Mid-season coaching changes fairly rare in Toronto, but could the impact this time be like the spring of ’59? - Mike Langlois at Vintage Leaf Memories
Off the top of my head, I don’t think there have been that many mid-season (or late-season) coaching changes in the time since I started following the Maple Leafs in the late 1950s. While there have been quite a number of new coaches brought in, especially in the past 35 years, most moves (firing/hiring) were done after the season and/or in the summertime.
The most famous Toronto mid-season "near" firing was when owner Harold Ballard dismissed the ever-creative (if very defensively-oriented) Roger Neilson during the latter stages of the 1978-’79 season. The Leafs had a good team but were under-performing in Neilson’s second year at the helm. He was axed, but then-captain Darryl Sittler (left) and some fellow teammates begged Harold to keep Roger on, and Ballard relented. (Yes, the story has been told many times that Ballard demanded that Neilson show up at the Gardens on Saturday night and wear a bag over his head as he came out from the Leaf dressing room and walked to the bench. This was because Ballard had not publicly revealed he was "re-hiring" Neilson and wanted to get a publicity boost out of the "mystery coach" angle. Neilson refused but kept his job anyway—at least until the Leafs got waxed in four straight by the powerful Habs in the playoffs that spring. Then, he got whacked again, along with long-time GM Jim Gregory. (Interestingly, Randy Carlyle is actually, in some ways, pretty close to Neilson in their approach to coaching. Both preach/preached a defensive style, with each player having a very clear role on the team. They also like/liked having some toughness throughout the roster.)
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