x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

There's confusion as Toronto tries to turn over a new leaf

As the Maple Leafs stumble to the end of the season and out of play-off contention, moves by Toronto's GM are head-scratchers.

Brian Burke, the Toronto Maple Leaf general manager, says he didn't want to expose his old college roommate, Ron Wilson, to chants of
Brian Burke, the Toronto Maple Leaf general manager, says he didn't want to expose his old college roommate, Ron Wilson, to chants of "Fire Wilson!", but many around the league are left scratching their heads as to why he finally pulled the trigger and fired his old friend with the season nearing its end.

 

While it pleased some fans in Toronto, the decision to fire Ron Wilson, the Maple Leafs coach, and replace him with Randy Carlyle was a curious one.

Certainly, there were a couple of reasons for the late-season bench change.

Brian Burke, the Toronto general manager, said he didn't want to expose his old college roommate to any more "Fire Wilson!" chants, like the one that chased the Leafs out of Air Canada Centre last week after a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers for their fifth consecutive home-ice defeat.

Toronto had gone 1-9-1 in their previous 11 games, a slide that saw the Leafs drop from sixth to 12th in the East.

Yet, the timing seemed a bit strange.

The Leafs had given Wilson a one-year extension in December. Burke did little at the trade deadline, saying he had faith in the group of players that had gotten this far.

Wilson's Leafs had long losing skids in previous seasons, and Burke had stood by his buddy/coach.

What was different this time around?

And with barely a month left in the season, why make the move now?

Barring an amazing turnaround, the Leafs' play-off chances have already sailed away.

The final weeks might give Carlyle a head start on next season, as Burke intimated, but then why didn't the Leafs sell off any assets at the deadline for future building blocks?

Burke has made several smart moves in his tenure as the Leafs' GM; this may prove to be another, but it smacked of desperation and panic.