Randy Carlyle is the type of coach who can win playoff games
Randy Carlyle is old school. A tough-as-nails, no excuses, put-your-opponent-through-the-boards type of coach who has given this Toronto Maple Leafs team an identity. It’s fantastic.
Under Carlyle’s aggressive coaching style, the Leafs lead the NHL in fights, and star checker Leo Komarov leads the league in hits – a game plan that is working; we are, after all, about to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
But Carlyle's rugged type of team is set in his old school ways of playing the game, in a hockey philosophy of the tough guy, a dying breed.
How else to explain his recent concussion comments?
Carlyle won’t say Lupul has a concussion. “That’s a bad word,” Carlyle said last week, a day after Lupul’s injury, as reported by the Star.
Carlyle continued, as reported by Sportsnet’s Michael Grange: “We don’t use that word until we’re 100 per cent sure on any of the situations. The term concussion in today’s world, sporting world, you want to be 100 per cent sure before you start using that word.”
Lupul was likely concussed, it doesn’t take a genius to know this – he is not travelling to New York to play the Rangers on Wednesday. This will be his third game out since taking a hit against the Flyers last Thursday.
And after that hit, he was woozy, disoriented, missed his bench, and left the game never to return. Sounds concussed, especially since he hasn’t flown with the team since: you can’t fly with a concussion.
But Carlyle doesn’t want to say “concussion” – it means Lupul will be out indefinitely in “today’s world.” (Upper body injury and day-to-day is better.) Today’s world is not like Carlyle remembers, growing up playing hockey, not afraid to do anything to win.
Carlyle – a northern Ontario boy who played 18 NHL seasons – also told Grange he once took a nasty elbow, finished the game, and later vomited at his hotel from nausea. He played days later.
Behind his comments, Carlyle is just playing the game hard, the way he remembers, but his further commentary last week was a little more backwards and bizarre.
“I think the reason there’s so much more of them (concussions)," he continued to tell Grange. "Obviously the impact and the size of the equipment and the size of the player – but there’s another factor: everyone wears helmets, and under your skull when you have a helmet on, there’s a heat issue.
“Everyone sweats a lot more, the brain swells. The brain is closer to the skull. Think about it. Does it make sense? Common sense?”
Not really, no. Sounds backwards. But it also sounds like someone saying, "Heck, helmets just make things worse - I used to play without one.
"I’ve taken harder hit than that, son. Get back out there."
That type of hockey culture is disappearing, at least when it comes to head injuries, but I'm glad Carlyle (who never wore a helmet) still believes in it. It’s why we’re winning.
His comments, although foolish, came from the same place as his coaching style – a place where men don’t cry and injuries are an impetus, a philosophy that can win playoff games.
If Carlyle thinks deep down a player could continue after a hit like Lupul's, he surely expects his players to battle other injuries to win the Cup.
And what do we hear at the end of every playoff run? A list of injuries players fought through. It’s what it takes to win.
Carlyle, if it was 10 years ago, probably would have had Lupul back in the Flyers game after the hit, especially if it was the playoffs. Nowadays it’s not his call, the doctors keep Lupul out.
I love Carlyle’s gritty coaching style and hope he sticks to it. His players will be playoff ready. Going forward, I just hope he keeps his mantra in the dressing room, where it belongs.
So, get well soon, Lupul, from your “upper body injury.” Don’t come back until doctors say so, last thing we need is back-to-back “above the neck” injuries and no playoffs for you. (We all remember how long Crosby was kept off the ice, right?)
Go Leafs Go. Cheers.