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Bench Warrant

The Ducks recently announced the renewal of head coach Randy Carlyle, much to the dismay of elder Ducks blogger Earl Sleek.  You can't really argue with Sleek's critique of the performance of Anaheim's bench boss, especially in a sport where firing the coach has much more to do with results and the attitudes of the players than the skill or performance level of the actual coach or his replacement.

Daniel, we haven't come out as ardently in favor of firing Carlyle as Sleek has, but we've been mostly amenable to the possibility.  Now that there has been some demonstrated faith placed in him from his general manager, what do you think about Anaheim renewing Randy Carlyle?

I haven't been sold on Carlyle for most of the season, but I'm actually in favor of this move. First, it should remove any notion in the players' minds that they can wait out Randy. If having a great last year for Selanne wasn't motivation enough, they can focus on the fact that it can only get better if they play harder.

It's not like Carlyle has been an unsuccessful coach. The Ducks have won almost 60% of the games he has coached and always been in the hunt for the playoffs. Recent problems can be partially credited to personnel. We always knock Carlyle for not playing the youngsters, but we forget that when he led us to the Cup he did with a second line composed of rookies. Moreover, Carlyle has shown remarkable confidence in Cam Fowler. It makes me wonder if the man knew something we didn't when we were clamoring for more ice time for the younger players.

But, Cam Fowler is also the biggest reason that this extension is a good idea. The Ducks have never had a Norris Trophy candidate on the roster. We've had two former winners on the roster, but never had someone in the hunt for the trophy while on the team. Cam has a pretty decent shot. Living with a former winner, and being coached by another one might be enough to make it eventually happen. He should pick up enough to have a great career just by osmosis. Carlyle has a lot to teach a young defenseman, keeping Fowler's training uninterrupted should be worth the extra year of line shuffling.

Carlyle has been very successful and the rewards probably outweigh the risks. We've had success with him as coach and with the right roster changes and commitment from the players he'll be able to stabilize this franchise for another season.


When we were playing NHL 11 the other night, you threw out the question of what could fix this team that is so capable on paper, but brashly inconsistent on the ice.  And I had to throw out firing Carlyle.  Now, I'm not a fan of firing coaches, especially in a situation like this.   But situations like this are also precisely the reasons coaches get fired in the NHL.  It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.  So it's hard to pretend that renewing him doesn't send the message that his results and the performance of the players under his guidance are both satisfactory.

Sleek lays out the reasons Carlyle should have been fired this season very well.  And really, for whatever annoyances people believe Carlyle's personnel decisions produced, letting the players coach themselves may have garnered better statistical stretches than what Sleek highlights.  But let me point to a couple of reasons renewing him could be problematic.

Carlyle hasn't adapted well.  Anaheim was his first NHL bench boss job, and his success has declined.  Maybe it's personnel, systems, matchups-- whatever.  Easy or not, he hasn't adapted.  This season has looked a lot like last season, and renewing him says you're okay with next season looking much the same.  Players will leave next year, but the ones that stay may be a little too comfortable with the consequences of giving Carlyle 50% every night.

Also, a renewal clouds the path to a new coach.  Maybe you sacrifice an interview period with a great coach, maybe you sacrifice good will in the coaching community if you have to fire Carlyle toward the end of this season or at the beginning of the next.  I'm not saying coaches wouldn't lie, cheat and steal to get a bench boss job in the NHL, but a Carlyle renewal was far from obvious.  So, of course, the reasons it could go horribly wrong are abundant.