The Transformation of Randy Carlyle

Jake Gardiner Randy Carlyle (John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Even Randy Carlyle admits he was a little harder on his players in Anaheim (John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Prior to playing the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night, Toronto Maple Leafs Coach Randy Carlyle asked, “Who are we playing?”

Randy Carlyle: Full-time head coach, part-time comedian. Who knew?

Yes this is a different Randy Carlyle than the — at times — crusty and surly one who coached the Ducks from 2006 to 2012, winning the Stanley Cup in 2007.

“He’s changed quite a bit,” said Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, who had a tumultuous relationship Carlyle when the two were together in southern California. “The way he deals with guys on a day-to-day basis is a bit different. The game evolves and people evolve. But he certainly has changed in that he’s coming in, chatting with guys, trying to have a bit more of a relationship with players.”

Even the coach agrees that he has mellowed since his time with the Ducks.

“I think so,” he said. “There are things that you learn and that you take from your history or experience. There are things that you might do differently now than you would have back then. With a new group of assistants they have different ideas and we have been able to exchange ideas, which has changed my views on a bunch of different things.”

“I think there are certain things that you do and I don’t think the reactions that took place in my history should have taken place in that arena or for that many people to see,” Carlyle added.

Here’s an example of the kinder, gentler Carlyle: After his team lost a couple of games and failed to generate much offence the Leafs players were expecting a demanding practice on Monday.

Instead, he started it off by having the players enjoy a game of ball hockey.

“They’re expecting to come here and a bag-skate,” said Carlyle. “At times we think that’s counterproductive.  We have to change the mood of our group to a positive one. Usually ball hockey, wrong-handed scrimmages, those kinds of things make it fun for the first ten minutes than you get more of an enthusiastic workout from them, a more committed workout. It’s not all doom and gloom.”

Randy Carlyle not only coached a number of current Ducks – like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry – but he also played with Teemu Selanne.

“I played with him! Imagine that,” Carlyle said. “He’s an old bugger that guy.”

“Obviously we had a great experience with Randy,” smiled Selanne, who has said this is his last season in the NHL. “I’m personally happy to see him do well [in Toronto]. He expects the best out of his players every day and he makes the average player way better.

“I’m so happy to see him doing well. He really deserves that. But it’s not a surprise for me.”

The 43-year-old Selanne is a 21-year NHL veteran who played with Carlyle. This is Selanne’s last season in the NHL and as such, some are dubbing this the Selanne farewell tour.

Carlyle’s last season as a player in 1992-93 was Selanne’s first in the NHL. That prompted this response from the Leafs head coach: “I was on my farewell tour. And I was the only one who knew about it.” Another example of Carlyle showing a sense of humour with the Toronto media, something he rarely did when he was in Anaheim.

Randy Carlyle: Teacher, detail oriented and a much calmer, more relaxed coach than his first go in the NHL.

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