Saturday, March 3, 2012

Leafs Mid-Season coaching changes

The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs fired a coach during a season was almost exactly 16 years ago. On March 5, 1996 Pat Burns was fired after an eighth consecutive loss. Leafs scouting director Nick Beverley was brought in on an interim basis. Even with the 8 straight losses, Toronto still sat in 8th place in the Western Conference with a record of 25-30-10. Beverley guided them to a 9-6-2 finish as they climbed to 4th spot in the weak Conference. St. Louis would oust the Leafs in six first round games and Mike Murphy was brought in to coach the following season.

Prior to 1996, the last mid-season coaching change for Toronto was at the beginning of the 1990-91 campaign. Under Doug Carpenter Toronto stumbled out of the gates with a 1-9-1 record (the exact record the current Leafs have over their last 11 matches). Tom Watt was brought into this mess and went 22-37-10 and the Leafs still fell 13 points short of the playoffs.

In December of 1988, John Brophy was fired after sporting an 11-20-2 mark. Leaf great George Armstrong was reluctantly brought in and went 17-26-4. The 62 points overall was amazingly only 4 points shy of a playoff spot in the characteristically awful Norris Division.

In January of 1981, after an 8-2 loss at the hands of the lowly Winnipeg Jets, coach Joe Crozier was fired in favour of ex-Leaf Mike Nykoluk. He guided Toronto to a 15-15-10 mark as they grabbed the 16th and final playoff spot by one point over Washington. They lost in three straight to the Islanders.

So, the last three Leaf mid-season coaching changes inspired the teams to improve greatly compared to their records before the change. The current edition of the Leafs certainly hope the same holds true with Carlyle. With about 90 points looking like the cut-off line for playoffs in the Eastern Conference, Toronto will have to finish this year with at least 12-6 record to even have a sniff. The fact that their is now four teams to leap over now makes the task even tougher.

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