Profiles in Excellence: Randy Carlyle

Randy Carlyle

Rank #46 – 17 Points
Peak Rank #46 – 2010-2011
Coaching Experience:
Anaheim Ducks, 2005-2011
Regular Season W-L-OL: 273-182-61
Playoff W-L: 36-26
Pacific Division Title: 2006-2007
Playoff Appearances: 2006-2009, 2011
Stanley Cup Final: 2007
Stanley Cup Victory: 2007

Trivia Question: Only three NHL players have ever won the Norris Trophy and later coached a Stanley Cup winner. Name them.

Answer: the late Tom Johnson, Larry Robinson, and… Randy Carlyle.

It seems cruelly ironic to profile Carlyle as ranking among the top fifty hockey coaches of all time even though he was fired on November 30 during this present season.

And yet before Randy was given the sack he compiled an amazing record that made him the greatest coach in Ducks franchise history (which isn’t bad considering that NHL coaching greats Ron Wilson, Bryan Murray, and Mike Babcock also coached the Ducks as well).

In 2005 Anaheim GM Brian Burke took a big risk in making a low-ball offer to Mike Babcock and thus losing him as head coach but in many ways the risk paid off when he replaced Babcock with Randy Carlyle. Carlyle did what Babcock and earlier, Ron Wilson could not do:  make the Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup champions.

Carlyle was a scrappy defenseman who was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL and the Cincinnati Stingers in the WHA in 1976. Carlyle opted for the Leafs and spent two seasons with them and their minor league affiliate in Dallas.

In 1978 he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he played for six seasons. It was during the 1980/81 Season that he won the Norris Trophy and earned NHL All-Star honors (while playing for Eddie Johnston). Carlyle was later traded to the Winnipeg Jets where he ended his playing career in 1993.

Randy took up coaching in 1995, first as an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets before moving the minors where he began a long relationship with the Manitoba Moose franchise in IHL. In time Carlyle made the Moose winners and playoff contenders. The Moose were part of the Vancouver Canucks farm system and Carlyle’s work drew the attention of Canucks GM Brian Burke.

From 2002 to 2004 Randy did assistant coaching work with the Washington Caps but he returned again to the Manitoba Moose in 2004. When Brian Burke took over as GM of the Anaheim Ducks in 2005 he chose Carlyle to coach the team.

Anaheim had suffered a losing season before the lockout in 2004. Carlyle turned the team around and led the Ducks to the conference finals in the 2006 playoffs only to fall to the Edmonton Oilers in five games.

The 2006/07 Season was Carlyle’s greatest performance as a coach and also the greatest performance in Ducks franchise history. The team won the Pacific division title—the only time the team has done this—and they were the third best team in the NHL. Carlyle got All-Star effort from defensemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.

Niedermayer won the Conn Smythe Trophy while leading the Ducks to a 16-5 record in the 2007 playoffs. Their toughest stretch was during the conference finals when they had to beat Mike Babcock’s Detroit Red Wings in six games to reach the Stanley Cup finals—with two of their wins coming in overtime.

The Ducks faced Bryan Murray’s Ottawa Senators for the Cup and beat them in five games.

Carlyle’s Anaheim teams were well-balanced tactically although they were stronger defensively than offensively (the Ducks finished in the top ten in defense during the first three years of Carlyle’s coaching reign). The strongest part of their arsenal was their power-play offense (Teemu Selanne has long been one of best power-play scorers in the NHL).

If there was a weakness to Carlyle’s Ducks it was the decline of their penalty-killing effectiveness. After 2008 the Ducks finished near the bottom of the NHL in penalty-killing.

One key dominating factor with Carlyle’s Ducks was that they have become the nastiest NHL team during the past six years.

Just as Carlyle himself was an intense, volcanic, pugnacious defenseman, his Duck squads were the bad boys of the NHL in the 21st century. The Ducks led the NHL in team penalty minutes twice and finished second and third during the past two NHL seasons respectively.

Although none of Carlyle’s players ever led the NHL in penalty minutes the Ducks displayed a collective nastiness on the ice. Wingers George Parros and Corey Perry were the team’s most frequent occupants in the penalty-box. In many ways this made Randy Carlyle a throwback. Today’s NHL contending teams usually emphasize on-ice discipline and low team penalty minutes. Carlyle’s Ducks did the opposite.

Things began to slip during the 2009/10 Season. It was the first time he ever failed to make the playoffs.

However in 2010/11 Carlyle got the Ducks to rebound with a strong performance and a playoff berth thanks to the efforts of top goal-scorer and Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry and All-Star defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. Indeed it was this strong performance that placed Carlyle among the top fifty hockey coaches of all time. Unfortunately for Carlyle and the Ducks they suffered the indignity of being the first team ever to lose a playoff series to the Nashville Predators in 2011.

Last October and November time ran out for the Ducks and Randy Carlyle. Playing like they were another year older and another year slower the Ducks waddled towards their worst start in their eighteen year franchise history. Mired in last place in the Pacific Division (where they remain today) and the second worst team in the NHL, Ducks GM Bob Murray pulled the trigger on Randy Carlyle.

Still this will not be the last we will see of him. Despite this sad end Randy Carlyle has much to contribute to the game and for any team that needs a championship coach who can raise the team to new heights.

There are several teams who could use Carlyle’s presence when the 2012/13 season begins (if not sooner). Columbus and Edmonton are two potential stops (although Edmonton looks more attractive since they have several bright, young talented players who need someone to raise their emotional bar higher and make them winners, playoff contenders, and future Stanley Cup winners).

Regardless of where he goes Randy Carlyle will not (and should not) remain unemployed for very long.

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