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Memories abound as Carlyle returns to Anaheim

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- Emotions have always been a trademark of Randy Carlyle, despite his gruff exterior, and it was difficult for him to ignore them when he arrived at Honda Center on Monday morning.

Carlyle said hi to the parking lot attendant -- "He's the guy that used to look after your wife and your kids when you came to the rink … it's an emotional time when you see him." -- and then he saw the man that washes the players' cars in the parking lot.

"I see players have new cars," Carlyle said, joking. "I don't see any coaches' cars out there. It's always nice to come back and see the people that you spent seven-plus years with."

There will be more emotions when the Anaheim Ducks recognize Carlyle on Monday night, when he returns to coach in Anaheim for the first time since he was fired Nov. 30, 2011, and hired a few months later by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Anaheim will do a video tribute during the first television timeout to honor the coach who guided the team to its first Stanley Cup in 2007. Carlyle can look up and see the banner. He won't go so far as to wear his Cup ring.

"I don't usually wear that too much," he said. "I kind of look at it as kind of flaunting. I probably wear it once or twice a year."

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry expect a warm reception for the only coach they had the first seven seasons of their NHL careers, and for good reason.

"It's his first time back and there's a lot of hype," Perry told "But at the same time, he did a lot of good things here. Personally, he was one of the guys that took me to the next level. I've got to give him a lot of credit with what he did with me. Hopefully, everything works out for him. It has, and we always wish him the best."

Perry and Getzlaf were 20-year-olds in their first NHL seasons in 2005-06, when the Ducks began the post-lockout era with Carlyle as coach. Perry gradually grew from an agitating force to a pure goal scorer, and his 50-goal season earned him the 2010 Hart Trophy.

"He took it slow with us," Perry said. "Obviously we played most of the first season, but he kind of showed us the ropes and kind of got us into the pro mentality and creating a system where you're going to be mentally prepared each and every day [by] just doing the little things off the ice. He taught us all those things that we still use today … coming to the rink early and doing your warm-up. You don't really think about it when you're younger. Once you get older you start to learn and know what that's all about."

Getzlaf admits there were considerable bumps in his relationship with Carlyle in the post-Cup seasons. Carlyle was trying to get the most out of Getzlaf -- a common refrain was Carlyle saying that Getzlaf needed to move his feet -- and Anaheim's struggles had Getzlaf trying to do too much and spending too much time in the penalty box for a player blessed with his size and skill.

Getzlaf admittedly struggled to juggle family life with his hockey career during his first year as captain, in 2010-11, and it didn't help that Anaheim had become a dump-and-chase team during the end of Carlyle's tenure.

But like Perry, Getzlaf said Carlyle laid a foundation for them early.

"He was hard on us when we were young," Getzlaf said. "He kind of taught us the principles that got us to where we are now. We learned how to play the system and still be able to provide offense and do the things that we needed to do to get our team ahead. He was very good at that. Very disciplined.

"That was one thing that me and Randy never lacked was respect for each other. There was lots of times where we had some yelling matches, but that's all. By the end of the day, we talked about it. And there was times where I had to go apologize to him, and he did the same to me. We never had any issues going through that stuff."

Carlyle coached Anaheim to the 2006 Western Conference Final in his first season with the Ducks. The next season, then-general manager Brian Burke acquired Chris Pronger to give them a cornerstone defenseman along with Scott Niedermayer.

Getzlaf and Perry were the budding second line, along with Dustin Penner, while Anaheim boasted a terrific shutdown line of Travis Moen, Samuel Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer. It all fused perfectly, but Carlyle doesn't take much credit.

"I look at it as I was very fortunate to coach the players that were here," Carlyle said. "We had a great group of players and we had a lot of things go our way, and we had a lot of success and we enjoyed it, and it was great for the franchise. But in reality, the players go out there and earn it."

Carlyle's departure from Anaheim was swift. He was fired immediately after a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens. Fearful of a news leak, the team announced it roughly 40 minutes after the game. Boudreau had already been lined up as his successor and his hiring was simultaneously announced. It was a rather cold-blooded move that belied Murray's loyalty to Carlyle, but there was a heavy sense of doom after a disconcerting loss to the Chicago Blackhawks five days earlier.

To a player, the Ducks placed blame on themselves.

"It's hard for us to swallow, as a team, to know that we kind of let him down in that aspect," Getzlaf said.

"I think he did everything he could to wake the team up. It just didn't work," veteran forward Teemu Selanne said. "It was tough to see him go. He did so much good stuff here over the years. Obviously winning the Stanley Cup together is something you're never going to forget."

Carlyle actually stayed on with Anaheim in a scouting capacity after he was fired and was seen in the press box preparing notes on opposing teams. He's made peace with his departure.

"You come to work and you try to put your best foot forward, day in, day out," he said. "The one thing we'll always take pride in is that, we as a coaching staff, when we were here, felt that when we left this organization, they were in a better position than [before] we came in."

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