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Columnist: Next Leafs coach should come from within

Mar 2, 2012, 12:45 PM EDT

Dallas Eakins

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star knows where Brian Burke should look for his next head coach:


(And yes, we’re all now working on the assumption Ron Wilson is a dead man walking.)

The Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, is currently guided by a highly-regarded coaching candidate in Dallas Eakins.

Eakins, 45, has coached the Marlies for the last three seasons and impressed many by grooming several current Leafs (James Remier, Tyler Bozak, Jake Gardiner, Joey Crabb) and implementing a rigorous fitness regime, which you can read about here.

As such, Cox thinks the Leafs should give Eakins a shot at the NHL level, rather than bring in a veteran coaching retread.

If you know Eakins at all, you know he was a journeyman player who bounced around the league, and one who took copious notes along the way. That’s helped him put together a first-place Marlie team, a team with an excellent defensive record despite so-so goaltending, a team with a chance of a playoff run this spring.

If he’d done this in Rochester or Norfolk, you might wonder how it would translate to Toronto. But he’s done it in Toronto, obviously not with the scrutiny that comes with coaching the Leafs, but in the same media and hockey market.

Again, Burke may not wish to go with a rookie, and Randy Carlyle is another name that will come up, although it’s worth noting that Carlyle won a Cup with Burke in Anaheim in his first NHL coaching job.

Moreover, surely Wilson himself has disproved the notion that only a seasoned hand can deal with coaching in Toronto. It’s hard, over four years, to imagine a coach with less competitive success who has generated a more negative image.

Cox also makes an interesting point: In 1994, the Leafs had both Marc Crawford and Joel Quenneville working for their AHL affiliate in St. John’s. But with Pat Burns entrenched at the NHL level, both Crow and Q left the organization…and both went on to become Stanley Cup-winning coaches.

There is something to be said from promoting from within — the Penguins (Dan Bylsma) and Canucks (Alain Vigneault) have enjoyed great success while others like Colorado (Joe Sacco), Dallas (Glen Gulutzan) and Minnesota (Mike Yeo) have seen positive signs as well.

Of course, Burke has never been one to promote from within. He hired Paul Holmgren (ex-Flyers coach) in Hartford, Crawford (ex-Avalanche coach) in Vancouver, Randy Carlyle (who coached Vancouver’s AHL affiliate when Burke was the Canucks GM) in Anaheim and Wilson (ex-Sharks coach) in Toronto.

(Photo courtesy Toronto Marlies)

  1. danphipps01 - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Watch as he doesn’t fire Wilson. Watch as he keeps him just to piss off the journalists in Toronto.

  2. firstandonlywarning - Mar 2, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    LOL @ people who think Brian Burke is a good choice to run the Leafs.

    The 90’s are that a way ———–>

    The guy is pathetic and failed to clue in on the rule changes he helped create.
    One of the worst GM in the league now.

    Ohhh Phil Kessel scores goals, too bad he is useless without the puck and a defensive liability.
    You keep trying to convince yourselves that yas didn’t lose out HUGE on that trade Leafs fans.

    The Leafs were going nowhere, adding Kessel to sacrifice the future was stupid.
    And Free Agents, LMAO don’t get me started.

    Id say the hiring of Burke was the largest mistake the Leafs have made in decades, but this is the Leafs we are talking about, they have made some many mistakes its difficult to fully understand where this one ranks.

    • danphipps01 - Mar 2, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      In fairness, neither he nor Chiarelli knew how high those picks would end up being. I think it was a bad deal simply because he was giving up MULTIPLE FIRSTS FOR A THIRTY-GOAL SCORER, but people really need to realize that not even Boston expected they’d end up getting even one guy as high as the eighth pick, let alone TWO top tens. It, like a lot of spectacularly failed deals, was a surprise to the winning side as much as the losing one.

      Still. Jesus Christ, how did Burke ever figure a one-way winger with a career peak of like sixty points was worth two firsts and a second? =/

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 2, 2012 at 1:45 PM

        I dunno about in all fairness, the Leafs had just finished 5th in the division and 12th in the conference. A good GM does not give up two firsts and a second for a one dimensional goal scorer unless that player puts him over the top and a cup contender.

        Don’t try to protect Burke, he’s a fool and a jerk and the game passed by him.

      • davebabychreturns - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:20 PM

        Look at people freaking out about Rick Nash. Yeah the guy has size and will play defense with the national team but we’re talking about a 30 goal, 60-something point player most years.

  3. habsman - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    Ron Wilson is an arogant ass. But he is only playing the cards that were dealt him. Brian Burke has provided him with average to below average talent. They have the exact same point total after 64 games as they did last year. The only difference is they finished strong last year after being eliminated, which only raised unrealistic expectations. Highly unlikely they will reach the final point total of last year. Contrast the job Burke has done with the job Dale Tallon has done in Florida in half the time. If Burke fires Wilson, he will basically be blaming Wilson for not getting the most out of the players. I say take a closer look at that lineup. Outside of two or three players, there’s not much there. Are the Leafs really that much better than they were four years ago?

    • danphipps01 - Mar 2, 2012 at 3:19 PM

      Pretty much. Phaneuf’s good, but not a #1D and not worth his salary. Paid like a superstar, and he’s not. Kessel’s an amazing bargain, and Lupul’s great too. Grabovski’s got lots of upside. Aaaaand… huh. Well, that’s depressing.

  4. haterzgonahate - Mar 2, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    other than this story, most things Damien Cox has to say shouldn’t be taken seriously… the guy’s a complete tool! and not the sharpest one in the shed i might add. clearly he was picked on in school and probably couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag with scissors in his hand.

    When you look up “moot point” in the dictionary.. there should be a picture of his fugly, dyed eye browed face . journalistic integrity? that’s not for Damien Cox.. no sir!


  5. seaner44 - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    Wilson was hired by Fletcher. Just an FYI boys

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