What does an extension for Carlyle mean?

Shanahan’s silence speaks volumes

MLSE made two coaching announcements this week. First, the Raptors expectedly renewed Dwane Casey’s contract after a successful season, albeit a short playoff run. The Maple Leafs also rewarded their coach, Randy Carlyle, with a two-year extension. Both coaches now have (presumably) guaranteed paychecks for three years.

Casey’s renewal is largely unquestioned, and rightfully so. The Carlyle extension is a bit of a surprise because Brendan Shanahan and Dave Nonis took a long time arriving at this decision. (We are now more than half way into the second round of playoffs!) As we saw in Vancouver, long deliberation often doesn’t bode well for a coach. As pointed out by the always astute Eliot Friedman and always opionated Rosie DiManno, the decision to keep Carlyle is more about the slim pickings amongst available coaches-for-hire than about total confidence in the incumbent. Nevertheless, Carlyle still had a year remaining on his contract. So, why the extension?

Although it is customary in North American pro sports not to leave coaches going into a season as a lame duck (given Carlyle’s previous gig in Anaheim, he should be used to that), Dwane Casey was in precisely such a situation and was not abandoned by his players. Do Shanahan and Nonis not have faith in their players?

Possibly, the extension was demanded by Carlyle in return for throwing his assistants under the bus. We can also imagine Dave Nonis standing by his long time ally (Nonis gave Carlyle his first head coaching gig with the Manitoba Moose, the Canucks’ farm team). While Shanahan allowed himself to be persuaded by one, the other or both because his dream coach Mike Babcock will not be available for at least one more season (N.B. Red Wings don’t seem worried that their coach might be a lame duck going into the last year of his contract), his silence accompanying the announcement of Carlyle’s extension speaks volumes about his conviction about the decision.