The Toronto Maple Leafs dismissed Randy Carlyle on Tuesday morning, and while there’s a temporary coaching fix in place — assistants Steve Spott and Peter Horachek will run the bench tomorrow versus Washington — questions remain about who’ll take over long-term.
GM Dave Nonis isn’t ready to answer them yet, though.
“We’re focused on today and tomorrow night,” Nonis said on Tuesday about hiring a new coach. “There’s a process you go through. We’ll focus on tomorrow night, then we’ll move ahead after that.”
Here are a few candidates that could be on Toronto’s short list:
If Toronto hires an interim bench boss for the remainder of the season, this is probably the guy. Horachek has head coaching experience from his time in Florida — that experience was one of the reasons Nonis brought him aboard this summer — and fared pretty well leading a Panthers team bereft of talent last year, going 26-36-4.
And here’s why Horachek might get the gig. All eyes in Toronto are now firmly set on Babcock moving forward, especially if Horachek is, as many are assuming, a placeholder for the remainder of this season.
Babcock, currently in the final year of his contract with Detroit, has been non-committal about his future in the Motor City and recently shot down reports of a pending contract extension, calling it a “fantasy.” Could today’s firing be the catalyst in Babcock moving to Toronto this summer?
With a Stanley Cup, Jack Adams and a .670 career winning percentage, few available coaches boast Bylsma’s resume. What’s more, Disco said he’s looking to get back into action.
“I’m not necessarily ready to get [back] to the game tomorrow,” he told Sportsnet’s FAN 590 in mid-December. “But I’m certainly going to get back in at some point in time and look to be a coach again.”
While it’d be weird seeing the ex-Sens coach flip sides in the battle of Ontario, MacLean is held in high regard and just two years removed from winning the Adams. MacLean also has ties to Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan — he was Shanny’s assistant coach in Detroit during the 2005-06 campaign.
The speculation has already began on this front, and with good reason: DeBoer has ties to a number of Leafs players, including Nazem Kadri (from their days together in OHL Kitchener) and, perhaps most notably, David Clarkson, who he coached in both junior and with the New Jersey Devils (Clarkson scored a career-high 30 goals for DeBoer during the 2011-12 campaign.)
DeBoer’s also an Ontario native with strong ties to the region — he coached various OHL teams for 14 years before getting hired by Florida in 2008 — so the job would be alluring.