A relaxed Cliff Fletcher ushered in a new era for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, complete with vacancies at the management and coaching levels and little sense of urgency to fill them.
Without a full-time general manager since the firing of John Ferguson Jr. on Jan. 22, the Leafs' interim GM dismissed head coach Paul Maurice Wednesday morning, along with Randy Ladouceur and Dallas Eakins but retained fellow assistant Keith Acton.
Fletcher added that the search for Maurice's successor would not begin immediately, and suggested the new GM would be hired before the 27th head coach in Maple Leafs history.
"I think definitely the preference is not to procrastinate. But there's no time pressures if time means getting the absolute person we feel would be the right one to lead the team," Fletcher told reporters at Wednesday's news conference.
"Ideally, the person who's going to be here [in the GM's seat] in the future should be the one selecting the coach, because they have to work together and obviously it has to be someone who the new general manager is comfortable working with and someone who the new coach is comfortable working with as a manager."
'Coaching job…is the plum'
Fletcher played down the notion that waiting too long to hire a new GM might lead to some coaching candidates seeking employment elsewhere.
"I think the coaching job of the Toronto Maple Leafs is the plum in the National Hockey League and I feel any serious candidates won't mind marking time a little bit until our situation is resolved," said a confident Fletcher.
"There's no pressure on the next eight weeks whatsoever. Eight weeks from now takes you to just the end of the first week of July, which is still over two months away from the start of training camp."
Maurice compiled a 76-66-22 record in two seasons behind the Toronto bench, failing to make the playoffs each year.
This season, the Leafs finished 12th in the 15-team Eastern Conference with a 36-35-11 mark, 11 points shy of a post-season berth.
"The way the season ended and with everything else that is going on, it didn't come as a surprise," Maurice told the Canadian Press. "It's not the decision you ever want, but I am also glad it didn't take a long time.
"Today, I just wanted to make sure I got to my kids in school, so they could hear about it from me first."
"A new regime is coming into place here," is how Fletcher explained the team's decision to fire Maurice. "And when you bring in a new regime, they bring their own people in. It's just common sense in the sports business."
Fletcher attempted to put Maple Leafs fans at ease by saying the team is operating the way it should for this time of year.
He said meetings are being held this week with the club's amateur scouting staff to pore over Toronto's list of prospective picks for the NHL Entry Draft June 20-21 in Ottawa.
Fletcher also mentioned the pro scouting staff would meet in two weeks in preparation for the draft and the free-agent season that opens July 1.
"And we're preparing for possible trades between now and the first of July," he added. "There will be substantial news coming from the hockey club in the next six to 10 weeks."
Free agent announcement coming
The next announcement could be the signing of Swedish free-agent forward Fabian Brunnstrom, who has reportedly narrowed his choice to four teams: Dallas, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto.
The 23-year-old forward went undrafted and is extremely desirable, given his status as an unrestricted free agent.
Brunnstrom, who visited Montreal last week, is coming off a nine-goal, 37-point season in 54 games with Farjestads, of the Swedish Elite League.
"He has a choice to make," said Fletcher, adding former Maple Leafs defenceman Borje Salming has been in contact with Brunnstrom on behalf of the team.
"The other three teams have been far more successful than we have this past season. But on the other side of the coin, we probably offer the best opportunity [for playing time] so we'll see how it [pans] out."