TORONTO – The final straw for Clarke MacArthur came when Randy Carlyle chose to scratch him during last year’s playoffs.
But it’s clear that his problems with the Toronto Maple Leafs coach ran much deeper than that and played a major role in his decision to sign with the Ottawa Senators as a free agent over the summer.
Prior to facing his former team for the first time on Saturday, MacArthur made it clear that there was no love lost between him and Carlyle. In fact, he indicated that he wouldn’t even say hello if the two were to cross paths at Air Canada Centre.
“I didn’t have a relationship (with him) and not many guys do,” MacArthur told sportsnet.ca and two Ottawa-based reporters. “It’s one of those things where he runs the show there and everyone knows that and that’s the way it is.
“It’s worked for him in the past, he’s got a (Stanley) Cup from that, but at the same time there’s other ways to do things, too.”
Much of MacArthur’s frustration with Carlyle mirrored what former linemate Mikhail Grabovski said on his way out of Toronto in July – without the expletives.
The veteran forward felt that the only time he heard from the coach was when he had a complaint about his play. That wore on MacArthur, who last year spoke of battling some confidence issues while playing under Carlyle.
“Some guys are good with the criticism and some guys don’t want to hear it every single shift you come off the ice,” MacArthur said. “You’re old enough to know (you) made a mistake. You don’t need to hear it every five seconds.
“It weighs differently on different people and, for me, it was some long days.”
The low point came when Carlyle elected to scratch him for Games 2 and 3 of the opening-round series with Boston in the spring. He would ultimately find his way back into the lineup and scored two goals, including the winner in a must-win Game 5 at TD Garden.
However, when that series was over, there was never any serious thought about returning for a fourth season with the Leafs. Instead, he signed a $6.5-million, two-year contract with Ottawa – making him a rare player to see both sides of the Battle of Ontario.
“It was a tough way to end it,” MacArthur said of his tenure in Toronto. “Just getting scratched in the playoffs, that was it for me. I came back and I scored some goals that were good for the team, but I was done here after that. That was it, the game of hockey, it wasn’t exciting coming in any more.
“It was time to move on.”
Carlyle chose to take the high road when asked about MacArthur’s comments following Toronto’s 5-4 shootout victory on Saturday night. He noted that the players have a tougher job than he does.
“When players are gone we don’t throw any dirt any which way,” said Carlyle. “If he has something negative to say, that’s up to him. I’ve got a new set of players and wish him all the luck in the world.”
So far the new surroundings have been much kinder to MacArthur. The veteran winger seems to have hit it off with new coach Paul MacLean and said there’s “a reason” that MacLean is the NHL’s reigning Jack Adams Award winner.
The environment in the nation’s capital is much different, according to MacArthur.
“The way he carries himself in the room with the guys is (second) to none,” he said. “You don’t hear too many times where every single player likes the coach and that’s kind of what you get here.”
MacArthur was a popular player during his time in Toronto and had his best NHL season here in 2010-11. Playing with Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin on a second line that was beloved by former coach Ron Wilson, he scored 21 goals and 62 points.
Everything started to change when Carlyle replaced Wilson in March 2012.
One of the first things the coach did when the lockout ended last season was drop those players down the lineup. That clearly frustrated them and led to Grabovski calling Carlyle an “idiot,” among other things, after the Leafs bought him out in July.
MacArthur understood where his friend’s comments were coming from.
“He said it all right there,” MacArthur said. “He was obviously frustrated and he certainly didn’t have a tight lip about it. He was a guy who had 30 goals and two years of 55 or whatever points and then Randy came in and it just didn’t work out. They turned him into a checker and look at him now – four points in his first game (with Washington), three goals.
“Who is right there? I don’t know.”