Randy Carlyle's out in Toronto, which you know by now if you're a fan of any Atlantic Division team. There's enough dirt here about the Maple Leafs and Carlyle (and defenses of Carlyle's re-signing by major media players at TSN with the initials D.D. who shall remain nameless) for its own feature article that could go 15000 words or more. I'll just note that December 18th, Leafs GM Dave Nonis put the blame (in words) on the players before the coach. I'll leave the rest of the stuff for the Leafs blogs to cover (hello Pension Plan Puppets, The Leafs Nation and Blue and White Brotherhood among others). This is a Tampa Bay Lightning site and, well, we're still directly affected by Carlyle's departure in Toronto...
If they improve, that is.
On Boxing Day we posted an article touching on Tampa Bay's weighty Atlantic Division schedule in the second half of the season that is to come. Well, it's something of the same for Toronto with 15 games against Atlantic Division opponents out of their remaining 42 games this season. The one thing working against them in this arrangement is while they're in games against the current division leaders in the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as those nipping at their heels, the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers, they have completed their season series against the team they're closest to catching - the Detroit Red Wings.
It's defensively where the Leafs need to turn things around. While the club has two more-than-capable goaltenders in Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, Carlyle's coaching hadn't exactly benefitted either netminder (or the club). As of this writing, Toronto is 29th in the NHL in shots allowed, giving up 34.4 per game. Bernier has an impressive .920 save percentage in spite of being hung out to dry. James Reimer, who conflicted with Carlyle, has a .902 save percentage. Their goals-against averages, 2.67 for Bernier and 3.50 for Reimer, reflects how the team in front of them isn't helping them out.
How exactly would the division fare if Toronto put forth a better effort stopping the opposition? That's why Carlyle's ouster is such a big deal... The Leafs are chugging along, but they can be better (and it's been that way since last season). A more responsible game coming from the Maple Leafs can have a much bigger effect on the division.
Any improvement will necessitate players buying into the scheme of their new head coach, and if Phil Kessel's prima-donna act is common amongst players in the Leafs locker room, then the firing of Carlyle alone is not about to push Toronto into Atlantic Division title contenders, and former coach Ron Wilson pretty much said Tuesday that a player turnover is necessary. It puts Dave Nonis on the hot seat to adjust the team's attitude as well as its direction.
The Bolts schedule against the Leafs is all of two games, one to be played at Amalie Arena on March 5th and at Air Canada Centre on March 31st.