7 Changes Toronto Maple Leaf Fans Will See Under New Coach Randy Carlyle

Matt WisemanCorrespondent IIIMarch 4, 2012

7 Changes Toronto Maple Leaf Fans Will See Under New Coach Randy Carlyle

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    GM Brian Burke is confident his Toronto Maple Leafs will be participating in playoff hockey come April for the first time since 2004, but a number of changes will have to occur in order for that to happen.

    Enter new coach Randy Carlyle, who won a Stanley Cup Championship with Burke in Anaheim in 2007.

    The tough-nosed Carlyle started his tenure in Toronto the preferred way, by defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Saturday night.

    Whether or not he guides his new team to the postseason this year remains to be seen, but Carlyle's arrival in the hockey mecca of the world will bring sweeping changes to a fragile team that desperately needed a shakeup. 

    This list takes a quick look at what those changes will be.

Enthusiasm

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    When asked of his first impressions of his new team during his introductory press conference at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday morning, Carlyle said:

    I sensed that the hockey club is very, very tense right now. I feel that the confidence level of the group is probably at a low where it's my responsibility as a head coach and a coaching staff to pick these guys up. They've got to feel a lot better about themselves than where they are today.

    It will be Carlyle's job to re-energize the Leafs, plain and simple. Toronto is a team that has lost all confidence as of late, and a much-needed boost of enthusiasm will go a long way to getting them back into a playoff position.

Physicality

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    Immediately upon assuming head coaching duties in Toronto, Carlyle decided to add some physicality to his lineup, by having Burke put forward Jay Rosehill on re-callable waivers.

    NHL rules stipulate that teams only have four call-ups to use between the trade deadline and the end of the regular season. With Rosehill, the Leafs will have already used three of their four, having also called up Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner.

    Expect the Leafs to play harder and more physically under Carlyle than they did under Wilson, who opted for more of a speed and finesse game.

Defensive Structure

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    Prior to Saturday's win over the Canadiens, Toronto had given up 45 goals in their previous 11 games. At an average slightly over four goals per game, that number was simply too high.

    Granted, goaltending was brutal at times during that stretch, but so too was overall team defense. 

    As a former NHL defenceman, Carlyle will preach the benefits of two-way play to the Leafs by implementing a simple, yet sound defensive structure. 

Line Matching

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    Ron Wilson took a lot of heat during his tenure behind the bench in Toronto for putting players in high-risk situations.

    Carlyle, on the other hand, is a stickler for positional matchups. Rather than play a one-on-one style of game, his teams are known to match their opponents line-by-line.

    Carlyle also likes to pair his checking line against the opponent's top trio on a consistent basis, as was evident with his use of David Steckel's line Saturday night in Montreal.

Tenacity

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    When asked after Saturday night's game if Toronto will become a more physical team under his coaching, Carlyle said:

    I think that physicality is one part of it that everybody wants to see in having the team play at a higher level. I think the tenacity for the puck, the puck battles and the ability to get inside and to compete in those areas—that’s what we're looking for.

    He went on to say that he thinks his new team can compete at a higher level, which loosely translates into a good old-fashioned butt-kicking at practice.

    Players best be prepared to pull up their skates.

Emotional Involvement

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    When was the last time you saw in-game emotion from Ron Wilson?

    In the final months of his coaching tenure, Toronto fans longed for the bottle-throwing days of Pat Burns, or even for the gum-throwing days of Pat Quinn.

    Long no more, Leaf fans.

    Carlyle is a hard-nosed coach that gets on his players and assistant coaches right away during each game. His style is loud and outspoken to say the least.

Playoffs

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    Even though they have yet to make it to the April dance since his tenure as GM in Toronto began four years ago, Burke continues to reaffirm fans that his team is playoff-worthy.

    But Leafs Nation is tired of hearing the lawyer in Burke list excuse after excuse.

    Now that he is on his second coach, Burke's team better begin to put up the results that he has been promising. 

    Will it happen? Maybe.

    Should it happen? Yes.

     

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