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It's a Tough Racket...

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Ulmer Has The Latest Fletcher Presser | Maurice Presser | Maurice & Henny

- Here’s what ‘hired to be fired’ means.

It means the guy who came before you got the shaft because of underperforming players or inept management or a weakened executive or faulty contracts or even an incendiary media.

And it means the same thing will happen to you.

There was little fair in the way Paul Maurice was shown the door Monday after two seasons behind the bench of the Maple Leafs.

Maurice squeezed 37 wins out of Andrew Raycroft. Nik Antropov played up to his potential under his watch.

He missed the playoffs by one point in his first year as a Leaf and was forced to make due with radically declining production from Bryan McCabe, Jason Blake, Kyle Wellwood and Raycroft in his second.

So you tell me, how much of this was his fault? How much could be blamed on the deposed John Ferguson or even the lingering ghost of Pat Quinn.

There is no way of knowing, no way of making a fair, impartial decision in an imperfect world.

And so, you fall back on certain canons.

“The Leafs didn’t make the playoffs in either of Paul’s two seasons,” said interim general manager Cliff Fletcher.

And that’s all that needs be said.

Simplistic? Absolutely. Unfair? Yep. And if the Fletcher, a famously fair-minded man was to judge Maurice strictly on what he got from the team he had, Maurice might still be working.

Fletcher used a pat answer when asked whether the team or the coach was at fault.

“I’ve always said that all the great coaches in the league have great players,” he said.

The Leafs, of course, have just the one in Mats Sundin.

But there is the pressing matter of finding a new general manager. And that GM will naturally have some ideas about who he hires.

Leaving the coach in place for a new GM “doesn’t make sense,” said Fletcher. “They have to know each other and they have to work together. I assume that the new leader of the pack will be in place before the coach.”

And so, Fletcher brought a plan before yesterdays’ MLSEL board meeting that recommended firing Maurice. No word yet on who, if anyone, the search committee comprised of sports lawyer Gord Kirke and MLSE CEO Richard Peddie has interviewed but Fletcher assured the media that even without a coach or permanent GM, the business of the hockey club has continuing unabated.

“There’s at least six weeks between now and the entry draft, seven weeks between now and the start of free agency,” he said. “There’s lots of time.”

Assistant coach Randy Ladouceur was also released. Another Assistant, Dallas Eakins was offered another job in the organization. Keith Acton retains his job until the new coach comes in but traditionally, the organization retains the option of choosing one assistant. Acton seems destined to stay.

What it comes back to is that a good coach lost his job coaching a bad team. Maurice gets his chance to speak on Thursday morning.

 Not willing to speak poorly of the fired, Fletcher said Maurice “did as good a job as could be done. I’m sure he will catch on with another team and do a hang of a job.”

He was being polite of course, but he was also dead right.

Paul Maurice was fired unfairly. But you can say the same thing about every NHL coach fired in every NHL city. If fairness was the only barometer, Scotty Bowman would still be in St. Louis.

Coaches loose their jobs for the wrong reasons because equally deserving coaches can advance for the right reasons. It’s as reliable as gravity and just as likely to go away.
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