Last week we pointed out that every season Randy Carlyle has spent with the Leafs has ended in disaster. Even if one is determined not to look at the possession stats that call this team awful there is plenty of evidence that Randy Carlyle is an awful coach.
Brendan Shanahan was brought in by Tim Leiweke to shake things up in the front office and responded by extending Randy Carlyle. It's nice that so many optimists are left in Leafs land to say things like "it's the kiss of death extension, Leafs will fire him right away" but this team will continue to be shaped to fit the vision of Nonis and Carlyle across this year's draft and UFA period.
The draft doesn't seem like a big issue; the Leafs will draft someone who's a borderline first liner or a second pair defenseman, a useful piece until they decide that they haven't drafted Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr and feed them to the media.
The UFA period though could be especially ugly. If Dave Nonis feels he's on the hot seat what is he going to do on July 1st? Last year he crippled the Leafs with the David Clarkson contract famously telling us that he didn't care about anything other than year one.
This year is a profoundly thin UFA class. If you want a forward under 30 as a UFA the second highest point getter behind Paul Stastny is Mason Raymond. Unless you think Nonis brings in Thomas Vanek or Paul Stastny (who will get paid no matter where they go and are unlikely to pick a non-playoff team) it's likely that every dollar Nonis spends on July 1st haunts the Leafs for a long time.
The Capitals made the playoffs in six of the last seven years. The Pittsburgh Penguins made the playoffs for the past eight straight seasons, winning a total of eleven series and a Stanley Cup. Both chose to clean house and fire their coaches and GMs.
Most of you look at those teams and say those firings are justified. Adam Oates doesn't seem like a particularly skillful NHL coach. The Capitals haven't been considered elite since their huge shooting percentage outlier season. The Penguins have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and an hysterical cast of nobodies. Dan Bylsma likely is a casualty of his GM getting fired, because what sort of bizarre organization would fire their GM and keep the coach he hired?
This all comes back to Brendan Shanahan, and a Leafs front office that thinks they have this all figured out. The Penguins canned their GM for building a team that was top heavy, but the Leafs top end isn't Crosby and Malkin. The Penguins canned their GM for building a bottom six that couldn't play hockey while the Leafs trot out players like Colton Orr and Jay McClement to say nothing of expensive bottom six mistakes like Mimico's own David Clarkson (who in a just world should be realizing soon that he probably can't show his face in Toronto ever again).
The Capitals fired Adam Oates for a team that made the playoffs six years in a row missing the playoffs. Randy Carlyle's team made them in a short season and his job is safe. The Capitals fired their GM for not making enough progress towards their end goal of a Stanley Cup, while Dave Nonis hasn't made a smart decision at the big kids table since the Capitals were good.
Brendan Shanahan and Tim Leiweke stand by, watching this team coast into oblivion. They'll watch this summer as Nonis continues to dismantle the team to fit Randy Carlyle's vision of being worse than expansion teams in the pre-cap era and then they'll make the media rounds to tell you that only they know how hockey works and anonymous fans on the internet are just pessimists.
We've seen this before, we've done this before. Leafs fans will continue to wait patiently for the front office to be completely cleaned out so that the work of building this team can begin, and until that happens Brendan Shanahan is part of the problem, not part of the solution.