NHL.com will periodically be doing a series called "Five Questions With …," a Q&A with some of the key movers and shakers in the game today aimed at gaining some insight into their lives and careers.
This edition features Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle:
Randy Carlyle won the Norris Trophy in 1981. It was the highlight in a 17-year playing career that earned Carlyle the reputation as a fiery, tough-as-nails, in-your-face blueliner.
He started his playing career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, had his most successful seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and closed out his run with nearly a decade of memorable seasons in Winnipeg, a city that remained home to Carlyle and his family well after he retired.
Since becoming coach of the Manitoba Moose in 1996, Carlyle has continued to build on the reputation he earned as a player. His hard-nosed, aggressive coaching style has served him well in his various NHL stops, including Washington as an assistant, Anaheim as the head man and now Toronto, where his first task is to get the Maple Leafs back to a level of respectability.
Here are Five Questions With … Randy Carlyle, who led the Ducks to a Stanley Cup title five years ago:
Why did you want to become a coach?
"Because you develop a yearning to stay associated with the game, and coaching is the closest thing you can come to without being a player. You're in the excitement at the ice level and you travel with the same lifestyle, with players and the group, but you're separate from the players because you have your own staff. The camaraderie you develop makes it very close to being a player."
In what ways has your coaching philosophy been influenced by the fact that you played more than 1,000 games in the NHL as a defenceman?
"What you try to do as a coach is always try to be a sponge, and there are things that coaches did when you played that you liked and disliked. You try to stay in tune with what today's player is all about and then try to use some of the things that previous coaches have used to help the teams you played for. It could be motivation, structure, creating your program, your template -- whatever word you want to use describe it -- that you found successful. We're all stealing one another's success by analyzing what people are doing, so you analyze the coaches that coached you and steal the things you think are going to be helpful.
"At the time when you were a player, you didn't appreciate some of the things the coaches did at that time. But when you're wearing a different hat, you recognize why they did it and how there was a method to their madness. I think the guy that had a lot of creative ideas and was a coach that you didn't really thoughtfully understand until later in your career was Roger Neilson. Twice I had him as a coach -- when he coached Toronto's minor-league team in Dallas, the Dallas Blackhawks, and then I had him for part of the year when I was recalled to the Maple Leafs. He was actually the guy that was part of the reason they traded me, but you could recognize he was way ahead of his time, way ahead of the learning curve."
You had a lot of success in Anaheim, but it came to an end last year when you were fired. Looking back at it now, what conclusions can you draw as to why the success did not continue?
"The No. 1 reason is we didn't win enough hockey games. For whatever reason we couldn't get our group to play to the same level that was required. We historically had slow starts and had to recover. We played like heck and played well for long stretches to get ourselves back in it. It was always about the start, but we were 4-1 to start the season last year and then we dried up. You're still wondering why. I have a bunch of reasons inside, but I don't want to make those public."
Now that you can reflect on the start you had in Toronto, coaching the final 18 games last season, what were your immediate impressions of the market and how has it changed you and perhaps given you a better idea of what is in front of you?
"The first thing that comes to mind is obviously the responsibility you have to the media in the market, and how intense that scrutiny is there on a day-to-day basis. The second is the analyzing of the players I had there for the 18 games, knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Then you do an analysis of the group and how they played for 18 games. You're really just trying to analyze the areas in which you can improve with that group. We've portrayed and delivered that message right from the end of last season."
What do you find that you need to do to handle the media scrutiny that exists in Toronto?
"You try to respect the position that they're in. There are a lot of them and they're going to ask the same question in different manners, but you try to be as honest as you possibly can and you try to not get upset when one person asked a question that you don't like. You try to remain level-headed about everything that is going on around you. You have to be honest and truthful, and you try to give them as much of the information that you deem necessary in the situation that you're involved in. You respect the position that they're in, be as honest as you possibly can be, and treat them the way you'd like to be treated."