Maple Leafs fire Pat Quinn
Pat Quinn, who guided the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup playoffs in his first six seasons behind the bench in Toronto, has paid the price for his first miss.
The veteran NHL coach was fired on Thursday along with his assistant Rick Ley two days after the Leafs posted a seventh consecutive 90-plus point season.
"This change is as much about the future, and where we are going as an organization, as it is as much about what has transpired here," Toronto general manager John Ferguson said at a news conference.
Assistant coach Keith Acton will be offered another position within the organization.
Former NHL bench boss Paul Maurice, currently the head coach with the Maple Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate, is a possible successor to Quinn.
Maurice led the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2002 Stanley Cup final.
"Paul is an obvious prime candidate for the position," Ferguson said, adding other experienced NHL coaches will be considered.
Ferguson will be looking for "a new voice, a new approach, someone who can work with the club beyond the [2006-07] season."
Toronto finished this season with a 41-33-8 record for 90 points, two shy of the defending Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
It was a case of too little too late for the Leafs, who won nine times in their final 12 games following a two-game sweep at the hands of the Canadiens in Montreal on March 23 and 25.
"We didn't achieve what we wanted to," said Ferguson, while insisting his team was competitive.
Quinn, 63, leaves Toronto with a year remaining on his contract and without a Stanley Cup ring in his 19-year coaching career. However, he did lead the 1980 Philadelphia Flyers and 1994 Vancouver Canucks to the final.
The Hamilton native also coached Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2002 and the World Cup of Hockey championship in 2004.
Quinn is the fifth NHL coach to be let go in 2005-06, joining Andy Murray (Los Angeles), Claude Julien (Montreal), Ed Olczyk (Pittsburgh) and Steve Stirling (New York Islanders).
The Leafs went 300-222-52 with 26 shootout and overtime losses under Quinn, who twice led the team to the East final, losing to Buffalo in 1999 and Carolina in 2002.
His 657 career victories trail only Scotty Bowman (1,244), Al Arbour (781) and Dick Irvin (692).
Quinn joined the Leafs for the 1998-99 season and made an immediate impact. The team set a franchise record for wins (45) and reached the conference finals, while Quinn was runner-up to Ottawa's Jacques Martin for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year.
During his time in Toronto, Quinn was often criticized for rolling four forward lines, thus taking away ice time from his star players like captain Mats Sundin.
Others pointed a finger at Quinn for seeing value in players who couldn't reciprocate, namely forwards Nik Antropov, Jonas Hoglund and Dmitri Kristich.
This season, there were reports of a strained relationship between Quinn and Ferguson, who inherited Quinn as coach when he took over in August 2003. Ferguson downplayed any friction between the two.
"That's a media-created fiction. Our relationship was productive and professional," Ferguson said Thursday.
Sundin and winger Darcy Tucker were among the players from this year's Leafs squad who threw their support behind Quinn as recently as Wednesday.
"[Quinn] has been a strong influence on not only myself, but also on the guys in the dressing room," Tucker told reporters. "He is a good man and he has a good heart toward his players."
First-year Leaf Eric Lindros, whom Quinn attempted to acquire from Philadelphia in 2001, loved playing for Quinn.
"Pat's an honest man. He's a good coach," Lindros, who was limited to 33 games this season because of a wrist injury, told the Toronto Sun recently.