Paul Maurice's move to Toronto from Tar Heel country was completed last night.
The coach of the Maple Leafs farm team met his old Carolina Hurricanes organization for the first time, beating/losing by a 3-1 score in an NHL rookie tournament sponsored by the Ottawa Senators. Maurice was coach of Carolina/Hartford for almost a decade, the longest tenure with one NHL club before he was let go in December 2003.
"It's like old home week here, meeting ('Canes general manager) Jim Rutherford and all the people I worked with for years," Maurice said before the game. "It was like we were all back in the (2002) Stanley Cup final again. Getting fired as I did, I never had the chance to enjoy those memories. Now I can. I just hope I don't yell at all the guys wearing red by mistake when the game starts."
Maurice quickly is getting familiar with the players who could be part of his Marlies in the coming years -- if not the parent team's roster when it's expected he'll one day replace 62-year-old Pat Quinn as coach of the Leafs.
"I think they're getting over their nervousness and I anticipate we'll see very different players in the next four or five days," Maurice said.
Toronto won its tournament opener 2-1 on Tuesday in overtime over the Sens. One of the quickest kids out of the gate has been 2002's top pick, forward Alex Steen.
"You would certainly notice him during a game," Maurice said. "He has not changed anyone's opinion (of his NHL potential)."
Could Steen, who scored in last night's game, crack the Leafs lineup as soon as this season? Defenceman Tomas Kaberle made the club out of the rookie camp in 1998, but Maurice won't make any assumptions on behalf of Quinn and GM John Ferguson Jr.
"My sense of a player in that situation is that he'd have to be really good for about a month," Maurice said. "But it's still early."