Ron Wilson’s days as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs should end – at least, in my opinion.
We’re going to skip the argument about whether or not Wilson should be replaced. It’s going to happen sooner, rather than later, so let’s just move to the replacement possibilities. Here are five names that may come up, rightly or wrongly.
1. Doug Gilmour – This guy still can’t walk down the street in Toronto without being swarmed like it’s 1965 and he’s Paul McCartney. Right now, Gilmour is in his third season coaching his hometown Ontario Hockey League Kingston Frontenacs. Would he be the right man for the Leafs? It’s a slippery slope to hire a man with no previous NHL experience in a market as hockey-rabid as Toronto. The last time it happened (on a non-interim basis) was when Toronto hired John Brophy in 1986. And Broph was not a young man. Gilmour, 47, is. He would be a very popular choice. Does he have enough bench experience? Probably not. Would he be a good “rah, rah” guy. He would.
2. Pat Quinn – The big fella got fully screwed by the Edmonton Oilers at the end of last season when he was piped in favour of Tom Renney. He’s now the Oil’s Senior Advisor, Hockey – whatever the hell that is. Would Quinn like another shot at coaching in Toronto? I bet he would. How would he do with this group? Hard to say. Despite his World Junior success, I still think working with the younger players is not his forté…and he’s 67 years old, so we’re talking about a two-generation gap here. There are lots of Leafs’ fans who would like to see him back, since he led the club during its last successful years, but he may not be the right choice.
3. Keith Acton, Tim Hunter, Rob Zettler – No, no and no. The three current Leafs’ assistant coaches have watched the recent mega-slide first hand. None of them is NHL head coaching material. Not yet, anyway. The closest would be Acton, and he’s not there at all.
4. Dallas Eakins – The 43-year old Marlies’ bench boss is in his second year as the head coach of the Leafs’ top AHL affiliate. He struggled through about twenty seasons of mostly minor-league hockey. This is always an asset in a head coach. He’s learned every single facet of the game in trying to achieve his dream. That’s why superstars rarely make great coaches (Toe Blake…and no one else). The game came too easily to them. They got by on talent. Guys like Eakins did not. In fact, in 120 NHL games, the Florida native didn’t score a single goal. Not one. Hmmm, sounds like he might be the perfect choice…but maybe not for a team that can’t score right now either.
5. Mike Keenan – Would he like another shot at an NHL bench? Sure. The Leafs’ are the pinnacle in NHL coaching, and Keenan hasn’t guided their bench yet. Iron Mike is 61, but he has the energy of an 18-year old. Problem is that he has now acquired a tough-to-deal-with reputation that may be impossible to shake. I worked personally with the man for an entire NHL season. Trust me, he is not tough to deal with. Then again, he wasn’t tapping me on the shoulder every fourth shift. He’d either be a great fit in Toronto…or a horrible one. It would depend on which attitude he brings to the game. Mike has never loved the media…and that could also be a negative in T.O.
What do you think? Any of these guys tickle your fancy…or did you have someone else in mind?