Reporters crowd outside the Bell Centre as Randy Carlyle coaches his first game. Hired as a replacement for Ron Wilson fans hope that Carlyle can snap the Leafs' losing streak.
The Leafs were 28-19-6 on February 6th after beating the Edmonton Oilers at home. On February 29th of that year they had fallen to 29-28-7, a 1-9-1 stretch over 11 games that got Ron Wilson axed. Randy Carlyle would follow that losing streak up with a 6-9-3 record and the Leafs would draft Morgan Rielly fifth overall after being in a comfortable playoff spot with only two months to go in the season.
After this most reasonable people looked at how poorly the team played under Carlyle and said something to the effect of "they were tanking by then anyways, we'll evaluate Randy Carlyle after next year".
Despite being wildly outshot most nights the Leafs get spectacular goaltending in a lockout shortened season and their goal scorers shoot the lights out. The Leafs finally return to the playoffs despite some saying that it was a fluke. Lucky or not Leafs fans rightfully don't care: their team is playing in May and won't end their year with another embarrassing collapse.
Jumping out to a 6-1 start to the year and weathering a small skid before getting back on track the Leafs are comfortably in a playoff spot with one month left in the season. They begin their West Coast road trip with a big win against the Pacific Division leading Anaheim Ducks.
After a summer in which their general manager got rid of most of a very effective second line before bringing in David Clarkson and Dave Bolland the Leafs spoke loudly and publicly about bringing in grit and character to prevent the huge collapses of the two previous years.
Despite speaking loudly and publicly about analytics irrelevance and the need to compete harder the Leafs went 1-9-0 in a 10 game stretch: two points in ten games in a league where the loser point means that 82 points in 82 games is closer to last place than ".500".
The writing was on the wall when the Leafs brought in Brendan Shanahan. Surely he was the guy to start to clean house beginning with Randy Carlyle. Instead the Leafs extended Carlyle for two more years.
The Leafs fired Ron Wilson for a season where he was on an 83pt pace and had a 1-9-1 stretch. Randy Carlyle took the Leafs to an 84 pt finish and his worst 11 games stretch was 2-9-0. To the Leafs a single point means an awful lot, apparently.
You don't need to talk about analytics or review tape to see that Randy Carlyle is a bad coach. When asked what happened down the stretch he responded that he didn't know. His boss Dave Nonis thinks the Leafs need to go back to competing as hard as they did when they made the playoffs. Both unironically blamed bad luck like a fan in face paint who thinks every loss is bad luck and every win is divine right.
Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle can't articulate what happened to the Leafs down the stretch but bank on a playoff appearance as proof their ideas work, as if the two seasons that bookend that playoff appearance didn't see the Leafs in the playoffs after the 48 game mark only to plummet so rapidly that fans crossed their fingers during the draft lottery.
Brendan Shanahan sat down with the two of them and agreed that their plan is on track. Tim Leiweke decided that this plan was right for MLSE's financial interests. Neither have impressed so far in their short stay with the Leafs. Their complacency in the face of obvious incompetence does not bode well for the future of this franchise whether or not you think this is a genius plan because the Leafs can afford to pay Carlyle's salary even if they fire him.
Another year, another embarrassing end to the season, another summer of insanity from the front office. As the Leafs front office crow about the great job they're doing one would hope they realize that the only thing stopping them from being in this position again next year is recovering from sports hernia surgery.