Amodeo: Will Carlyle pan out for the Leafs?

On March 2, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke did what so many thought he would not do. He fired Head Coach Ron Wilson and replaced him with his old friend from his days in Anaheim, Randy Carlyle.

Many fans have been thrilled with the firing of Wilson, saying it was long overdue, and members of the media weren’t far behind, as TSN insider Bob McKenzie said coaching was the Leafs biggest issue moving forward just days before Burke made the move.

While I don’t believe it is a good thing for people to be so openly happy about any individual in the world losing their job, I understand that Leaf fans think it was long overdue. Although I do not agree with firing Ron Wilson, I understand why Brian Burke made the move.

That said, I’m still a bit concerned that Carlyle, who comes to the Leafs with a contract for three additional years after the 2011-12 season at a price tag of $1.7 million (as per TSN radio), might not be the right fit for long-term success.

It’s obvious Burke wanted to save the season for the Leafs by bringing in a defensive minded coach, one who is demanding of his players defensively and has a great deal of experience, which includes a Stanley Cup ring. In the short term, hiring Carlyle can be beneficial to the Leafs – maybe they can begin to play a tighter defensive game and in turn win a few more hockey games – however, it is the long term future of the Leafs that I am concerned about.

Sitting in Toronto’s AHL affiliate team, the Toronto Marlies, is a bright hockey coach named Dallas Eakins. If you know anything about the young players in the Leafs organization that have moved up from the AHL to play in the NHL, or the talent currently on the Marlies, you should know how much respect and praise goes to Akins for his ability to develop so many young and talented hockey players.

Presently, his Toronto Marlies are atop the AHL standings. Eakins has been groomed to be an NHL coach, presumably with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the near future. However, with Burke’s latest move, I am unsure if this is ever going to happen.

Brian Burke did state in his press conference last Saturday morning in Montreal, after introducing new Carlyle to the media, that he and his staff did consider Eakins for the position and that Eakins was disappointed but understanding of the Leafs direction. I am both disappointed and not understanding of the Leafs direction.

Since they have been developing Eakins for the Leafs head coaching position for years, combined with his success at the AHL level – not only in wins and losses, but in developing young talent – to me, he is the perfect man for the job.

However, hiring him to close out the season would have been a mistake, so I will give Burke a little credit for that one. I think Burke could have hired an assistant coach Scott Gordon or Greg Cronin, as the Interim until the end of the season, and then promote Eakins from the Marlies. This way, Eakins could start fresh, have his own training camp and lay out his systems before the season begun. However, Burke is so short-sighted in making the playoffs this season that he may have sacrificed Eakins desire to remain with the Leafs organization.

Carlyle may be able to help get the Leafs into the playoffs this year, although a tough task, it is possible. However when you look at the big picture and where the Leafs need to continue to go as a franchise, not including Eakins in their future plans for the Leafs is confusing and in my opinion and not in the best interest of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Let’s hope that I am wrong.

– Danny Amodeo, Contributing Writer

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