ANAHEIM — By firing Bruce Boudreau and hiring Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray sent a message to players, fans, and media alike: the team must win now.
“The team, this group, has a little window here; three years, maybe, whatever,” said Bob Murray to reporters at Tuesday’s press conference to announce the hiring of Carlyle. “You had to get a guy in here that knew some of the players and knows that it’s time. That knows how to win.”
Murray interviewed several candidates, but as he put it, “everything just came back to Randy in the end.”
Being in this position of rehire the team’s former head coach is one that Murray didn’t want to be in in the first place.
Two months into the 2011-12 season, the team, led by head coach Randy Carlyle, put together only two wins in the entire month of November. Their second win, on November 30, marked Carlyle’s last game as head coach in Anaheim before he was replaced with Bruce Boudreau.
“For that particular team at that particular time where we were as an organization,” said Murray, “I agonized over that moment for longer than I have for any decision I’ve made in hockey yet. It was just a decision that I thought was a move for them; the right time, the right place to make that decision.”
All that remains from the 2011 squad is Andrew Cogliano, Cam Fowler, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. The latter two along with Ryan Kesler – who, along with Kevin Bieksa, played for Carlyle with the Manitoba Moose during the 2004-05 lockout – make up the leadership core Ducks.
Murray has never been one that goes out of his way to pay deference to his players. He was pissed off at them for forcing his hand on Boudreau, and proved it by being non-committal as to whether he’d even consult his ‘core’ players for their opinions on a new coach.
Yet he ended up doing so once he was close to making a decision on bringing back Carlyle.
“I reached out to a few of them and said, ‘Hey, this is where I’m headed,'” said Murray. “I got nothing but feedback, unbelievably supportive, pushing [to hire Carlyle] by a few of them.”
That pushing wasn’t limited to the core. According to Murray, a couple weeks ago some players – he wouldn’t name names – inquired about the possibility of bringing Carlyle in, and pointing out the coach had what the Ducks could use to get over the proverbial hump.
In an interview given to The Province two weeks ago, Kesler summed up the Ducks needs in a head coach very matter of factly:
“We just need a good bench coach, a coach that does things on the fly and makes changes during the game and not just between periods,” said Kesler. “We need a coach that holds everybody accountable — not just certain guys. We need a coach to come in and just be a good motivator and do what a coach does.
“The biggest thing is we need a good bench coach for strategies.”
It appears as if the GM was reading along.
“[Carlyle] is going to have immediate respect when he walks into the locker room,” said Murray. “He is well known as an excellent head coach. He will hold people in the organization accountable – that not just on the ice during the games – he’ll do it in practice. He’ll do it in the weight room. He’ll keep them and hold everybody accountable.
“This has got to do with what this team needs … the decisions behind the bench to keep up with the Joel Quennevilles, Darryl Sutters of the world, that keep winning, and you’ve got to compete with them right on the spot. I think that’s always been [Randy’s] strongest strength. He’s always been a great bench coach.”
Conversations between the Ducks and Carlyle began in earnest over the phone. He had interviewed with the Ottawa Senators before they hired Guy Boucher and the Minnesota Wild before they hired Bruce Boudreau.
The Calgary Flames and Anaheim used the NHL Scouting Combine as the locale where they would meet with Carlyle for their face-to-face interviews.
Carlyle met with Murray and ‘special assignment scout and consultant to the GM’ Dave Nonis (who fired Carlyle in Toronto while GM) for five hours. After an hour off, he met for an additional four hours with the Flames and more specifically, another friendly face – Brian Burke.
Murray has history with Carlyle, but Burke’s could be rivaled. Burke hired Carlyle for his first NHL head coaching gig in Anaheim. They won a Cup together. Burke brought Carlyle on in Toronto. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility Carlyle could end up in Calgary with an old friend.
However, as Carlyle pointed out, “Brian Burke has a different position now. He’s a president. He’s not a GM and he can make suggestions. I will tell you Brad Treliving is going to make the decision on who the coach of the Calgary Flames is, I don’t know if Brian Burke is going to.
“With Burkie we’ve had a relationship and I’m a little different from a standpoint – I don’t think Brian Burke owes me anything,” said Carlyle. “I was fortunate he hired me for my first opportunity here. We had some success and we won a Cup and we remain friends and nobody will ever take that away.”
After the interviews, Carlyle claimed, “Things kind of took off from there. [The Ducks] got back to me and we started to discuss what the expectations were as far as compensation and all those things that go with contract negotiations … There were a lot of ‘Ifs’ along the way. That’s the way it goes and I understand that.
“I knew yesterday coming in here I had a very, very great chance of getting the job. They weren’t going to bring me here and not present me with something in my mind. We’d had a lot of discussions – not a lot but very pointed discussions on what they were prepared to do. When I flew in I knew there would be something presented for me.”
Everything was made official before Tuesday’s press conference. Murray wouldn’t go into detail on the length of Carlyle’s contract and that news would come out eventually. The head coach joked it was ‘multi-year.’
The next step for Carlyle in the immediate future is finalizing his staff.
“I think that’s only going to take a short period of time here, I believe,” said Carlyle. “I would predict there’s not going to be a lot of change. We haven’t really got into the depth of that.”
Under the guidance of assistant coaches Trent Yawney and Paul Maclean the Ducks held the number one power play and number one penalty kill in the NHL this past season. Both men interviewed for the head coach’s job. Carlyle said he’s very ‘comfortable’ with the people the team had in place last year.
Whomever joins Carlyle on the bench will have to understand and accept the mission set forth by the general manager – win now.
In his own Randy Carlyle sort of way, the old-new head coach of the Ducks gets it.
“The largest factor will be [the team’s] commitment to doing what’s necessary; not for the individual but for the team. That’s going to put some pressure on people,” said Carlyle. “That’s going to be front and center from day one. When I leave the podium here today, that’s going to be the message.
“There are going to be some changes in the way things are done, but they’re not going to be drastic. We’ll welcome your input, but your commitment is going to be required. Your role might change and some might change more dramatically than others, but we’re going to do what’s best and we’re going to make every decision it’s going to be what’s best for the Anaheim Ducks to achieve their goal. And our goal is to obviously win the Stanley Cup.”