Maple Leafs’ Assistant Coach announcement to come next week


According to Steve Simmons, it looks like some combination of Steve Spott, Gord Dineen and Derek King is going to be among the Leafs‘ upcoming assistant coach hires — or perhaps more accurately, internal promotions — with an announcement expected next week.

It would not be the most outwardly hope-inspiring of moves if there’s no fresh voice/outside perspective being brought in to challenge Randy Carlyle’s way of thinking.

There is also no denying the success of the Marlies the past few seasons. Steve Spott seemed aware of the obvious value in rolling four lines last year, and is ostensibly off to a good start from the player development perspective given there wasn’t a shortage of positive developments on the farm in 2013-14. While we’ll have to see what becomes of some of these Marlies in terms of NHL futures, he’s done about as good of a job as one could have expected in year one on the job.

The Marlies were overwhelmed by a superior – one of the best AHL teams in recent history – in the Texas Stars in the Western Conference Finals, and Drew MacIntyre was the only thing holding them in that series, but getting routinely outshot and leaning on goaltending was less of an issue for the Marlies than it was the Leafs last season.

The 5 on 5 systems between the Leafs and Marlies are quite similar, but it just seemed to work better for the Marlies given their personnel makeup. The Marlies found more success in their north-south game than the Leafs ever did last season, and prided themselves on getting pucks in deep and going to work — there seemed to be full buy in with Spott and the Marlies system seemed to mesh with the personnel.

That wasn’t the case for the Leafs, clearly.  Part of that, from the perspective of the defensive zone systems, is that the Marlies’ blueline was a very good AHL blueline, whereas the Maple Leafs’ blueline wasn’t a good NHL blueline. The Leafs were arguably short two top-3 defenders while the Marlies had a deep group of capable D headlined by the AHL’s equivalent of the Norris Trophy winner in TJ Brennan. While the Leafs were running a system in their own zone that seemed to exacerbate a sore spot, the Marlies got along OK.

It seems unlikely Spott and/or King or Dineen come into the fold and work with Carlyle to overhaul the systems altogether, but if we’re being precise that seemed like an unlikely result the moment Randy Carlyle stayed on as head coach. Brendan Shanahan paid some lip service to the possibility of the “system not being a match” when he did his first round of interviews as Leafs President, so at this point it’s a case of wait and see.

Interestingly, if Kevin (not Gord) Dineen is still in the mix — Team Canada women’s coach, former Panthers head coach coach, worked with Randy Carlyle in Anaheim – perhaps he would bring some fresh perspective as well as a coach with some HC experience should Carlyle be fired during the season. There was an under the radar interview with Dineen on TSN1050 in which Dineen said of the Leafs and their collapse:

[pull_quote_center]I go back to my time, I worked with Randy in Anaheim, I was coaching Portland, while he was at head coach in Anaheim for the Ducks. And we always tried to mimic or mirror with the Ducks were doing is a system.. You know, sometimes it would be playing a defensive style, and I was like: “you have Pronger, and Niedermayer, and Beauchemin holding the fort.” You can sit there and you can do that. Sometimes it’s based on personnel. And my feelings that you work with what you have.

So, I’m not avoiding the question; when I think of Toronto, I think of high-end skilled, offensive forwards, I don’t look at them as a strong — I don’t think about them about their defense. Other than If I was coaching against them, I think that’s an area I would try and exploit.[/pull_quote_center]

This idea that Randy’s system began to fail the Ducks once they lost their Hall of Fame blueliners is something that’s been shown in the numbers. There seems to be some awareness on the part of Dineen, Anaheim’s AHL coach at the time, that maybe this doesn’t work in different circumstances.

We’ll see how this plays out next week. Steve Spott is still a relatively new voice in this organization and wouldn’t exactly be a retread, but there is the obvious concern that the Maple Leafs still haven’t changed much at all – given the talk of the ambiguous culture change, there hasn’t been a major shakeup at the player, management, or (given Carlyle is still here)  coaching levels, especially if the assistant coaches just end up being hires from within.


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