Leafs replace assistant coaches in shuffle
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Assistant coach Keith Acton, left, chats with head coach Ron Wilson during game action in October 2009. (QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO - Ron Wilson doesn’t yet have an extra year on his contract, but his coaching staff will be drastically altered.
After criticism about the Leafs’ attention to detail in areas such as special teams, they have replaced long-time assistant Keith Acton and Wilson’s pupil Tim Hunter, with former New York Islanders coach Scott Gordon and Northeastern University’s Greg Cronin. Gordon was assistant to Wilson with the U.S. national team, Cronin was an Isles’ assistant years earlier.
The moves come amidst preparations for a vital season where the club’s direction will be closely monitored by a yet-to-be-named president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Burke’s loyalty to Wilson and his three-year failure to get the the Leafs a playoff spot has already been
tempered by not yet giving him the extension beyond 2011-12 that most thought would have happened by now.
Acton had been on staff 11 years, back to when Pat Quinn was coach. Hunter has been on the job since Wilson arrived. Rob Zettler, the other bench assistant appears to be safe.
Gordon and Cronin are both Massachusetts natives with ties to schools in that area. Gordon, 48, was fired early last season, a victim of the Isles’ frequent re-building attempts, but is considered one of the brightest in the league.
Cronin, 47, has been with Northeastern for six years. He was an assistant for the Isles and Bridegport of the AHL. His college record, including two years at Maine, is 107-117-31, with one appearance in the NCAA finals. While at Northeastern this past February, he was under suspension for NCAA recruitment violations.
There was some speculation that Cronin’s arrival could have something to do with the Leafs moving up in this weekend’s draft to take Northeastern defenceman Jamie Oleksiak, currently ranked 17th by The Hockey News.