Analysis: Toronto Maple Leafs, an Organization with a High Head Coach Turnover Rate

The Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach, Randy Carlyle on Monday night. Half of this hockey-centric city applauded the decision with enthusiasm and the other half questioned the decision. As someone who has only watched one Leafs game in the past year I am not qualified to comment on Carlyle’s coaching but I would like to comment on the situation from an organizational standpoint.

A Toronto Star article reports that the Maple Leafs GM, Dave Nonis, fired the club’s head coach of under 3 years with a message to the players to return consistency to their performance. The article also paints the image that the players liked Carlyle, with Phil Kessel going as far as stating that the team’s recent performance was not the fault of his former coach but rather a fault of the team as a whole. In this instance the head coach was not fired after a losing streak but because management decided change in personnel can create a differential push.

I used to be an avid Leafs fan, as a young girl I would watch the games on our old stocky JVC television with my older brother. I am from the era where the Leafs still made the Playoffs and I am aged enough to remember the likes of Pat Quinn, Paul Maurice, and Ron Wilson. Since 2006 the Toronto Maple Leafs have been coached by 4 different men; in the span of 8 years the club has fired and hired 4 different coaches. In these 8 years of rapid personnel change this club has made the playoffs once (with Carlyle). It appears that upper management is quick to make changes when the team is underperforming. On paper this sounds exceedingly attentive but can it be that such a high turnover of the coaching staff is hurting the team?

I drafted a quick graph of the tenures of the head coaches of the Toronto Maple Leafs and another one that displays the term lengths of coaches that have been playing well in (in my mind) recent years (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, & LA). The term lengths in months are a little inaccurate – rounded to the best of my post-nap abilities.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 7.04.30 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 7.04.37 PM

These graphs illustrate that these teams that I perceive have done well have retained their coaches for a number of years despite some less than impressive results (Bylsma & Quenneville both had seasons where their teams lost in the first round of playoffs). From an outside perspective it seems these coaches were given the opportunity of time to build their teams with the concepts of sustainability and long term optimal success in mind.

Just another quick rundown of the tenure of Toronto Maple Leaf Coaches by the year (approximate – quick Google-ing):

Pat Quinn – 7

Paul Maurice – 2

Ron Wilson – 3.67

Randy Carlyle – 2.83

Average Tenure of NHL Coaches – 2.4 Years

Average Tenure of NFL Coaches – 3.6 Years

Average Tenure of Fortune 500 CEO – 4.6 Years

Although the terms of Toronto Maple Leaf coaches since the Pat Quinn era is on average above that of the average tenure of NHL coaches it is below that of its professional sports counterparts and much lower than those of Fortune 500 CEOs.

I am not criticizing the firing of Randy Carlyle but I do feel the Toronto Maple Leafs Organization is one that is overly susceptible to making organizational changes for the sake of change.I also feel the upper management within the Toronto Maple Leafs Organization make these changes to satisfy the expectations game – the firing of a coach creates a short term added-value for its fans. I am even going to go as far as say that I feel TML might be catering too much to entertainment value. Change can be good or it can be bad but I believe that anytime an organization undergoes a management change the leading figure should be given the time to undergo change management, redevelop the team, and redevelop the game plan to reach objectives. A team cannot be turned around and redeveloped within a day.

A few more numbers to round off, from the business world, CEOs that guided organizations to top delivery :

Number of Years A G Lafley was the CEO of P&G – 11

Number of Years Jack Welsh was CEO of GE – 20

Number of Years Bernard Arnault was CEO of LVMH – 26

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