Toronto Maple Leafs' Bench Blues: Who to Fill the Void?

Josh LewisSenior Analyst IMay 15, 2008

As everyone this side of Singapore knows, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired bench boss Paul Maurice last week after two disappointing seasons.

The dismissal came a few months after general manager John Ferguson Jr. was axed and it creates another hole for a team very much in disarray.

The Leafs are now without a coach, a general manager, and possibly a captain, with Mats Sundin's contract status up in the air.

They are without a lot of other things too. Leadership, heart, accountability, toughness, identity—you name it, the Leafs don't have it.

That's why the next coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs has to be more than just a winner. It has to be someone who instills a sense of team.

It has to be a coach who gets the players to stick up for each other, so that when Tomas Kaberle takes a cheap shot from Cam Janssen, someone takes him to task.

It has been embarrassing enough to watch the Leafs' on-ice failures in recent years, without seeing them stand still while teammates are being pushed around.

The current group also lacks accountability.

When so-called "leaders" like Bryan McCabe (*snicker*) constantly shrug off their screw-ups and failures like they're no big deal, there is a major problem.

When you add the fact that the Leafs will likely be a young, inexperienced team over the next couple of years, if Cliff Fletcher has his way, that makes it more difficult to find a suitable coach.

Someone who's a proven motivator and keeps his players accountable yet has the patience to deal with young players and their mistakes. That's a tall order.

So, who should be the next coach of the Leafs? There is no easy answer.

Ron Wilson has dealt with young players, but his playoff record isn't great. Joel Quenneville is used to dealing with experienced teams, as is Pat Burns.

Then again, any of those men might work out fine in Toronto.

Or maybe a minor-league coach would too. The experience factor is often not as important in the coaching game as with general managers.

Look at Bruce Boudreau or John Stevens. Look at Gary Green, who took over the Washington Capitals at 26 years old and oversaw a significant improvement. Scotty Bowman was once a young buck as well.

That doesn't mean the Leafs should hire an unknown to run the bench. It just means that coaching is unpredictable and sometimes the perfect fit comes from a strange source.

But whoever it is, he has to instill accountability, teamwork, and work ethic. Without those, the Leafs will be developing yet another generation of players destined for failure.