If you think Randy Carlyle stepping back behind the Anaheim Ducks’ bench is pretty crazy, you never knew the New York Yankees of the ‘70s and ‘80s. In those days the same Yankees owner (George Steinbrenner) hired and fired the same Yankees manager (Billy Martin) five times.
Former New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello twice re-hired Jacques Lemaire as his coach in New Jersey and even brought Larry Robinson back for a second time, but the Devils never matched the theatre that took place in the Bronx.
Once, in a famous press conference bit, Steinbrenner actually fired Martin at a press conference called to announce his hiring. It was, alas, a Broadway act.
The Anaheim Ducks? They’re more of a murder mystery — a well-built, smart drafting team that gets to the big game every season, then blows it.
This spring, after a seven-game loss to Nashville in which Anaheim dropped Games 1 and 2 at home, Ducks GM Bob Murray fired head coach Bruce Boudreau — but only because he couldn’t tell 20 players to hit the road.
It was the fourth consecutive spring that the Ducks lost a Game 7 on home ice.
“Let’s face it: I’d like to know where the heck (his players) were in Games 1 and 2,” he said in the aftermath of another disappointing spring in Anaheim. “Where were they? They showed up in Game 7, but where was that passion, the controlled emotion? Where the heck was that? (The players) are going to have to be held accountable too.”
Corey Perry – Anaheim’s highest paid player this season at $8.625 million — didn’t score a single goal in that seven-game loss. Getzlaf sprinkled five points around the series, but had just one multi-point game and was shut out in three of seven games.
He’s a 10-year NHL coach who took Anaheim to its only Cup victory in 2007, and steered a below average team in Toronto to its only playoff appearance in the past 11 seasons back in 2013.
The word out of Anaheim when Murray had to let Carlyle go after 24 games of the 2011-12 season was that it was pressure from above that forced Murray’s hand. From that team, only Getzlaf, Perry, defenceman Cam Fowler and winger Andrew Cogliano remain as Ducks. The rest of the roster will find in Carlyle a tough, demanding coach who isn’t there to be a player’s best buddy.
“He’s old school,” former Ducks defenceman Ryan Whitney once told me. “You may see him in the morning, and he’ll walk by and he might not say hi. Rude isn’t the right word, but he’s one of those guys who feels that the more intimidating he is, the less he talks to you, the harder guys play for him.
“He’s going to tell you when you mess up, and he’s probably not going to tell you anything when you did real well. Guys who need that pat on the back? It’s likely not for them.”
Luca Sbisa, in Vancouver now, went to the School of Randy as a young defenceman and learned plenty.
“He is a tough coach on the ice,” Sbisa said. “Sometimes he says things he might regret the next day, but players do that too.
“He just demands so much from players, and it’s tough to keep up with that. If you can’t handle that he’s not the right guy for you. But if you go through his school, you’ll be mentally as tough as you can be. If you can keep up with his standards, you’re going to be fine.”
Don’t think for a minute that Murray is worried about how this hiring sits with Getzlaf and Perry. They’re both making more money than the GM is, and although they’ve delivered in the regular season, they were a pair of 22-year-olds following the likes of Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne when Anaheim won its Cup in ’07.
Since they’ve taken over the Ducks leadership, Anaheim has under-achieved. There’s no disputing that fact.
There will even be conspiracy theorists who will suggest that this move by Murray is meant to shake his leadership group — which includes Ryan Kesler — off of their no-movement clauses, by bringing in a tough coach like Carlyle. And it’s true that Getzlaf has sold one Tustin Ranch Estates home, and has his Corona del Mar house just hit the market for $7.19 million.
It’s time for change in Anaheim. Funny, that it would start with bringing back a familiar face like Carlyle.