Love it or hate it, Leafs fans, Carlyle's your man behind the bench. With the wagon hitched firmly to the Sudbury, Ontario, native, it has quickly become a matter of horses.
Randy Carlyle's preferred style of play has never been a wide-open, run-and-gun transition game where teams trade chances at both ends. While that hasn't been his style, that's what his players have delivered over the past two years in Toronto.
With his recent two-year extension, there is a clear message that this is Carlyle's team. The Maple Leafs also added they would be hiring new assistant coaches with the announcement by TSN that Carlyle would be retained, but not the rest of the coaching staff.
There is no question that Carlyle can be successful at the NHL level. He won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks and led a flawed Toronto club to the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
His goaltending, at least in terms of a starter, is set. Jonathan Bernier had a great first season in Toronto. Scintillating saves were commonplace night after night in Ontario's capital city.
His .923 save percentage was exceptional given the Leafs' defensive woes and the quality of scoring chances that he faced most nights. It remains to be seen what will happen with the Leafs' second goaltender.
Carlyle could definitely use another veteran defender, if not two. With Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly making some good progress (contrary to what some may believe), they seem poised to be even better next season.
Defenders need 250 games or more to start hitting their stride in the NHL, so fans need to remain patient. As a former Norris Trophy recipient, Carlyle knows how to play defense at the NHL level.
With rumours swirling about captain Dion Phaneuf's possible trade, there could be changes on the blue line.
Phaneuf has not been a great fit as a No. 1, huge-minute defenseman. He would be perfect as a No. 2 guy, though, in Toronto or elsewhere.
Up front, Carlyle needs a solid fourth line. He never really had a legitimate group to put out there consistently last year. While he got a great deal out of his top line, the club was badly outshot on most nights.
The Leafs had one of the poorest Corsi team totals in the entire league.
If Brendan Shanahan and Dave Nonis can add a few depth players and promote some organizational talent, it could improve their possession play a great deal.
They also need to solidify things at centre ice. The club has to make a decision on the third line, and Dave Bolland may or may not meet that need at the right price.
Related to all of this is that the Leafs need players who will play Carlyle's style. He wants to play more of a puck-possession game where his team moves the puck with authority and is difficult to play against in all three zones.
They need more skill and size, particularly in their bottom nine.
There are some good pieces in Toronto. But there are also some significant holes. Veteran defensive depth, two-way depth at forward and a willingness for the team to play a more disciplined game is essential to Carlyle's and the club's success.
It can be done, but it is not going to come easily or overnight.
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