Randy Carlyle could only speak for the moment when asked about his future as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, addressing the media on Tuesday for the first time after his team's season ended short of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I'm here today,” he said when asked whether he would be back with the club for the 2014-15 season.
“In this business you take on the responsibility of wins and losses, he continued. “You put your best foot forward and try to be honest and forthright with people and that's what we're trying to do as a hockey club.”
Carlyle's future has been the subject of great speculation in the wake of a disappointing season for the Leafs. A March free-fall saw the team plummet from third in the Eastern Conference to a 38-36-8 finish, good for the eighth-worst record in the League.
The team's first order of business once the off-season began was to appoint former NHL Director of Player of Safety and Hockey Hall-of-Famer Brendan Shanahan as the team's new president.
While Carlyle could not comment on any impending changes under Shanahan – he is yet to formally meet with his new boss – he summed up the free-fall as a symptom of how the team played throughout the year.
“The last 30 days of the season was the tell-tale story for our group,” Carlyle said. “The things that we were doing in the beginning and winning came to fruition in the final 30 days.”
He pointed specifically to the team's inability to capitalize on a strong road trip to California in early March as a detrimental turning point in the season. After winning two of three road games against the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings in early March, the Leafs returned to the east coast, losing three games in four nights and kicking off what would become an eight-game stretch without earning a single point in the standings.
“It seemed we played well enough to earn some respect,” Carlyle said of the California trip. “Then we seemed to have lost our mojo.”
From then on, the team's confidence seemed to drop every time they conceded an early goal or did not perform up to expectations.
“The first goal would go in and the shoulders would slump, that was the tell-tale sign,” he said. “Our response was very minimal.”
The 57-year-old Carlyle has spent parts of three seasons with the team, taking over from previous Leafs head coach Ron Wilson with 18 games remaining in the 2011-12 season.
Carlyle would lead the team to a 6-9-3 finish in his first year. His most successful year at the helm would be the following season when he led the Leafs to a 26-17-5 mark in strike shortened 2012-13 and, more importantly, the franchise's first playoff berth since 2003-04.
They would ultimately suffer a shocking defeat in Game 7 of their opening round series, surrendering a 4-1, third period lead in the final 11 minutes of regulation and falling in overtime to the Boston Bruins.
Speaking to the team's 2012-13 success, Carlyle stated that he and the team's management were confident going into the season, but that they may have misjudged the team's strength.
“We had been a competitive group the year previous and we felt this group was ready to take the next step,” Carlyle said Tuesday. “It didn't materialize.”
Speaking to the team's defensive posture, Carlyle didn't see a consistent effort.
“You have to play and you have to compete on the defensive side of the puck with will and commitment,” Carlyle said. “We didn't do that consistently.”
“We're not asking players to do something they haven't done before,” he added when asked about players molding to his coaching strategy.
Carlyle currently has one year remaining on the three-year deal he signed after taking over for Wilson in 2012.
He stopped short of offering up explanations for how to turn the Leafs' fortunes around, capitulating with:
"For now, we don't have the ultimate answer to give you and we're embarassed by what just went down."