The Ron Wilson era in Toronto has ended without a playoff berth.
The Maple Leafs fired their coach Friday night in Montreal with a little more than a month remaining in his fourth season behind the bench.
The dismissal comes after one of the most tumultuous stretches in recent history of the troubled franchise that has seen the team tumble from playoff contender to free-falling disappointment.
“This was not an easy decision for me to make,” said General Manager Brian Burke. “I want to thank Ron for all of his hard work and dedication to our organization over the past four seasons.”
Wilson, who has given a vote of confidence by Burke with a contract extension at Christmas, will be replaced by another Burke cohort, Randy Carlyle, who will be behind the bench on Saturday night.
The decision was made public late Friday night, two days after Wilson moved past Pat Quinn into fourth all time in games coached with 1,401.
Carlyle, a former Leafs defenceman, teamed with Burke to win a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Wilson, who has seemed shell-shocked much of this week and at a loss to explain the team’s free fall, ran the Leafs practice Friday at the Canadiens practice facility outside of Montreal.
“The talk around town, it doesn’t matter,” Wilson said, when asked about the high-volume talk surrounding his future. “We have a job to rectify things and get points on the board. We can’t think about the past. We have 18 games to turn it around.”
While the Leafs have been in a steady slide, the angst around the team met it’s most feverish pitch on Tuesday when chants of “Fire Wilson” rang through the Air Canada Centre during a loss to the Florida Panthers.
Wilson’s record with the Leafs was a sub-par 130-135-45, a run that included various forms of rebuild by Burke. The team was unable to acquire a legitimate first-line centre since Mats Sundin left the year before Wilson arrived and the departed coach has been plagued with brutally inconsistant goaltending.
This season started out much more promising with Wilson seemed poised to take the club to the post-season for the first time since 2004.
But a disastrous February, in which the Leafs lost their last six games and 10 of their previous 11, ultimately gave Burke no choice but to fire his pal and former college teammate.
After the Leafs’ loss in Chicago in Wednesday, speculation swirled that Wilson would get the axe.