One year ago, Randy Carlyle and Nazem Kadri were both wondering about their future with the Maple Leafs.
Carlyle had just replaced the fired Ron Wilson, parachuting into an unfamiliar room for a game in Montreal, while former first-rounder Kadri was with the Marlies, one of five shuttles he took up and down the Lakeshore last season. Carlyle’s new team was already earmarked for playoff carrion and would lose 12 of its remaining 18 games. When Kadri did play at the ACC, it was third-line wing, giving less chance to showcase his creative centre pedigree.
Yet as Carlyle’s first anniversary passes this weekend, Kadri is leading the team in scoring and coming off an electrifying hat trick on Long Island. And the coach has MacGyvered the Leafs into something worth watching, while staying north of the playoff wire. With more than half a season to go — and this being Toronto — job one for Carlyle now is managing expectations, Kadri and all.