ANAHEIM, Calif. – Randy Carlyle had little interest in coaching during his NHL playing days as a hard-nosed defenceman. The Anaheim Ducks are still grateful he finally picked up the coaching bug.
Carlyle agreed to a new three-year contract extension with the Ducks on Monday, keeping the winningest coach in franchise history under contract through the 2013-14 season.
Carlyle has been behind Anaheim’s bench for most of the 1993 expansion franchise’s biggest moments. He has coached the Ducks since August 2005, going 266-169-57 and leading the club to its only Stanley Cup championship in 2007.
“Coaching has been a lot of fun,” Carlyle said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have (a high) quality of players and management behind me. That’s the type of organization and hockey club you want to represent.”
Anaheim has made the playoffs five times during Carlyle’s six seasons in charge. Only Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who led the then-Mighty Ducks to the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, has won more playoff games than Carlyle during the past six seasons.
Carlyle’s old contract would have expired after the upcoming season, but that deal was reworked.
A lengthy, successful coaching career would have been a surprise to the younger Carlyle, who cared about little beyond the action.
“As a player, I thought a coach was a guy that stood on the side of the boards and drank coffee,” said Carlyle, who scored 647 career points over parts of 17 NHL seasons with Toronto, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg.
Carlyle even teased coach Terry Simpson, his former boss with the Winnipeg Jets, saying he was attached to the boards by Velcro. But after doing a little radio work in Winnipeg following his retirement, Carlyle decided to try coaching as an assistant to Simpson—and he immediately embraced the competition and preparation.
“I enjoyed it because it was the closest thing to being a player,” said Carlyle, who coached the minor-league Manitoba Moose in two stints over six seasons before getting his NHL break with the Ducks.
Carlyle has done a remarkable job keeping the Ducks competitive during their transition from a tough-nosed championship club led by superstar defencemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger into a faster, more entertaining team led by MVP Corey Perry, captain Ryan Getzlaf and ageless scorer Teemu Selanne.
Yet Carlyle is far from satisfied with the Ducks’ recent performances, noting they’ve won just one playoff series in the past three years. He intends to return next month with plans to revamp Anaheim’s defensive approach, which was “only at a level that we just got by with” last season, and penalty-killing.
Carlyle shrugged off rampant media speculation about his job last fall after Anaheim got off to a slow start even before Getzlaf and all-star goalie Jonas Hiller incurred major injuries. Carlyle still led the Ducks to a 47-win season and a fourth-place finish in the Western Conference standings.
“He has proven that he’s a good coach,” said Anaheim general manager Bob Murray, who inherited Carlyle from departed GM Brian Burke. “We’re always competitive, no matter what kind of team we have.”
Murray also spoke briefly about Selanne, who hasn’t decided whether to return to the Ducks this fall. The 41-year-old Finnish Flash had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in June, and a Finnish newspaper reported he’ll wait until September to decide his future.
Murray said Selanne had been “struggling a bit” with his knee recovery.
“I think he was getting depressed with the whole thing, and then I think he had a few days where it wasn’t bugging him,” Murray said. “I think he intends to go pretty hard this week … in Helsinki, and we’re scheduled to speak after this week is over.”
The Ducks hope Selanne elects to play at least another season after his remarkable 80-point performance last year, the second-most productive season in NHL history for a player in his 40s. Selanne was the NHL’s eighth-leading scorer.
“The one thing that Teemu has always expressed is that he wanted to be able to play tennis, play golf and to be active after his playing days,” said Carlyle, who already has considered a backup plan if Selanne retires. “If he feels as if his body is telling him to stop playing, he will stop playing.”
Murray also said Hiller is feeling much better after missing much of last season with an apparent case of vertigo. The Swiss star is working out daily back home.