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Leafs players at world hockey championship not surprised Carlyle will be back

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

MINSK, Belarus - Morgan Rielly and Nazem Kadri were hanging out in their hotel room at the world hockey championship when Twitter told them the news.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were holding a news conference, so they got curious. It didn't take long for them to find out via social media that coach Randy Carlyle was coming back—with a two-year extension—and assistants Greg Cronin, Scott Gordon and Dave Farrish were being let go.

"I wasn't too sure how to react," Rielly said. "I personally like Randy, I think he's a great coach. I think we have a pretty good relationship.

"I didn't really know what was going to happen with him either here or if he's gone and then obviously all the other coaches. So you just have to keep an open mind about it. It's obviously too bad that we don't have Crow, Gordo and Dave."

Along with goaltender James Reimer, a restricted free agent who figures to be traded rather than return as Jonathan Bernier's backup, the Leafs players here have their own problems to worry about right now. They're playing for Team Canada, which allows them to focus on the next game, the next practice rather than the machinations of what are happening back home.

Still, Thursday's announcement affects them in a significant way. Reports dating to the trade deadline have mentioned Kadri as a player the Leafs would like to trade, and keeping the Dave Nonis-Carlyle regime in place under new president Brendan Shanahan only sparked more.

Kadri isn't one to say he's worried about trade rumours, and the 23-year-old centre also wasn't surprised that Carlyle was coming back.

"Not really. Randy's a good coach," he said. "I think the players got to be a little better and a little more prepared.

"With what happened last year, it's an eye-opener, especially for the young group we had, and I'm sure it's not going to happen again."

Leafs fans had to figure losing 12 of the final 14 games would prompt changes. Shanahan was brought in, and it wouldn't have been the least bit shocking for Carlyle to take the significant brunt of the blame.

Instead, by Nonis saying he and the front office still saw Carlyle as the right man to lead the Leafs, the message seems to be the blame is on the players. Kadri didn't necessarily see the moves as a mandate of that.

"We're a team. Everyone plays for the team. You stick together, you win as a team, you lose on a team," he said, echoing a line Carlyle has used many times. "I don't think it's on a specific group of people or a specific person. I think we all got to be better, including the players."

The players who start the 2014-'15 NHL season are likely to be much different from those who ended this disappointing regular season. Along with Kadri, defenceman Jake Gardiner has been the other big name mentioned in reports of whom the Leafs could trade this summer.

Gardiner is at the world championships playing for the United States, but Rielly said Saturday he hadn't talked to his Leafs roommate about the news. No doubt it'll be a major topic of conversation once they cross paths here.

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