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  • Clearly, Carlyle's time in Anaheim was up Print
    Written by J.P. Hoornstra   
    Thursday, 01 December 2011 19:50

    Randy Carlyle had survived previous poor starts in Anaheim. This time, the quality of play was worse and his firing seemed inevitable.  Perhaps more of an upset was Bruce Boudreau taking over just three days after being axed in Washington.

    JP HoornstraANAHEIM, Calif. — The writing was on the wall. Randy Carlyle's time behind the Ducks' bench was nearing its end. 

    I'm not sure where that wall is exactly, only that it was easier to see from outside Honda Center than from the inside.

    Because when the Ducks fired Carlyle Wednesday, less than an hour after beating the Montreal Canadiens on home ice, it broke with every instinct Bob Murray had oozed in three years as the team's general manager – and came as an unwelcome surprise to the press box denizens who furiously re-wrote their game stories on deadline.

    Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, the Ducks started each season as if it would be Carlyle's last. They were 12-11-4 on Nov. 30, 2007; 14-8-3 on Nov. 30, 2008; 10-11-4 on Nov. 30, 2009; 12-11-3 this time last year, and 7-13-4 when Carlyle was fired and replaced with Bruce Boudreau on Wednesday.

    Yet each time the Ducks managed to turn it around, preaching faith in their coach every step of the way. Only in 2010 did they turn it around too late to make the playoffs. That's why in August Carlyle signed a contract extension through the 2013-14 season. And maybe that's why just three days ago, veteran Teemu Selanne insisted that there was "100 percent" support in the room for Carlyle.

    Either Selanne was aloof or something changed in the 72 hours prior to Carlyle's dismissal Wednesday.

    Actually, something did change.

    Murray publicly entertained trade proposals for Bobby Ryan. (Obvious question: Was he serious?) Desperate times call for desperate measures, but Carlyle and the Ducks had been down this road before. So what was different this time around?

    "It was just the way we were losing," Murray said. "The body language, how they were losing. They didn't believe in themselves anymore. I had never seen that before in the six years we've been here."

    Privately, Murray decided he had seen enough after watching the Ducks lose Friday (6-5 to Chicago) and Sunday (5-2 to Toronto). On Monday, he notified team CEO Michael Schulman that he intended to fire Carlyle.

    The coach's message had finally fallen on one too many deaf ears. It happens sometimes.

    "It seems to be happening more and more with these teams that win championships," Murray said. "Guys don't last after."

    Fewer saw the second part of this coming – Boudreau's hiring, two days after he was fired in Washington. But boy, did it come at the right time.

    Coincidentally, I was on The FAN (590-AM) in Toronto debating whether Carlyle had lost the room at the very moment his death sentence was being released to the press. I pointed out that Carlyle's manner of motivation is loud and grating; it should be hard to tune out. My interviewer countered by pointing out that sometimes the most grating coaches are tuned out first – because they're grating.

    He was right.

    Former NHL defenseman Aaron Ward, who finished his career in Anaheim, is now sitting behind a desk in Toronto as an analyst for TSN. From there he called Carlyle's exit several days before it actually happened.

    "Who's next on the firing line?" colleague James Duthie asked. "Randy Carlyle," Ward replied. "Randy Carlyle has lost this team."

    Ward was later asked, "Do you have an axe to grind with Randy Carlyle?" He pulled no punches. "Absolutely," Ward said. "I was there for a month and a half. I couldn't wait for it to end. The man absolutely sucked the life and the fun out of the game. I sat at the year-end meeting with him and talked about my future, figuring that I would eventually retire after that season and I was pretty sure leaving that room that he would also be too, done ... as coach."

    So maybe the proverbial wall, the one with all the writing on it, was in Toronto. It is the center of the hockey universe, after all.

    Fewer saw the second part of this coming – Boudreau's hiring, two days after he was fired in Washington. But boy, did it come at the right time.

    There was a lot of finger-pointing during the Ducks' hour-long practice Thursday morning in Anaheim. It was the kind of finger-pointing that asks a new coach "so you want me to go here?" – not the kind that says "look at the rookie missing his backcheck."

    When practice was over the two resident teenagers, Devante Smith-Pelly and Cam Fowler, pretended to have a slap fight. Forty-one-year-old teenager Teemu Selanne removed his gloves and stick and tossed them across the ice after scoring a goal.

    The mood had changed.

    "Overall, I think it's going to be a bit of an energy boost hopefully and that's the way we have to look at it," captain Ryan Getzlaf said.

    The Ducks are three points ahead of Columbus for last place in the Western Conference today, but the writing is on the wall: They won't be there much longer.

    On Twitter: @jphoornstra and @hockeyprimetime

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    Last Updated on Friday, 02 December 2011 18:11