Sacked Randy Carlyle paved way for other NHL minors-to-pros coaching leaps

Noting the futility in blaming the coach for Toronto's team-wide futility, Rob McKenzie takes stock of a trail-blazing coaching career path for Randy Carlyle.

Randy Carlyle won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. Christian Petersen / Getty Images / AFP
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Firing Randy Carlyle as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs is like firing the bus driver because his route goes through a bad part of town.

It is dumb, it is defeatist and it is the endlessly mediocre way of the Leafs.

Toronto canned Carlyle on January 6, but he will find another coaching job.

He led Anaheim to the Stanley Cup in 2007 and that makes him a safe choice.

What is worth noting is that when he got his first coaching job in the NHL, he was not a safe choice. He was a bold one.

For five-and-a-half seasons Carlyle had coached the Manitoba Moose in a league one level below the NHL.

He did solid work but, back then, minor-pro coaches were considered second-rate.

The tried and true way to become an NHL coach was to get a job as an NHL assistant, then move up when the main guy got sacked.

In the summer of 2005, the Anaheim general manager, Brian Burke, took a risk and hired Carlyle.

When the 2005/06 season began, Carlyle was one of only six coaches in the 30-team NHL to have been plucked directly from the minor-pro level.

Carlyle vindicated Burke’s audacity with the 2007 cup win and, soon, minor-pro coaches were winning jobs left and right.

One was Bruce Boudreau, who took over the Washington Capitals in November 2007.

He would be fired four years later – and two days after that, he replaced Carlyle in Anaheim.

In a nutshell, Carlyle was fired to make way for someone who had benefited from his success.

Provenance of NHL coaches at start of 2005/06 season

* = hired directly from minor pros.

* Anaheim: Randy Carlyle had been coach of the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League (Anaheim hiring date: August 1, 2005).

Atlanta: Bob Hartley had been the Colorado coach.

* Boston: Mike Sullivan had been coach of the Providence Bruins of the AHL (Boston hiring date: June 23, 2003).

Buffalo: Lindy Ruff had been an assistant coach with Florida.

Calgary: Darryl Sutter had been the San Jose coach.

Carolina: Peter Laviolette had been the New York Islanders coach.

* Chicago: Trent Yawney had been coach of the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League (Chicago hiring date: July 7, 2005).

Colorado: Joel Quenneville had been the St Louis coach.

Columbus: Gerard Gallant had been an assistant coach with the team.

Dallas: Dave Tippett had been an assistant with Los Angeles.

Detroit: Mike Babcock had been the Anaheim coach.

Edmonton: Craig McTavish had been an assistant with the team.

Florida: Jacques Martin had been the Ottawa coach.

Los Angeles: Andy Murray had been coach at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s prep school in Minnesota.

Minnesota: Jacques Lemaire had been the New Jersey coach.

* Montreal: Claude Julien had been coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL (Montreal hiring date: January 17, 2003).

* Nashville: Barry Trotz had been coach of the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League (Nashville hiring date: August 6, 1997).

New Jersey: Larry Robinson had been the Los Angeles coach.

* New York Islanders: Steve Stirling had been coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL (New York hiring date: June 3, 2003)

New York Rangers: Tom Renney had been the team’s vice president of player development.

Ottawa: Brian Murray had been the Anaheim coach.

Philadelphia: Ken Hitchcock had been the Dallas coach.

Phoenix: Wayne Gretzky was part-owner of the team.

Pittsburgh: Ed Olczyk had been a broadcaster with the team.

San Jose: Ron Wilson had been the Washington coach.

St Louis: Mike Kitchen had been an assistant with the team.

Tampa Bay: John Tortorella had been an associate coach with the team.

Toronto: Pat Quinn had been the Vancouver general manager.

Vancouver: Marc Crawford had been Colorado’s coach.

Washington: Glen Hanlon had been an assistant with the team.

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