September 11, 2012
Defence is key for Maple Leafs coach
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Randy Carlyle knows exactly what he has in mind for the 2012-13 Maple Leafs.
Of course, when the Leafs coach actually is able to put his plans into action is anyone’s guess.
“What we tried to do at the end of the year and stressed was, we have to be a different hockey club than a run-and-gun team,” Carlyle said on Monday at the Leafs’ annual charity golf tournament.
“We have to be a team that is responsible defensively. Yes, we would like to create as much offence as possible, but we are going to focus on being sound defensively as much as possible, specifically early in the season. If they don’t want to do it, there is going to be consequences that come along with that.”
But with a work stoppage in the form of a lockout looming this weekend, Carlyle knows it could be a while before any real interaction with players occurs. The Leafs coaching staff has meetings scheduled for Sept. 17 in anticipation of training camp opening four days later and Carlyle isn’t thinking about the notion they could be moot.
“Your emotions go on a daily up and down with whether (the NHL and NHLPA) are going to have a conversation or not,” said Carlyle, who spent most of the summer at his cottage on Manitoulin Island. “As a coaching staff, you have to prepare as if we are going to play. Until they tell us otherwise, it is business as usual for us.”
As for his personnel, Carlyle said the plan remains to try newcomer James van Riemsdyk at centre some time during camp. And where goaltending is concerned, Carlyle indicated he is fine with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens as his two netminders.
Carlyle got to know the Leafs during an 18-game stint to end last season after Ron Wilson was fired. Reports from strength and conditioning coach Anthony Belza indicate the players took to heart the message to train with a greater level of intensity during the off-season, but Carlyle won’t really know until he sees them on the ice.
“I think the identity of our hockey club and the expectations from our coaching staff has been transferred to our players, and there should not be any grey areas for them,” Carlyle said. “It’s a new opportunity for some of these players and some of the youth in our hockey organization, the Marlies, to make a first impression to a coach.”