TORONTO (AP) -Unable to lure away the top candidates on their short list, the Toronto Maple Leafs have decided to keep Cliff Fletcher in the interim general manager role likely through next season.
"Some people think hiring senior positions can be done quickly and easily," Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "It's not that way in any industry. In this case, we did a very thorough analysis."
Ron Wilson was introduced Tuesday as the new coach of the Leafs. He succeeded Paul Maurice, who was fired by Toronto last month after missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Peddie said the GM search committee, which includes himself and Toronto sports lawyer Gord Kirke, did its due diligence in compiling a list of candidates but discovered none were available at this time.
"We talked to everyone from league officials, to agents, to some media, to peers, to people in the industry, to see if there was some kind of consensus," Peddie said. "And while the sample size was huge, no one got unanimous marks. ...
"With all of that data, we identified who we thought were the top candidates," Peddie said. "Then we started asking for permission and started finding out they were under contract and that the free agency class in the spring of 2009 was pretty good. So it's unlikely Cliff will leave any time soon."
Some of the top candidates believed to be on Toronto's radar are Ken Holland in Detroit, Doug Risebrough in Minnesota, Doug Wilson in San Jose, Darcy Regier in Buffalo, David Poile in Nashville and Jim Rutherford in Carolina. Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill is also believed to be of interest.
Fletcher, meanwhile, is more than willing to stay on and help out.
"Originally I signed a 19-month contract with the Leafs going through September of next year," Fletcher said Wednesday from Arizona. "In the last month they've been having discussions whether moving forward it made sense to wait for the right person - to wait for one of their top choices to become available.
"I just told them, 'Hey look, I'll stay on as long as I have to until you have that person and when you get that person I'll step aside.' That could be September, it could be the middle of the season, or the end of the season."
The 72-year-old Fletcher was hired as the team's interim GM in January after the firing of John Ferguson and was to become a consultant once his successor was found.
It is Fletcher's second go-around as Leafs GM after building teams that went to back-to-back conference finals in 1993 and '94.