Carlyle unlikely to change Leafs’ immediate fortunes

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His voice has already been heard, and his debut game behind the bench was a solid 3-1 win.

But will the coaching change to bring in Randy Carlyle of the Toronto Maple Leafs be enough?

General manager Brian Burke announced early Friday morning that Ron Wilson was fired as head coach of the Leafs. His successor would be the former Anaheim Ducks coach, Carlyle.

When Wilson was fired, the Leafs sat in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, out of the eighth-seeded playoff spot they held only a week earlier.

It’s easy to say that the tipping point for the Leafs was a chorus of chants from the crowd yelling, “Fire Wilson!” after a 5-3 loss to the visiting Florida Panthers.

Ironically enough, Wilson was hired in 2008 in hopes to turn around the deemed hopeless squad, but he was unable to guide the Maple Leafs to any spark of a playoff contention in his tenure. Rather, in his three full seasons with the Leafs, Wilson recorded very poor records with the best finish being 10th in the conference.

The worst record would be dead last in the conference in 2009, when the team posted a 30-38-14 record.

Carlyle comes in with less than 20 games left in the National Hockey League’s (NHL) regular season. Although he won his first game as head coach Saturday against the hosting Montreal Canadiens, it’s not too sure if much can be said from the victory.

Montreal is in last place in the Eastern Conference, and 28th overall in front of only the Edmonton Oilers and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have 56 and 47 points respectively.

Before Tuesday night’s game, Toronto sits five points behind the eighth place Winnipeg Jets, and with an unsure vision on whether the playoffs are within reach.

Will Carlyle be what the Leafs need to move toward a Cinderella story? It’s hard to tell.

With so little games left, it’s unclear whether a large impact by a new coach can be made. It’s still a tangible possibility, but very skeptical.

There is no question that Carlyle is a proven NHL coach. He joins the Leafs after spending seven years with the Ducks, during which he won a Stanley Cup in 2007. Burke was at his side when the cup was hoisted.

Carlyle is also known to be sharp, assertive, and highly demanding of players. Possibly exactly what the slumping Leafs need.

But is it really enough?

A poll by TSN asked its viewers if the coaching change would help the Maple Leafs toward a playoff spot in the 2011/2012 year. The results were anything but surprising, wth 71.6% of voters believing that it would have no impact.

Only 28.3% voted yes.

If the Leafs do not find a way to make the playoffs this year, they will tie the longest playoff drought in history, currently held by the Calgary Flames from 1996/97 to 2002/03.

It must also be noted that there has been a past negative relationship between Carlyle and Joffrey Lupul, the Leafs’ right winger who is second in points, only two behind star forward Phil Kessel. Whether this will become a problem will be another question on all dedicated Leafs fans’ minds as they wait patiently for some kind of miracle.

Only time will tell whether Carlyle’s hard, emphatic style will be able to lift these consistently disappointing Leafs toward a somehow notable stride. For now, I’ll wait alongside all other fans, waiting to see what Carlyle can manage to do.

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