Randy Carlyle has brought a different approach behind the Maple Leafs bench this season, and it is resulting in immediate dividends to the win column, and a refreshing feeling to Leafs Nation fans early in this 2013 season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs evened out their record to five wins and five losses with a 3-2 win in Washington last night with Leaf defenseman Korbinian Holzer netting the winning goal midway through the second period.
According to an article in the Toronto Star, Coach Carlyle spent much of the morning skate imploring his defenseman to forget about the big wind up and get quick shots through to the net from the point. He continued to bark that point at the players from behind the bench, until Holzer hit pay dirt in the second.
Carlyle continues to bring communication and commitment to his players from behind the Leafs bench and they have responded very positively to his approach.
The biggest difference between Carlyle and his predecessor is his willingness to communicate with and show confidence in his players and send them out again, even after they make key mistakes on the ice. It instills a level of comfort and confidence in the group and the players are buying in to his system, listening to his pointers and rewarding him with results because of it.
A look at Holzer in his last two games is a perfect example.
On Monday night, Holzer was in the lineup after being called up the day before to replace the injured Carl Gunnarsson and made a glaring error on the Hurricanes' first goal. Holzer crept behind the net to join his partner John-Michael Liles in the battle and left the front of the net wide open for Jordan Staal to put one home in the process.
It was the kind of obvious error that would have gotten Holzer stapled to the bench for the remainder of the game and even a possible public tongue lashing by the previous regime.
It could have lingered as a negative and frayed the young man's confidence, keeping him on pins and needles for his next shift and causing him to grip the stick that much tighter when he got it. Instead, Carlyle threw Holzer right back out on the ice and gave him the opportunity to make amends, and the gaffe was soon forgotten, even though the Leafs lost the game.
Fast forward to last night's game and not only did Holzer get back in the lineup, but he got an increase in his time on the ice to 20 minutes from 17. Holzer rewarded Carlyle and the team by scoring the first goal of his career, and making it count as a game winner.
In the past, Holzer's mistake would have lingered on, for all in the market to examine and dissect, with the only outcome being added pressure in his next turn on the ice. In the present, it is wiped clean by the next shift, and a coach who is willing to fully support his players.
Things are indeed looking up for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a contributor to Bleacher Report NHL Toronto Maple Leafs and a Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report UFC.
Follow him on Twitter at wakafightermma
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