Leafs, in three-year playoff drought, fire Maurice

Updated: May 8, 2008, 1:13 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- Paul Maurice was fired as coach of the Maple Leafs on Wednesday after Toronto failed to make the playoffs during his two years. The dismissal was the first big move in what is expected to be an active offseason for the team.

"This is a start of a new era for the Maple Leafs," interim general manager Cliff Fletcher said at a news conference at Air Canada Centre. "This is all part and parcel of that."

The Maple Leafs finished 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 36-35-11 record and missed a playoff spot by 11 points.

They are looking for a full-time GM after firing John Ferguson in January. In other moves Wednesday, assistant coach Randy Ladouceur was dismissed while assistant Dallas Eakins was offered a position elsewhere in the organization. Keith Acton will remain an assistant.

Toronto's Empty Cup

The Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967 -- the last season of the NHL's "Original Six" -- and they haven't been back to a Stanley Cup final since. How long has it been? Since then, 23 franchises, including most of the expansion teams to enter the NHL in the meantime, have made at least one trip to the finals, with 18 winning at least one Cup:

• All five of the other "Original Six" franchises (Canadiens, Bruins, Blackhawks, Rangers and Red Wings);
• All five of the surviving franchises from the 1967 expansion (Flyers, Blues, Stars, Kings and Penguins);
• Both teams from the 1970 expansion (Sabres and Canucks);
• Both teams from the 1972 expansion (Islanders and Flames);
• Both teams from the 1974 expansion (Devils and Capitals);
• Three of the four former WHA franchises to enter the league in 1979 (Oilers, Avalanche and Hurricanes);
• Both teams from the 1992 expansion (Lightning and Senators);
• Both teams from the 1993 expansion (Ducks and Panthers).

-- ESPN Research

Maurice, who had one year left on his contract, was informed of the decision hours before the news conference. In 2003, he was fired as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.

"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."

Fletcher said the ouster will pave the way for the new management team to bring in its own staff.

"A new regime is coming in place and I think when you bring in a new regime they bring their own people," he said. "It's just common sense."

The quick decision by the Leafs allows the 41-year-old Maurice to look for other NHL jobs.

"I appreciate it happening sooner rather than later," he said.

Maurice said this coaching dismissal was slightly easier to take than the first one.

"You don't take it nearly as personally I don't think," he said. "It's always a very difficult thing because it's a competition every day and when you lose that competition it's difficult."

Maurice's job was spared in January when the team fired Ferguson and replaced him with Fletcher on an interim basis.

Maurice and Ferguson said the Leafs would be a playoff team competing for the Stanley Cup. When asked to assess the good and the bad during his two years behind the Leafs bench, Maurice wasn't ready to respond.

"I don't know that I'm in the right state of mind to go through them right now," he said. "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."

Ferguson hired Maurice on May 12, 2006 after firing Pat Quinn. That move came after the Leafs missed the playoffs for the first time since 1998.

Maurice's first season with the club came in 2006-07 after coaching the AHL farm team. The Leafs had a winning record but missed the playoffs by one point.

Maurice became an NHL coach at age 28, spending eight years as coach of the Hartford Whalers and Carolina. His best season was 2001-02, 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 2003-04 season. His next coaching job came when he joined the Toronto organization in 2005-06 to guide the AHL's Toronto Marlies.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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