(ISN) – The odds are against Randy Carlyle finding another head coaching job in the NHL. There, I said it. Once you’ve been fired from the Maple Leafs, your career as a head coach in the NHL is over. Ask Ron Wilson, Mike Murphy, Tom Watt and Doug Carpenter if that’s a fair statement. And if you don’t think coaching the Leafs isn’t the eventual kiss of death, consider what happened, health-wise, to some of the better Leaf coaches of the modern era.
The Maple Leafs have had 19 head coaches since I began in the broadcasting business. Eventually, they were all banished, and after that, most of them were considered damaged goods. When I first picked up a microphone Red Kelly was the coach of the Maple Leafs. Pretty good coach. But after he was fired, at the age of 49, he never got another head coaching job in the NHL. Floyd Smith had coached the Buffalo Sabres to three straight 100 point seasons. He joined the Leafs in 1979. He lasted all of 68 games before he was fired at the age of 44, never to coach in the NHL again. The VERY NEXT SEASON, the Leafs installed another former Sabres coach, Joe Crozier behind the bench. He only lasted 40 games before getting the boot, never to coach again. He was 51 years old.
If you’re getting the sense that coaching the Leafs is the equivalent of having one foot in the grave, let me enlighten you further. Mike Nykoluk coached 280 games for the Leafs and when he was fired at the age of 49, that was it for his NHL coaching career. John Brophy was 56 when the Leafs fired him. Never coached again. Doug Carpenter was 48 when he got the gas from the Leafs. Never coached again. Tom Watt, 56, never coached again after the Leafs. Mike Murphy, 47, never coached again. Ron Wilson, 56, never coached again. Now, these guys all had head coaching experience in the NHL prior to coming to Toronto, except for Nykoluk. Didn’t matter. Eaten alive in Toronto, career over. There were others who had a brief fling. Nick Beverley (17 games, never coached again) Dick Duff (2 games, never coached again) Punch Imlach (10 games, never coached again) and George Armstrong,(47 games, never wanted to coach in the first place, never coached again).
And don’t think that the finest and most successful Leaf coaches of the modern didn’t suffer as well. Maybe not professionally, but they certainly had health issues later in life and died young. Roger Neilson (69), Pat Burns (58), Imlach (69) John McLellan (51) and Pat Quinn (70). I wonder how many years the head coaching job of the Toronto Maple Leafs takes off your life? Consider this a warning to anyone who is being considered as the NEXT coach of the Leafs. Might want to check out the fate of your predecessors before you take that interview. Are you paying attention Mike Babcock?
Fortunately, there were a few Leaf coaches who got away unscathed. Dan Maloney and Paul Maurice found NHL employment after coaching the Leafs. Maloney got in nearly three years with Winnipeg before getting the boot (never to coach in the NHL again) and Maurice is still going strong (sort of) in Winnipeg, many years after failing with the Leafs. Neither had playoff success though. Randy Carlyle is going to be 59 years old this spring. Up until yesterday, he was the third oldest coach in the NHL behind Ken Hitchcock (63) and Bruce Boudreau (59). This is a new-age NHL. Analytics. Stats geeks. Not much room for an old school coach. Hopefully, Carlyle be able to buck the odds and survive the curse of past Leaf coaches by a) getting another NHL head coaching job one day and/or, b) living another 30-35 healthy years after the stresses of his most recent job. Now THAT would be a win-win.
MAPLE LEAF COACHES (15 GAMES OR MORE) SINCE I BEGAN MY BROADCASTING CAREER.
NAME RECORD WITH LEAFS NHL RECORD AFTER LEAFS
RED KELLY 133-123-62 0-0
ROGER NEILSON 75-62-23 385-316-97 (HALL OF FAME)
FLOYD SMITH 30-33-5 0-0
JOE CROZIER 13-22-5 0-0
MIKE NYKOLUK 89-144-47 0-0
DAN MALONEY 45-100-15 91-93-28
JOHN BROPHY 64-111-18 0-0
GEORGE ARMSTRONG 17-26-4 0-0
DOUG CARPENTER 39-47-5 0-0
TOM WATT 52-80-17 0-0
PAT BURNS 133-107-41 194-142-110 (HALL OF FAME, STANLEY CUP)
NICK BEVERLEY 9-6-2 0-0
MIKE MURPHY 60-87-17 0-0
PAT QUINN 300-196-52 27-47-8
PAUL MAURICE 76-66-22 154-125-42
RON WILSON 130-135-45 0-0
RANDY CARLYLE 91-78-19 ?-?