ANAHEIM -- To say Randy Carlyle left Orange County, California isn't quite accurate. Though he did coach the Toronto Maple Leafs following seven seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, Carlyle somehow always found himself coming back to the West Coast.
Never far from Honda Center, Carlyle frequently attended games as a scout or as a fan and saw plenty of American Hockey League action in San Diego, near his beachfront Carlsbad home.
With that in mind, saying Carlyle, who started his second stint as Ducks coach when training camp opened Friday, is back isn't quite accurate either. Carlyle said he feels he's right where he belongs.
"Coming back into this building has been pretty seamless," Carlyle said after practice at The Rinks Anaheim ICE. "I think the jitters and nerves have gone. I don't think I was as nervous as I was the first time, in 2005, coming in here, that's for sure."
Despite the familiarity, there are a lot of new faces. Carlyle inherits a team built around veteran forwards, some he helped develop like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and young defensemen. Once known as a disciplinarian who preferred to deal mostly with team leadership, Carlyle spent the summer saying he's evolved into a more relaxed players' coach. Friday wasn't so much an introduction as it was a reintroduction to the veterans.
In an attempt to keep the formalities as informal as possible, Carlyle made himself a mainstay at The Rinks in recent weeks, available to anyone who approached. The night before training camp, he held a dinner for the entire team. The relationships, past and present, needed to build naturally.
"You hang around and there's a certain way to invite yourself in," the 60-year-old said. "I guarantee not one of them is going to come up and go, 'Hi, how you doing coach?' They're going to be a little bit more reserved, where you have to find a way to enter at their level.
"That's their environment and I want to join their environment and I plan on building relationships in their environment, and that's the most important thing. That's one of the mandates that we put forth as a coaching staff, that we have to be more involved with the youth of our hockey club."
Some things haven't changed and likely never will.
"He likes to walk through the room and in the gym with his sharp little comments and get into little chirping matches," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "He's trying to make it fun on the ice, and it should be fun, you should enjoy the process."
Carlyle plans to hold a high-energy, teaching-based camp. The foundation of the Ducks won't change, and the fast-paced, hard-forechecking ways won't go away.
"He expects us to be a well-conditioned team and a team that can skate," defenseman Cam Fowler said. "He wants to play at a high pace, and you obviously can't play a high-octane type of game if you don't have your legs underneath you. We want to be a team that attacks. All of that starts with a team that can really skate."
A perennial Stanley Cup contender, the Ducks have ended each of the past four seasons more disappointed than the last. In going back to Carlyle, who is replacing Bruce Boudreau, who replaced him during the 2011-12 season, the hope is that a disciplined style can drive the Ducks to the next level.
On the first day of training camp, the Ducks already feel a sense of urgency that seemed to be lost last season, the fourth in a row that ended with a Game 7 loss at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this one to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round.
"I like the feeling a little bit better this year," Bieksa said. "I think with not having as much success as last year in the playoffs, guys are a little bit snarlier, guys are a little more [ticked] off, a little bit more focused this year."
It's too early to tell whether or not Carlyle has truly changed or if the Ducks will respond, but with the Stanley Cup window rapidly closing, they are confident they'll be back on the winning track.
"The thing we talked about when I took the job, is that we felt they had a good team," Carlyle said. "With their commitment, that this team is ready to take the next step. We're trying to identify who wants to take the next step, and that's what we've asked them."