Maple Leafs fire Ron Wilson
TORONTO (AP) - Even Brian Burke had seen enough.
“This was not an easy decision for me to make,” Burke said Friday night in a statement.
Burke remained loyal to Wilson until the end _ continuing to defend the coach after fans chanted “FI-RE WIL-SON!” at Air Canada Centre to conclude a recent homestand. But eventually he was forced to move in another direction.
“The talk in town doesn’t really matter,” Wilson said earlier Friday. “We’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to try to rectify some things and get points on the board.
“That’s where the focus is.”
As recently as late January, the Leafs appeared to be well on their way to ending that playoff drought. But a 1-9-1 skid starting Feb. 7 sent them tumbling down the standings to 12th place, five points out of a playoff spot, and sealed Wilson’s fate.
Carlyle was fired by the Ducks in December after a rocky start to the season.
“Although it’s always tough to see a coaching change, we are certainly happy for Randy,” Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said in a statement. “It was simply a matter of time before he had another opportunity to be a head coach in this league. He’s a great coach, and we wish him the best in Toronto.”
It was clear last summer that Wilson’s hold on the job was weakening. In June, Burke fired assistants Keith Acton and Tim Hunter, a long-time Wilson ally, and replaced them with Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon, who held past head coaching experience with the New York Islanders.
The 56-year-old Wilson signed a contract extension in December and will be paid through the end of next season. In 1,401 career games with Anaheim, Washington, San Jose and Toronto, he has a 648-561-91 record with 101 ties.