Struggling Maple Leafs fire Wilson, tab Carlyle as his replacement
The Maple Leafs fired Ron Wilson in his fourth season with the team
GM Brian Burke hired ex-Ducks coach Randy Carlyle to replace Wilson
Carlyle's Ducks won Stanley Cup two years after Burke hired him in Anaheim
TORONTO (AP) -- Even Brian Burke had seen enough.
After watching his Toronto Maple Leafs crash out of playoff position under coach Ron Wilson, the general manager finally decided to fire his college roommate.
"This was not an easy decision for me to make," Burke said Friday night in a statement.
Randy Carlyle took over as coach with 18 games left in the season. Burke and Carlyle were in charge of Anaheim when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
Burke remained loyal to Wilson until the end - continuing to defend the coach after fans chanted "FI-RE WIL-SON!" at Air Canada Centre to conclude a recent homestand. But eventually he was forced to move in another direction.
"The talk in town doesn't really matter," Wilson said earlier Friday. "We've got a job to do. We've got to try to rectify some things and get points on the board.
"That's where the focus is."
He won't have the chance to see the job through. Starting with Saturday's game in Montreal, Carlyle will be tasked with getting the Leafs into the postseason for the first time since 2004.
As recently as late January, the Leafs appeared to be well on their way to ending that playoff drought. But a 1-9-1 skid starting Feb. 7 sent them tumbling down the standings to 12th place, five points out of a playoff spot, and sealed Wilson's fate.
The 55-year-old Carlyle coached Anaheim for seven seasons and led the team to five playoff appearances. Only Detroit's Mike Babcock has more playoff wins than Carlyle's 36 since 2005-06.
Carlyle was fired by the Ducks in December after a rocky start to the season.
"Although it's always tough to see a coaching change, we are certainly happy for Randy," Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said in a statement. "It was simply a matter of time before he had another opportunity to be a head coach in this league. He's a great coach, and we wish him the best in Toronto."
Wilson had a 130-135-45 record with the Maple Leafs.
It was clear last summer that Wilson's hold on the job was weakening. In June, Burke fired assistants Keith Acton and Tim Hunter, a long-time Wilson ally, and replaced them with Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon, who held past head coaching experience with the New York Islanders.
Even though Wilson and Burke share a long history dating to their time at Providence College in Rhode Island, Wilson was hired in 2008 by interim GM Cliff Fletcher.
The 56-year-old Wilson signed a contract extension in December and will be paid through the end of next season. In 1,401 career games with Anaheim, Washington, San Jose and Toronto, he has a 648-561-91 record with 101 ties.
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