Wilson almost a lock

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Interim general manager Cliff Fletcher isn't apologizing for hiring Ron Wilson as Maple Leafs' coach without interviewing any other candidates.

"I've had the opportunity to watch NHL coaches for years, such as Pat Burns," Fletcher said of striking gold with Burns behind the Leafs bench in 1992. "I believe Ron is the right fit for this team. His record speaks for itself and he works well with young players, which is a must for us."

Wilson reached a verbal agreement with Fletcher yesterday and could be introduced here tomorrow or Wednesday after a formal multi-year contract is signed upon Fletcher's return from his off-season home in Arizona. Fletcher said he did not require any approval from the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., for the hiring.

FINALIZING MOVE

Wilson has been at his place in South Carolina, finalizing the move with his wife, Maureen. The Wilsons have two grown daughters.

Other unsigned coaches with NHL experience include John Tortorella, Joel Quenneville, Bob Hartley and Craig Hartsburg, while a new crop of candidates includes Peter DeBoer and Don Lever.

Wilson's deal could be as high as four years at an estimated $1.3-$1.5 million US per.

"He has won a lot of NHL games (518-446-127 with San Jose, Anaheim and Washington), and the World Cup (1996)," Fletcher said. "We're pleased to have him on board."

Wilson will be the 27th head coach in franchise history and the first American citizen, though he was born in Windsor in 1955.

While he will have his hands full with a team that missed the playoffs three consecutive years, his clubs have qualfied in eight of the past 11, minus his first two expansion campaigns with the Ducks.


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