Mo professional to the end

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

In the words of Cliff Fletcher, this is the start of a new era for the Maple Leafs -- new general manager, new coach and new players.

Unfortunately for Leafs fans, all three are still TBA and so far they have been able to clear out only the old manager and now the coach.

So far none of them have been replaced.

In truth, it is more like the end of an era and, indeed, if there was one thing that seemed abundantly clearer yesterday, during the confirmation of the firing of coach Paul Maurice, it is that the search for a new general manager should take on an even greater, though not reckless, urgency because now there are two major jobs to fill, not to mention what has to happen with the players and the direction of the organization.

Talk all they want about taking time, and job candidates marking time until the Leafs are ready, and everything operating normally (which was not intended as a punch line, either), but finalizing the hiring of the new GM sooner, rather than much later in the summer is imperative if not vital.

As for what transpired yesterday, it did not come as a great surprise, but the timing still was somewhat curious.

Fletcher had said at the end of the season that the decision on the new coach would be made by the new GM. But short of suggesting new managers usually hire new coaches, he didn't really shed any more light on why he, not the new guy, dumped Maurice.

Given that logic, that freshly hired managers fire old coaches, then Alain Vigneault should be feeling even more concerned about his future in Vancouver, where there is a new GM reviewing the operation. And it flies in the face of the decision Raptors president Bryan Colangelo made when he took over, when he was allowed to decide the fate of Sam Mitchell.

It might just be that the Leafs are inching closer to getting the new man in place and Fletcher decided to accelerate the "clearing of the decks."

Beyond that, if Fletcher wasn't going to endorse Maurice, and that seemed clear yesterday, then it was the fair and humane thing to let him go now, five days shy of his two-year anniversary on the job, and with a year remaining on his contract.

Maurice now can just get on with life and, at age 41, can also get on with his career. No one deserves to dangle and there are three other definite openings in Florida, Ottawa and Atlanta, with the potential for coaching changes in several other cities, such as Vancouver, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and San Jose.

URGENCY

That again speaks to the urgency for the Leafs to get the GM in place, to officially start the new era, because there will be other primo jobs available and not every coach will view a rebuilding Leafs job as a dream come true, especially if it means turning down other possible jobs while waiting for the Leafs to maybe call.

As for Maurice's departure, after the Leafs missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons under his guidance and three consecutive seasons overall, with the upheaval in the front office and the insatiable thirst for major change, it was obvious and inevitable.

"All the great coaches in the league have great players," Fletcher said yesterday.

He is right and good coaches can also fail in bad situations, which might describe what happened to Maurice.

Debate whether Maurice deserved to stay or go, but there is no debating he is a good man, who was professional and accountable till the end.

If he failed as a coach, it might have been in that he didn't get enough of his players to behave the same.


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