Rumor: Burns to replace Maurice?

The latest rumor out of Toronto has former Maple Leafs coach Pat Burns possibly taking over the head coaching duties from Paul Maurice.

According to Rich Chere of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Burns could replace Maurice if the Leafs do not improve their performance over the next little while.

A similar report by Rosie Dimanno appeared this week in the Toronto Star.
Burns still has urge to coach

Burns brushed aside the rumor that the Leafs were going to fire Maurice and bring him back as coach. However, he did indicate that the urge to coach never disappears.

“Who would have thought that Mike Keenan would end up coaching in Calgary?” Burns asked. “Toronto’s a great place to win but a lousy place to lose. I’ve always said it was my favorite city to coach in.”

Burns still has two years remaining on his contract as scout for the New Jersey Devils. He coached New Jersey to a Stanley Cup championship in 2003.

A serious option for the Leafs

My take is that you seriously have to consider this option. We are now approaching December and the Leafs have shown virtually no sign of turning their season around. After taking a step forward (i.e., beating Ottawa), they take two steps backward (i.e., losing to Boston and Dallas). This has been the pattern all season.

The problem is not so much that the team is losing, but how it’s losing. Clearly the team is having an extremely difficult time playing as a unit, for whatever reason. They seem to be out of synch offensively and frequently lost for long stretches defensively. It almost seems as if the team doesn’t have a system this year.

Although the bench boss is often the scapegoat, one would be incredibly naive to underestimate the impact of a coach. Indeed, this is why GMs are extremely careful when choosing a head coach. The wrong coach on the wrong team can flush away an entire season.

And although the Leafs will never be confused with the Detroit Red Wings, they do have some pretty good talent on their roster. Consider that the NY Islanders are doing much better than the Leafs under Ted Nolan’s guidance, despite being picked by most so-called experts to finish near the bottom of the East and with Rick DiPietro injured for parts of the season.

Thus, if it isn’t working, you seriously need to cut your losses and consider alternatives. Just look at Atlanta since they fired Bob Hartley. Who can argue the fact that Atlanta is playing much better since Hartley’s dismissal?

Burns brings strong defensive game (so close in 1993)

Burns is known as a strict disciplinarian who tolerates nothing less than excellence on the ice. He would bring in a strong defensive system and a tenacious forchecking game, both of which have been sadly lacking this year.

Of course, Burns is best known in Leaf circles as the coach in 1993 who has come closest to getting Toronto to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1967.

In taking over a non-playoff team the previous year, Burns molded the Leafs into an organized, cohesive unit that emphasized stong defensive play, positionally sound hockey, and sheer hard work.

In the end, under Burns’ guidance, the Leafs came within a whisker of getting to the promised land. Toronto fell short in 7-games against the LA Kings, but easily could have won the series if not for some questionable calls (or non-calls) by referee Kerry Fraser late in Game 6.

To this day, Leafs and Habs fans continue to debate how Toronto would have stacked up against an utterly dominant Patrick Roy in the Finals. We will never know.

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