Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Candidates To Replace Ron Wilson

Eric WarrenCorrespondent IIDecember 1, 2010

Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Candidates To Replace Ron Wilson

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    PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 13:  Head Coach Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs watches his team play against the Pittsburgh Penguinson October 13, 2010 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Ron Wilson has been coming under fire again lately over his team's play, or lack thereof. Maybe it is time for a change.

    Wilson, who currently sits in eighth place on the list of all-time coaching wins, has become one of the most despised coaches from a fan's perspective in Toronto since John Brophy.

    It may be that he seems arrogant, or perhaps it's the fact that he seems to use the wrong players in the wrong circumstances. There is no way that Colton Orr should be necessary every single game.

    The media that surrounds the Leafs isn't what you would call "Wilson-friendly" either. Though you would be hard pressed to find someone to admit this, it has been widely speculated that most media personalities find him too pushy and aggressive, to the point that it was a topic of some discussion on the Hockey Central show recently on the Fan 590 radio station.

    While it is easy from the comfort of a couch, or even a high back swivel chair, to critique and find efficiencies, when there are so many people, fans and media alike standing and yelling with their collective fingers wagging at you, chances are you are in fact doing something wrong.

    To that end, with the holiday season upon us and Christmas just around the corner, Brian Burke is not about to let Wilson go. Not yet anyway.

    Should Burke change his mind, however, it would only be fair for us to do some advance scouting for him—give the boy a hand and all.

    With that in mind, let's have a look at five potential candidates for the position, both ones that would come to mind immediately and a couple that wouldn't.

Gary Roberts

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    OTTAWA - APRIL 14:  Gary Roberts #10 of the Pittsburgh Penguins talks to reporters following the game against the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on April 14, 2007 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The
    Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

    Pound for pound, Gary Roberts may be one of the greatest NHL hockey players of all time.

    Known wherever he played as a consummate professional and a player whose passion for the game was unmatched, Roberts would not be high on anyone's list of potential candidates for a head coaching job in the NHL.

    After retiring in 2009, Roberts began training young players and had already been instrumental in the development of James Neal, Stephen Weiss and Steven Stamkos before his longtime friend and Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk hired him on to act as a player development consultant earlier  this year.

    Roberts doesn't just not have any NHL coaching experience; he doesn't have any coaching experience at all. That, of course, should preclude him from getting a head coaching job, but he has stated publicly that he'd be interested in doing it, and what better place to do it than in Toronto?

    Current Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins is in his second year as coach of the Leafs farm team and has so far done as decent a job as anyone could with the high-speed turnstile of players shuttling in and out of his roster this year, and he could benefit from the solidifying kind of influence that Gary Roberts may be able to provide.

Ken Hitchcock

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    Ken Hitchcock & Dion, hmmmmmm
    Ken Hitchcock & Dion, hmmmmmmMike Ridewood/Getty Images

    Ken Hitchcock would be high on a lot of people's Christmas wish lists of people to take over as the Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss and would certainly be qualified for the job.

    In 15 seasons as an NHL coach, "Captain Kangaroo" has guided teams to two Stanley Cup Finals, winning one, as well as two conference finals, and has only missed the postseason twice.

    Currently 12th all-time in both regular season games coached and in regular season wins, Hitchcock also boasts solid postseason numbers and is eighth all-time with 121 games coached and ninth in total playoff wins with 66.

    Despite having obviously solid credentials, the "rub" on Hitchcock seems to be that as good as he is behind the bench and as immediate an impact he could have with this young Toronto Maple Leafs roster, he seems to have about a two-year window before things seem to start to unravel.

    Having been fired almost a year ago, Hitchcock said shortly afterward that he still wanted to coach, though not in the AHL.

    "I still have the burn to coach, but my heart's still in the NHL right now. I feel like I've got five, six or seven good years left in me.

    "I feel re-energized right now. I really just want to be ready for the next opportunity."

Wayne Gretzky

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    NEW YORK - APRIL 14:  Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky attends the Gillette - EA SPORTS Champions of Gaming Global Finals at ARENA Event Space on April 14, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
    Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

    Wayne Gretzky, as everyone knows, is arguably the greatest player to ever put on a pair of skates in the history of the NHL.

    His first shot as a head coach in the league, however, did not go as well as he may have hoped.

    In four years as a head coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, the record of the "Great One" was a less than stellar 143-161-24 with a winning percentage of just .473.

    That being said, the caliber of talent he had to work with was nothing to write home about either.

    The man who once said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take" has been rumored to be looking for another shot at coaching, and though it would be great to see him behind the Leafs bench, the chances of it happening anytime soon are slim at best.

Tim Hunter

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    TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 22:  Assistant Coach Tim Hunter and Head Coach Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on against the Buffalo Sabres during their pre season NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on September 26, 2008 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Phot
    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    Tim Hunter may be the most likely successor to Ron Wilson should Brian Burke decide to pull the trigger, though likely to only get an "interim" tag.

    Still among the all-time career leaders in penalty minutes (eighth, with 3,142), Hunter has been an assistant coach with the Washington Capitals (1997-2002), San Jose Sharks (2002-2008) and of course with the Toronto Maple Leafs since 2008.

    Having been an assistant on two relatively successful teams before, as well as being a player on several successful clubs during his 15 years as a hard-nosed winger, coming to a Leafs organization that was, well, not what he was used to must have come as somewhat of a culture shock.

    Before arriving in Toronto, Hunter had already been an assistant coach for 10 years and had helped guide his teams to seven postseason berths, two conference finals and a Cup final in 1997-98.

Ted Nolan

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    UNIONDALE, NY - NOVEMBER 02:  Head coach Ted Nolan of the New York Islanders looks on during a press conference announcing that former coach Al Arbour will coach the team for one game on November 2, 2007 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Arbour w
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Ted Nolan has only coached four seasons in the NHL.

    A remarkably short career for one of the most universally liked coaches from a fan perspective in the history of the game.

    You would be hard pressed to find a fan anywhere who didn't either love him because they were either an Islanders or Sabres fan or they wanted him as a coach.

    Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are no different.

    Nolan may be the only coach who might be able to have an immediate and positive influence on this current roster, even coming in partway through the season.

    Ted Nolan, a former Jack Adams Award winner, is currently employed by the Rochester Americans, a one-time minor league affiliate of, you guessed it, the Toronto Maple Leafs and has in the past demonstrated a sense of loyalty and duty to finish out a season, as was the case when New York Islanders head coach Steve Stirling was fired in 2006.

    Team owner Charles Wang reportedly called Nolan to ask him to take over the team. Nolan said that he felt a sense of responsibility toward Moncton and would not leave them midseason. Nolan joined the Islanders at the end of the season and guided them to their fourth playoff appearance in five years.

The Close

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    The Leafs Fan
    The Leafs Fan

    While it is impossible to pinpoint any one reason for the Leafs' struggles, on most nights Ron Wilson appears to be little more than a reluctant participant in the game, often dispassionate and despondent.

    It is well noted that the current roster of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club simply does not have the caliber of talent it takes to compete an an elite level in the NHL. However, it is also noted that the current roster isn't playing to its potential either.

    It's time for a change in Leafs land. The season is not yet lost, and it is possible that a new coach could come in and save the playoff aspirations of Leafs Nation.

    That said, Brian Burke, if you think that this team is good enough, then time is running out.