The Toronto Maple Leafs made a bad decision by firing Paul Maurice.
Maurice had been a pretty good coach for the Maple Leafs, as evidenced by the 76-65-22 record he posted during his tenure. Not amazing, but not terrible by any means.
However, the decision to fire Maurice wasn’t bad because he compiled just a decent coaching record—it was a bad call because the Leafs have no idea what direction their hockey club is going.
The problem is that the club is caught in a state of limbo. A desire to rebuild the team exists among some fans and management types alike. But in reality, the team has a lack of good prospects and too many players locked into long-term deals with no-trade clauses, meaning they are built for more of a “win now” philosophy.
Based on last year, the latter of the two approaches seems highly unlikely to be successful. So what’s next?
Does the team either plod along with band-aid solutions such as Jason Blake, trying to “win now” with a team of underachievers, or do they bite the bullet and rebuild, even with their lack of prospects?
Neither seems like a task worth undertaking, yet one course must be chosen. Thus, whatever the answer to the previous question is defines who should be the next coach for the team.
If the team opts to go with a youth movement, which would be the smarter of the two, then a good teaching coach like St. Louis’ Andy Murray would be a good fit. Unfortunately for Leaf fans, he won’t be going anywhere. Even a return of Pat Burns would be good for this scenario since he has been praised for his teaching abilities.
There is the second option though, which could end up hinging on whether or not Mats Sundin makes a return next year. If Sundin decides to continue on in Toronto after what was truly his most emotionally grueling year in the hockey Mecca, then the team has to go with a win-now approach.
If this were the case, a coach who is more tactical by nature would be the obvious choice. A Marc Crawford type coach who can read the game in front of him and make adjustments on the fly would be needed, although given that Toronto seems devoid of talent on their current roster it would take a true magician get this squad anywhere.
Paul Maurice was actually quite good at this role, although with him out of the picture, someone like Joel Quenneville could be the best of the free-agent coaches out there. Ron Wilson too could be a coach that would fit this mould, although his lack of direction in the locker room that led to his firing may not be the most ideal trait in a media hotbed such as Toronto.
The Leafs could also go completely off the board with their next coach. Peter De Boer and Craig Hartsburg are both coaches in the Ontario Hockey League who have been rumoured to make the jump to the big show, and if a youth movement were to take place their experience with younger players would be beneficial.
All of this is just conjecture though, and really there is no sense speculating on the next coach of the Maple Leafs until the Maple Leafs themselves stop speculating about their own future.
To rebuild or not to rebuild, that is the question. Until this gets answered, talk of the Leafs' next coach is about as important as playoff scheduling at the Air Canada Centre.