Thursday, we learned two things about the Brendan Shanahan era in Toronto:
1) He is not going to do things solely because the fan base wants them done.
2) He wants someone to be his coach long-term, and that someone is not available.
If you spend any time on the interwebs, you know the team's fan base was unhappy with Shanahan's decision to extend Randy Carlyle's contract by two years
. Maple Leaf Nation wanted Carlyle's head on a spit, preferably with honey-mustard sauce.
They didn't get it.
When we talk about Canadian NHL markets, we talk about how much pressure there is on the players. What we don't talk about enough is the pressure on the owners and the executives. It can be massive (just ask the Aquilinis of the Canucks).
"If you're worried about optics in this market, it's going to be a disaster," GM Dave Nonis said.
Firing Carlyle was the easy move for Shanahan. It gets him praise for being bold and putting his stamp on the team.
But I don't think it's right, because of Thing We Learned No. 2.
This is an erosion of power for Carlyle.
"I'm surprised he stayed," said another coach.
The extension probably has everything to do with that. One year ago, Carlyle, fresh off Toronto's first playoff berth in nine years, had huge cachet and roster power. His fingerprints were all over the lineup changes. Last summer, a couple of his brethren were half-jokingly jealous about the say he had.
Carlyle loses power
Now, a close confidant (assistant coach Dave Farrish) is out. (Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon, who inherited Carlyle, were fired as well.) Even tougher for the coach: he won't have sole approval on the new guys, whoever they are.
Shanahan and Nonis will be part of that process. The Raptors did the same thing last summer with GM Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey, and, to be fair, that seems to have worked very well. Maybe it works out well for Carlyle, too, and, rejuvenated, he has as successful a season as Casey did.
But, here's the math: Toronto firing Carlyle now + hiring someone else + Shanahan's preferred candidate(s) becoming available next year = three coaches in three years. Why do that? What good organizations do that?
You're going to ask who Shanahan's guy(s) is/are. You have to think his Detroit history puts Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan on that list. There are no guarantees. Who knows what their futures are, although you get the impression San Jose ownership approved McLellan's return for next season. As for Babcock, it's smart to keep your options open in case he is interested.
There had to be change. They fell apart to end the 2011-12 season (under Ron Wilson), the 2013 season and this season. The moves behind the bench will bring some of that. You can bet there will be more throughout the organization.
But too much instability hurts, too. Ask any GM: you only get so many coaching hires. Shanahan's going to wait before his first.
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