In a move that should really shock no one at this point, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired Ron Wilson Friday night and replaced him with Randy Carlyle, late of the Anaheim Ducks. Wilson had been at the helm in Toronto for almost four seasons.
The Leafs, who at one point had a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in their hands, have gone 1-9-1 in their last 11 games and have tumbled to 12th in the conference, five points out of eighth place but behind four other teams.
Despite holding a playoff spot much of the season, things turned ugly quickly this season in Toronto, with Wilson publicly calling out goaltender James Reimer after two recent losses and fans chanting "FI-RE WIL-SON" during their most recent home loss, a 5-3 defeat to the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers. Despite Wilson receiving a contract extension in December, Toronto General Manager Brian Burke was almost forced to put Wilson out of his misery after this collapse.
Toronto has not made the playoffs since 2004, the longest such streak in its storied history, and the Leafs own the league's second-longest current stretch of regular-season futility.
“This was not an easy decision for me to make,” Burke said in a prepared statement. “I want to thank Ron for all of his hard work and dedication to our organization over the past four seasons.”
Wilson, hired in 2008, failed to guide the Leafs any higher than 10th place in the East in his tenure, achieving that perch after the '10-'11 season. The 18-year veteran coach's best season behind an NHL bench came in '97-'98, guiding the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals, only to fall to the Detroit Red Wings in four games.
Carlyle, 55, takes over one of the more pressure-packed jobs in sports with precious little time to try to salvage a playoff spot this season. With just 18 games remaining, he must figure how to reverse the Leafs' crushing free-fall and restore a modicum of confidence in his young goaltenders.
Carlyle was available for the duty since he was relieved after a very poor start this season in Anaheim, where his Ducks managed just a 7-13-4 start. He becomes the 28th head coach in Maple Leafs' history and the 16th head coach to have also played for the organization. The defenseman saw action in 94 games from 1976 to 1978, with two goals and 16 assists.
Carlyle had been the bench boss in Anaheim since the '05-'06 season, winning a Stanley Cup in '06-'07, with Burke doing the GM duties with the Ducks. In his six-plus seasons in Anaheim, Carlyle had the highest winning percentage in that franchise's history, compiling a 272-182-61 record (.558 winning percentage). He led the Ducks to the playoffs five times in his six full seasons.
In addition to Wilson, assistant coach Rob Zettler was reassigned to other unannounced duties in the organization.
Carlyle and Burke will be available to the media Saturday at 10 a.m. ET in Montreal, where the Leafs are scheduled to face the Canadiens.
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