March 5, 2012
Carlyle embraces DIY spiritNew Leafs coach does his own bodychecking in practice
By Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
Randy Carlyle gave plenty of Maple Leafs aches and pains in his first practice, but it’s the Zamboni driver who could be the most sore at home.
After more than hour of high-tempo drills at the MasterCard Centre the night after a 3-1 win in Montreal, the new coach closed with some punishing leg work that chopped up the ice. The maintenance crew needed a second flood to clear up the swath of ruts and residue of Carlyle’s first visit.
And Carlyle is big on being hands-on to illustrate his point during drills. Unlike Ron Wilson, who was a skill defenceman when he played and let his younger assistant coaches supervise hitting, the crusty Carlyle stapled rookie Jake Gardiner to the glass, shocking the kid and impressing the rest. Throughout the session, Carlyle and newly arrived assistant Dave Farrish had their volume on high, as well.
“What happens if we lose a game?,” joked winger Joey Crabb afterwards.
Carlyle’s former pupils such as Joffrey Lupul and Mike Brown had tried to warn the others beforehand that the new guy likes high intensity, but everyone got the message on Sunday.
“That’s kind of normal practice for the hockey clubs we’ve coached in the past,” Carlyle said, not needing to mention the 2007 Cup champion Anaheim Ducks. “That’s what’s going to be required when you have two days off before you play, with a new coach coming to town to stress some things he thinks are important. You have to take the practice time to do it.”
No one was surprised when the traditional Sunday off was scrapped for a crash course in Carlyle 101.
“They’re a skating a team ... get on their horse and get skating,” Carlyle said. “And if they skate in practice, they should be able to transfer that into the game. If you watched the drills we did today, on the 2-on-1 rushes, the 2-on-2s, these guys can move.
“In the neutral zone, we don’t want to turn it over as often as in the past. In the offensive zone, we don’t make those Hail Mary plays.
“You have to be responsible in all three zones to be effective. If we don’t have five guys playing the same way, then we have issues. Play conservative, yet be an attacking club.”
It’s likely the Leafs have just 17 more games to worry about this season, starting with the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. But one of the reasons GM Brian Burke said he fired Wilson when he did was to give the team a taste of Carlyle they’d remember in the summer.
“It will be a couple of games of adjustment I think,” Crabb said. “Everyone has been with different coaches and systems, so we’ve seen a lot. It’s not so much understanding (Carlyle’s system), it’s just when you’re used to doing it one way over and over, it’s a split-second decision to remind yourself in a game to do the things we’ve talked about today.”