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Saginaw Spirit fire GM/coach Watson, replace him with Paliafito, Gilbert @NHL

SAGINAW, Mich. - The Saginaw Spirit fired general manager and head coach Todd Watson on Saturday.

Assistant general manager Jim Paliafito was named GM, while Greg Gilbert took over as coach of the Ontario Hockey League team.

Spirit president Craig Goslin said a change was needed for the team, which is last place at 11-17-2 in the West Division.

"The team was not responding to (Watson's) message," said Goslin. "Right, wrong, or indifferent, when your the head coach the buck stops there. It was not a lack of effort on Todd's side and it was a very tough decision."

Watson was Saginaw's head coach for four seasons and had been promoted to GM two years ago.

The longest-tenured head coach in the team history, Watson led Saginaw to their first division title in team history last season. Under Watson the Spirit went 166-133-29.

Gilbert replaces Watson on the bench with coaching experience in the OHL, AHL and NHL.

Gilbert previously spent parts of three seasons as head coach of the Calgary Flames.

Gilbert also led the Mississauga IceDogs to an appearance in the OHL final in 2003-04 and served as head coach of Worcester, Toronto and Adirondack in the AHL.

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