The Carlyle Way
The differences between the Toronto Maple Leafs these days and when Ron Wilson was running the show are like night and day. Even though the Bruins beat ‘em 4-2 last night, Wilson’s Leafs wouldn’t have even made a game of it. Boston is a pretty damned good hockey club but Toronto didn’t seem out of their element. They actually looked like a real hockey team.
The number one thing Randy Carlyle has done was make his team tougher. Sissies not allowed. And while tough guys don’t score goals, they are there to set the mental tone of the game. The Leafs will no longer be pushed around. The gloves are off. And that’s why it’s no coincidence you’re seeing Kessel actually producing. It may not be a lot, but he’s got a tad more room to maneouver now and he’s finding his groove.
I’ll give Burke credit for this one, but James Van Reimsdyk has been the Leafs MVP so far. Trading Schenn for him was a good move, although I wouldn’t have cried if it was Phaneuf instead. Mr. Cuthbert is a hesitating pylon whose looming presence isn’t feared or respected. Nazim Kadri and Tyler Bozak have also been great surprises.
Defense and goaltending are the two areas the Leafs can’t neglect. But so far in this mini season the Leafs have shown us a brand new brand of hockey which—whether you like it or not--is underscored with fists. Beat the opposition out of the way and your scorers will find the net.
That’s the Carlyle way.