By: Adam Gretz
Toronto fans spent the better part of February demanding it, and on Friday evening the Maple Leafs front office made it happen.
The team announced that head coach Ron Wilson has been fired and will be replaced by former Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. The move comes less than three months after Wilson received a contract extension from the team, and after a stretch of games that has seen the Maple Leafs lose 10 of their past 11, including six in a row, to fall outside of the top-eight in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“This was not an easy decision for me to make,” said General Manager Brian Burke in a statement released by the team. “I want to thank Ron for all of his hard work and dedication to our organization over the past four seasons.”
During Wilson's four seasons in Toronto the team compiled a record of 130-135-45 and never qualified for the postseason, as the Leafs and their fans continue to ride out what is one of the longest active playoff droughts in the NHL.
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Wilson had been facing mounting criticism in recent weeks for the teams collapse after such a fast start, and "Fire Wilson" chants could be heard throughout the Air Canada Centre during a recent loss to the Florida Panthers. The Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
His firing will be the eighth coaching change in the NHL this season (including Carlyle's dismisal from Anaheim), and of the seven previous changes only one of those teams (the St. Louis Blues) is in what would be a playoff posiiton in the standings as of Friday night.
If nothing else the hiring of Carlyle adds a potential storyline -- and perhaps some awkwardness -- early on due to his history with current Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul.
Anaheim traded Lupul to Toronto last season, when Carlyle was still the coach, and they didn't exactly have the best breakup, dealing him shortly after he returned to the lineup after a serious back injury. Earlier this season, before a meeting between the Leafs and Ducks, Lupul talked about his bitterness toward Anaheim and Carlyle saying, via the Toronto Sun, “I know the opportunity I’m getting in Toronto, I never would have had in Anaheim. Randy Carlyle just did not see me as that type of player.”
Carlyle was the head coach of the 2006-07 Anaheim team that won the Stanley Cup. Burke was also the general manager of that team.
Photo: Getty Images
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