TORONTO -- Pat Quinn missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons as Maple Leafs coach.
Apparently that was enough to get him fired.
Quinn was let go Thursday, two days after Toronto's season ended without a postseason bid. The 63-year-old Quinn, who had one year
remaining on his contract, missed the playoffs for only the second
time in his stellar 19-year coaching career.
Longtime assistant Rick Ley was also fired.
"We did not achieve a chance to compete for the Cup," said
general manager John Ferguson, whose Original Six club hasn't won
the Stanley Cup since 1967.
Ferguson declined to answer when asked whether Quinn would have
kept his job had the Leafs made the playoffs. A late-season surge
got Toronto back into contention but it was eliminated in the
final days of the season.
Quinn served as general manager of the Maple Leafs before
Ferguson replaced him in that role in 2003.
Ferguson is expected to name Paul Maurice -- who coached
Toronto's minor-league affiliate in the AHL this season -- as the
new coach, but he said he'll consider other candidates. Maurice
last coached in the NHL with Carolina.
"We certainly have a proven, capable, successful NHL head coach
as our head coach in the American Hockey League," Ferguson said.
"Paul is an obvious prime candidate."
Ferguson wants a coach who will give younger players a more
prominent role. Quinn was criticized for sticking with veterans who
couldn't adapt to the quicker, new NHL.
"We're going to be quicker," Ferguson said. "We're going to
rely on players who continue to improve. We'll have a new coach to
lead us in that direction."
Overall, Quinn went 300-222-52 with 26 shootout and overtime
losses as Leafs coach, twice leading Toronto to the Eastern
Conference finals, losing to Buffalo in 1998-99 and Carolina in 2001-02.
He's fourth all-time in coaching victories with 657 behind
Scotty Bowman (1,244), Al Arbour (781) and Dick Irvin (692).
He is perhaps best known for coaching Team Canada to Olympic
gold in 2002.
"He has represented this organization in a first-class manner
for many years," Ferguson said.
Ferguson dismissed reports he and Quinn had been locked in a
Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports &
Entertainment, said Ferguson isn't in danger of losing his job, but
they won't extend his contract this summer even though he only has
one year left on it.
"Not everything he's done has worked out as well as we hoped,
but there's been some great progress. I think he's got a lot of
upside," Peddie said. "John has got a steeper learning curve than
maybe some veterans would have, but he doesn't have much slack from
the media or management."