The playful side of Randy Carlyle couldn’t help itself as he walked through the Ducks’ locker room after a recent practice.
He had just put his players through a grueling, 90-minute session that ended in a conditioning skate, and it was clear from their faces that Swedish winger Jakob Silfverberg handled it slightly better than Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen.
“Sami is redder than you,” Carlyle told Silfverberg. “The Finns aren’t in as good a shape as the Swedes.”
Carlyle was joking, of course. It’s a part of him that often rears its head as he makes his way around a familiar setting, needling players about their stamina or their wardrobe.
“He likes to walk through the room and the gym and [he has] his sharp little comments and his chirping matches,” defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “He’s trying to make it fun on the ice, and it should be fun, right?”
Randy Carlyle, fun?
It’s not the word immediately associated with Carlyle. “Gruff” is often inserted before his name. But there is a considerable change in Carlyle as he begins his second tenure as Ducks coach, going into Thursday’s season opener at the Dallas Stars.
He has a renewed energy and appreciation for the job this time around, and it shows during that banter in between the grunt work.
“That’s the fun part about being with the team, and that’s the fun part about coaching is you’re back at that level,” Carlyle said. “When you’re a scout or whatever, you never see that level. You don’t see that dressing room at all. And that’s why I got into coaching, because it was the closest thing to being a player.”
Carlyle, fired as Toronto Maple Leafs coach last year, spent time as a scout and has a background in most other areas of hockey operations.
“And it wasn’t for me,” he said.
His re-hiring by Ducks General Manager Bob Murray in June was looked at sideways by many observers. Carlyle guided the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup but was fired in 2011 among rumblings that his players tuned him out.
Ryan Getzlaf was honest, yet optimistic about the ’11 divorce and this makeup.
“I don’t think he was adapting and growing as a coach the way we wanted him to, and the way he probably wants to,” Getzlaf said. “When you get adversity, you tend to adapt and change, and I think he’s done that.”
Getzlaf said Murray asked the leadership unit what type of coach they needed, and Carlyle’s disciplined, structured ethos was a match. Getzlaf, Kevin Bieksa and a handful of other teammates have a history playing for Carlyle, from as far back as 2004. Ryan Kesler, who played for Carlyle in minor league Manitoba, Canada, likes that Carlyle is detailed.
“When you get a coach like that, it really puts emphasis on us to get it right because there’s no guess work now,” Kesler said.
Carlyle also is known as a steady bench coach and tactician able to read situations and adjust. He veers far from the emotion-on-his-sleeve personality of former Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who famously got into a bench confrontation with former Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy … in a season-opening game in 2013.
Carlyle, 60, said he’ll probably have a bit of nervousness before the puck drops Thursday. The game still invigorates him the way it does when he first started coaching two decades ago. He allows himself one cup of coffee but that’s all because “I don’t want to get too [amped up].”
Carlyle held his hand horizontal and steady. He just finished practice, during which his reprimand of defenseman Korbinian Holzer for accidentally running into him drew muffled chuckles from teammates.
While the honeymoon period with Carlyle settles, the task becomes clear. The Ducks are not Cup favorites and lack depth offensively. The real test of Carlyle Part 2 will come, say, when the Ducks are on a five-game losing streak in February.
“You’re never going to see the true colors of a team until you face some adversity,” Getzlaf said. “We’ve learned from our mistakes, and Randy has, too.”
This is the Ducks’ third season with Kesler, who has referenced a three-to-four year championship window. Getzlaf, Kesler and Corey Perry are all north of 30.
“I think the team’s at a stage now where we’re not super young anymore,” Andrew Cogliano said. “I think we have guys in a certain position now where we need to be pushed to win and get to that next level, and Randy’s that type of coach that can do that.”
Carlyle resisted a subtle push at the team dinner on the eve of training camp. He thought about wearing his Cup ring “to show that this is what we’re about, this is where we’re going,” he said.
“But I felt it was … like bragging.”
That might have been awkward, and the last thing Carlyle wanted, after all, was a hint of red-faced embarrassment.
Center Michael Sgarbossa was placed on waivers. Tuesday is the deadline for NHL teams to submit their 23-man roster.
Carlyle in NHL
Randy Carlyle’s coaching record in the NHL. He led the Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2007, was fired in 2011, and was rehired this year to replace Bruce Boudreau (Fin. = finish in division, the Pacific with the Ducks and then two years in the Northeast and one in the Atlantic with Toronto):
Season: W-L-OL -- Fin; Playoff W-L
AS DUCKS COACH
2005-06: 43-27-12 -- 3rd; 9-7
2006-07: 48-20-14 -- 1st; 16-5
2007-08: 47-27-8 -- 2nd: 2-4
2008-09: 42-33-7-- 2nd: 7-6
2009-10: 39-32-11 -- 4th: None
2010-11: 47-30-5 -- 2nd; 2-4
2011-12: 7-13-4 -- Fired; None
AS TORONTO COACH
2011-12: 6-9-3 -- 4th; None
2012-13: 26-17-5 -- 3rd; 3-4
2013-14: 38-36-8 -- 6th; None
2014-15: 21-16-3 -- 7th; None