The curious timing of the firing of Paul Maurice leads only to further intrigue around the ever-intriguing and often inept Maple Leafs.
Why fire Maurice now, especially after interim boss Cliff Fletcher announced at the end of the regular season that he wasn't going to make a decision on the coach -- and that the determination would be made by the new general manager?
Why fire Maurice now, when the timing coincides with the Leafs asking for permission to talk to fired Vancouver GM Dave Nonis but have yet to have any meaningful conversation with him?
What if Nonis, in some front-office role with the Leafs, wants Maurice to coach? What then?
And what now?
The presumption yesterday, after TSN's Darren Dreger reported that the Leafs had contacted the Canucks for permission to talk to Nonis and Sun Media confirmed the intent, was that Nonis would be offered a position other than general manager with the Leafs -- something like associate general manager -- which would open the door to the eventual move of Brian Burke leaving the Anaheim Ducks for the top position with the Leafs.
Or so the most recent story goes. And never mind that the Ducks already have prevented Burke from talking to other teams once.
In Toronto, a coach firing is never as simple as a coach firing. There has to be something else involved. Pat Quinn was fired to give John Ferguson his independence. Maurice was fired because of his record but also to clear the deck for the incoming executives.
By morning yesterday, Maurice was the story. By afternoon, the possibility of Nonis and Burke had taken over.
When contacted about the move yesterday, Burke said emphatically that: "I have nothing to say. I have no comment whatsoever. The announcement (firing of Maurice) doesn't affect or involve me in any way."
That's what he's saying, loudly as usual. Others who know better see this differently. They say if Nonis is going to be offered a job with the Maple Leafs, then Burke would like nothing better than to work side-by-side with his best friend in hockey.
Burke is sellable in Toronto in every conceivable way in any senior position with the Leafs.
Nonis, having missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons and seen as overly cautious in Vancouver, basically is impossible to sell as the new Leafs GM.
So with Burke contractually obligated to the Ducks for one more season -- and now almost certain not to re-sign there after ownership would not let him look into the Toronto situation -- the optics of a wink-wink deal with the Leafs are not good for anyone in hockey.
Which begs the question: If Burke wants out of Anaheim, why do the Ducks still want him as general manager? Wouldn't it be in their best interest to let him go?
And if they're not going to have him a year from now -- and knowing the stubborn Burke there is no chance he would stay in Anaheim beyond this season -- then why would Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli want to go through a season of speculation and rumour?
They didn't much like it for a few days after the season. Imagine what it would be like to have this follow Burke around for his apparent swan song in Anaheim?
Clearly, the Ducks and maybe the NHL, are mad at the Leafs. They're mad at the them for being somewhat overt in their interest in Burke. They're mad at the Leafs for making it known they will offer well beyond market value for the right executive in the right position. There may be a salary cap for players but there isn't for management and the league doesn't want to turn into the NFL, where coach and management salaries often are in the player range.
There also is the theory going around that the NHL is watching the Leafs closely for tampering and would love to catch them doing something improper.
As of today, the Leafs don't have a coach, a general manager, or a captain. But they do lead the NHL is only one category -- subplots.