December 12, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
It would not pass the royal wave test and, in fact, may have been the grumpiest signal of grateful acknowledgement in history. Hockey or otherwise.
Randy Carlyle returned to Winnipeg last night and the Jets paid him a tribute, but as expected, the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs did not play along and open the door to any overwrought sentimentality.
Carlyle's wave was a form of thank-you, but it was also a "sit down and shut up, that's enough of that" swipe of his paw.
The former Jets defenceman and one-time Manitoba Moose coach ignored the tribute and continued scribbling on his whiteboard until the ovation became too loud not to acknowledge.
But no cloying bow for Carlyle, just a rapid raise and drop of his hand and then back to hockey.
The Leafs aren't very talented, but Carlyle has shed the roster of its sense of entitlement and there was no shortage of effort or pluck from the visitors.
Carlyle matched lines and pushed an agenda all night. His team bought in and earned a 3-2 come-from-behind road win. Winnipeg coach Claude Noel's group let an opportunity against a roster equal to theirs in talent slip away.
Both the Leafs and Jets endure an existence where most nights they'll be out-armed. Carlyle's group has grasped this and accepted his work-first mantra. They did on Thursday and they won their sixth game of the season.
Noel's bunch provided an uneven approach and suffered its fifth loss to fall below .500 and out of the playoff picture.
Noel and Carlyle have crossed paths as coaches in the IHL, AHL and NHL and matched up against each other in the minor pro leagues while serving their apprenticeship.
This was an NHL game, but the men behind the benches had done this before in places like Kalamazoo and Milwaukee.
It didn't take long for Carlyle and Noel to resume a chess match between them that dates back to the mid-'90s and their days in the IHL. Noel put tough-guy Anthony Peluso on the ice for the warmup and waited to see how Carlyle would fill out his lineup card.
When Carlyle wrote in Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren, Noel yanked Peluso, thinking he could take advantage of his last change and get favourable matchups against a pair of so-so skaters.
It didn't work.
Certainly it wasn't a major theme in the game, but the Leafs did play a chippy and at times ratty game. In theory, Noel's team should have had opportunities to turn the deficiencies of Toronto's tough guys into offensive chances, but it didn't materialize.
Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn didn't like McLaren's act and ran him into the home side's bench in the first period and a fight immediately ensued. Thorburn won but the Leafs were undaunted and continued to chirp and push and shove.
Toronto had a plan and they executed. Winnipeg could not say the same.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @garylawless
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2013 C1