are a lot of teams whose goalies have high save percentages, so [Bernier and Reimer] are doing what they are supposed to be doing. They stop the puck. That's their job. That's what they are paid to do.

"Goaltending seems to be a flashpoint in this market and we never seem to stop talking about it. Maybe I'll stop taking questions on the goaltending, then what would you guys do? You'd have to find some other questions and that would really tax some guys."

Winning template

Following Saturday's 4-2 win over the Sabres, which came on the heels of a 3-1 loss in Buffalo, Carlyle figured his team won four or five of the six periods the teams played in the back-to-back series.

"We did a lot of things that we set out to do, so that is the positive," Carlyle said. "We did execute much quicker through the neutral zone and had a stronger forechecking game. Those are the things we are going to continue to do. That is the template we have set out for our hockey club. We think our personnel suits that style of hockey and that's what we think you need to do to have success in this league, so we're going to continue to push that."

Holland can just be himself

Carlyle said it is very difficult to judge a young player such as newly acquired centre Peter Holland on the basis of one performance, especially on a day when he traveled a great distance to get to the game and then had very little rest before playing. The former Ducks coach recalled Holland as a young player (he was drafted 15th overall by Anaheim in 2009) and said he has filled out a bit in terms of his weight.

The Maple Leafs, of course, were without two centres (Bozak and David Bolland) because of injuries and another, Nazem Kadri, who was suspended.

"We are going to ask him to come in and be Peter Holland and nobody else," Carlyle said. "Historically he is a big guy that can find people. He has skill and we're asking him to show us what he's got. Is he going to be guaranteed a spot on our hockey club? I don't think any player has a guarantee. We're in a position where we need people like Peter Holland to step up and show us they can play in the NHL."

Clarkson 'snake-bitten'

Carlyle is not concerned by the fact high-priced free-agent winger David Clarkson is goalless in his first 10 games with the Maple Leafs. Carlyle doesn't believe it has anything to do with signing a huge contract to play in his hometown last summer.

"We'd rather concentrate on what is happening on the ice and not off it," Carlyle said. "Obviously it's a flashpoint by reporting it. It's part of the pressure of this market.

"We think David Clarkson has a lot to offer our hockey club and he has had his chances. He continues to be snake-bitten, but if he continues to go to the net and we continue to drive the middle lane and get pucks directed around him he will score goals."

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