Paul Maurice fired as Leafs head coach
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, May 7, 2008 4:25PM EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to the future and head coach Paul Maurice didn't fit into their plans.
The NHL club fired Maurice on Wednesday, the first big move of what is expected to be a busy off-season for the team.
Assistant coach Randy Ladouceur was also fired while assistant Dallas Eakins has been offered a position elsewhere in the organization. Keith Acton will remain as an assistant.
"This is a start of a new era for the Maple Leafs,'' interim general manager Cliff Fletcher said at a news conference at the Air Canada Centre. "This is all part and parcel of that.''
The team is currently looking for a new full-time GM after firing John Ferguson in January.
Maurice was informed of the decision Wednesday morning and he said it was not a total shock.
"You know the way the season ended up and the changes that are going to take place on the team,'' Maurice told The Canadian Press from his Toronto home. "So I was very aware that it was a possibility.
"I can't say that I was surprised.''
When asked about the timing of the announcement and why Maurice lost his job, Fletcher said the move will pave the way for the new management team to bring in its own staff.
"The team missed the playoffs the last two years,'' said Fletcher. "A new regime is coming in place and I think when you bring in a new regime they bring their own people. It's just common sense.''
The Maple Leafs missed the playoffs in both of Maurice's seasons behind the bench. The Leafs finished 12th in the Eastern Conference this year with a 36-35-11 record, missing a playoff spot by 11 points.
Maurice, 41, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., has one guaranteed year left on his contract. The quick decision by the Leafs allows him to look for other work around the NHL.
"I appreciate it happening sooner rather than later,'' said Maurice.
Maurice was also fired as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003. He said the second time is slightly easier to take.
"You don't take it nearly as personally I don't think,'' said Maurice. "It's always a very difficult thing because it's a competition every day and when you lose that competition it's difficult. The fact of the matter is, the first time is more difficult.''
Maurice's job was spared in January when the team axed Ferguson and replaced him with Fletcher on an interim basis.
Maurice and Ferguson both stated that the Leafs would be a playoff team competing for the Stanley Cup. When asked to analyze the good and the bad during his two years behind the Leafs bench, Maurice wasn't quite ready to answer that.
"I don't know that I'm in the right state of mind to go through them right now,'' said Maurice. "The fact of the matter is that there are always things -- even in good seasons -- that you would like to have changed.
"At the same time, you made the decisions with experience, with your entire staff on board, and you live with those results.''
Maurice became the 26th head coach in Leafs history on May 12, 2006. Ferguson hired him after firing Pat Quinn shortly after the Leafs missed the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
In 2006-07, his first season with the team after coaching the AHL farm team, the Leafs had a winning record and amassed 91 points, but they missed the playoffs by one point.
Maurice became an NHL coach at age 28 and spent eight years as head coach of the Hartford Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes. His best season was 2001-2002, when Carolina eliminated Toronto in the Eastern Conference final to reach the championship series for the first time.
The Hurricanes fired Maurice 30 games into the 2003-2004 season. His next coaching job came when he joined the Toronto organization in 2005-2006 to guide the AHL's Toronto Marlies.
Maurice played junior hockey for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires and had his playing career cut short by an eye injury. Soon afterwards, he caught on as an assistant coach with the Detroit Jr. Red Wings. He spent six years at that position until being named head coach in 1993-94. He coached the Wings to the OHL title and a berth in the Memorial Cup.
Ladouceur served on Maurice's staff in Carolina from 1997 to 2004 and joined him behind the Leafs bench the past two seasons. He held the role of director of player development and pro scout for Carolina from January 2004 to December 2005.
Eakins, who played for the Maple Leafs during the 1998-99 season, was an assistant coach under Maurice during the Marlies' 2005-06 campaign before moving with Maurice to join the Leafs.
Acton finished his eighth season as an assistant coach with the Leafs. He was appointed to the Toronto staff in August 2000 after spending two seasons as an assistant coach with the New York Rangers.