Following what the players and coach described as an "embarrassing" loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis remains willing, patient and fully committed to Randy Carlyle.
"The pressure right now should be placed on the players, Nonis told The Dreger Report on Wednesday. "I know Randy and the coaching staff is working hard. I'm not now, nor have I ever contemplated making a coaching change. The players have to respond."
Nonis refuted the notion that the players are no longer listening to Carlyle, or have tuned out the veteran coach and says at the end of their season exiting meetings after the Leafs' Game 7 meltdown to the Boston Bruins last spring, that every Toronto player - to a man - credited Carlyle and his staff as the main reason the Leafs qualified for the postseason last year.
The Hits Keep Coming
Now Trevor Smith broke his hand in the 3-1 loss to the Panthers and could be out for the next eight weeks, further taxing Toronto's depleted centre ice position as Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland are still weeks away with long-term injuries as well.
Centre Jerred Smithson was recalled from the Toronto Marlies to help fill the void, but Nonis can see the toll - particularly up the middle - that his team's steady stream of injuries is taking on the club.
Nonis has been trolling the league looking for trades and admits he has had offers on James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly and both his goalies. However, the general managers with the most interest have yet to produce anything beyond older players in return or trade packages that are not useful to the Maple Leafs in the long term.
More On Gardiner
Following back-to-back bad games resulting in a benching against the Panthers, Jake Gardiner's availability has once again become topical. Nonis insists he's not shopping Gardiner, but rival management sources say Gardiner's name has been brought up by Toronto in trade discussions in Nonis's search for a top-six forward.
At the moment, there doesn't appear to be a trade fit that makes sense, so amid the growing frustration in Leaf Nation, Nonis's plan is to sit tight, pray for good health in the New Year and do whatever is necessary to help this team keep its head above water.
Meanwhile, New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather continues to shop defenceman Michael Del Zotto.
Toronto is among the teams with some interest, but the expected return of a young defenceman may be too steep for the Leafs. It's believed the Rangers would prefer a right-handed shot on the blue line, so Cody Franson is a likely target for New York as well.
Sources say the Ottawa Senators are also still in the mix, although the sudden and impressive emergence of rookie Cody Ceci may have cooled the Sens' interest. And providing Ceci can maintain his play, the Senators may be willing to move either Eric Gryba, Joe Corvo or Patrick Wiercioch to one of the many teams in the market for a defenceman.
With the holiday roster freeze looming, it's unlikely we'll see any big-time action prior to the break. But the appetite for change is growing among some of the NHL's big market clubs.