Leafs Fire Head Coach Randy Carlyle, Roster Shake Up Coming?

Dave Nonis

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Randy Carlyle 40 games into the 2014-15 season. Carlyle compiled a record of 91-78-19 in parts of four seasons behind the Leafs’ bench.

Toronto is currently fourth-place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 21-16-3. If the season were to end today, Toronto would qualify for the playoffs via the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The team announced the news of Carlyle’s dismissal on Tuesday morning after the Leafs lost seven of its last nine games.

“I want to thank Randy for all his hard work and dedication,” Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said in a statement. “It’s never an easy decision to make when changing your leadership, but our team was not trending in the right direction and we felt an immediate change was necessary.”

Assistant coaches Peter Horachek and Steve Spott will handle coaching duties for Wednesday’s game against the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre. Horachek and Spott ran Tuesday’s practice at Mastercard Centre.

A number of experienced coaching candidates are available. Dan Bylsma, Peter DeBoer, Paul MacLean and John Tortorella are among the current list of high-profile free agent head coaches.

While Bylsma is the most attractive candidate available, the Leafs are monitoring the situation of Detroit Red Wings’ head coach Mike Babcock who is yet to agree an extension. In mid-December, Babcock shot down reports that he was close to agreeing an extension and admitted that he doesn’t expect to sign an extension during the season.

The Leafs will internally review coaching options over the next few days. It’s likely that Horachek will eventually be named interim head coach.

“We’ll approach how we’re going to handle head coach duties for the rest of the year over the next couple of days,” Nonis said during Tuesday’s press conference.

The most intriguing message coming from Nonis’ presser is that the Leafs will entertain trade offers for all players.

“Players are moveable,” Nonis said. “None have full-moves. If there’s a move that makes us better, we’ll look to do it.”

The Leafs have missed the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons. While it’s reasonable to assign much of the blame for the Leafs’ dire situation to Carlyle and his outdated, defensively-obsessed philosophies – it’s clear that Toronto’s roster is in need of an overhaul.

Following Saturday’s 5-1 defeat to the Winnipeg Jets, Carlyle appeared to take a shot at Nonis and team president Brendan Shanahan for the makeup of the Leafs’ roster.

“You don’t always have the luxury to say that you’d like this player or that player or this type of player. That’s not the way it works,” Carlyle told reporters following the loss. “How it works is you have an organization that provides you with players, and our job, as we’ve said all along, is just to coach ’em up.”

Making that kind of bold statement in the open certainly wasn’t going to help the cause of a coach on the hot seat. Now that Carlyle is gone, it’s up to Nonis and Shanahan to carefully examine potential coaching candidates worthy of taking the Leafs forward and surrounding Toronto’s next full-time head coach with the talent required to deliver a much overdue winner to desperate Leafs fans.

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Sean Hartnett
Sean Hartnett has covered the New York Rangers and the NHL for WFAN.com since 2011. He has covered two Stanley Cup Finals. Sean now contributes to XNSports’ NHL and general sports coverage. He devotes far too much of his free time watching Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns. Sean can be reached via Twitter @HartnettHockey.