Just hours after wrapping up one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Toronto Maple Leafs made sweeping changes.
On Sunday morning the Leafs announced that GM Dave Nonis has been relieved of his duties, along with interim head coach Peter Horachek. The news comes on the heels of a regular-season in which Toronto had already fired another head coach — Randy Carlyle, dismissed in early January — and absolutely flatlined down the stretch, winning just nine times over the final 44 games of the season.
Nonis was turfed after just two years on the job. He inherited the GM gig from Brian Burke prior to the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign; on his watch, the Leafs handed out long-term extensions to Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson — the latter of whom Nonis traded to Columbus for Nathan Horton (essentially Horton’s contract, given his significant back injury) at this year’s deadline.
Upon firing Nonis, the Leafs announced that assistant GM Kyle Dubas and director of player personnel Mark Hunter will share GM duties on an interim basis. Steve Staois, the club’s manager of player development, will also stay on board.
As for the coaching side of things, the Horachek regime — which lasted less than 50 games — will be remembered mostly for off-ice incidents, like the Nazem Kadri suspension and Kessel’s ongoing feud with the media. It’s worth noting that in addition to Horachek, the Leafs also fired assistant coaches Steve Spott and Chris Dennis, and goalie coach Rick St. Croix.
Following Saturday’s season finale, a teary Horachek met with the media and acknowledged his time in Toronto would soon be up, saying “it’s evident that there’s lots of change that has to happen.”
“There has to be a better-conditioned (group), a better attitude, a new approach to how we want to do things,” he explained. “Whatever the group is, this has to change. You have to have a respect Toronto deserves.
“If we continued right where we were in November we might not make the playoffs, we might be fighting for the playoffs. And if you’re in that situation, and we’re fighting for the playoffs or we make the playoffs, we weren’t going to win. Is that what we want? Do we want to be competitive or do we want to build something to win a Stanley Cup?”
As for team president Brendan Shanahan’s take on things, well, that will have to wait. Shanahan won’t meet with the media until Monday, and early reports suggest he won’t be the one to eventually assume GM duties.