TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are turning to a new voice after firing coach Ron Wilson.

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TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are turning to a new voice after firing coach Ron Wilson.

Former Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was named as Wilson's replacement Friday night.

Fired Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle (left) has a new job behind the Maple Leafs bench, replacing Ron Wilson (right).

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Fired Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle (left) has a new job behind the Maple Leafs bench, replacing Ron Wilson (right).

General manager Brian Burke made the move after watching the Leafs crash out of the Eastern Conference playoff race over the last month.

"This was not an easy decision for me to make," Burke said in a statement. "I want to thank Ron for all of his hard work and dedication to our organization over the past four seasons."

As recently as late January, the Leafs appeared to be well on their way to ending a playoff drought that stretches back to 2004. But a 1-9-1 skid starting Feb. 7 sent them spiralling down the standings to 11th place, five points out of a playoff spot, and sealed Wilson's fate.

Ron Wilson

CP

Ron Wilson

Burke's relationship with Carlyle goes back to 2005 when Burke hired him as coach in Anaheim.

In the most successful season in Ducks history, and with Burke at the helm, Carlyle guided the team to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship in 2007.

Carlyle, 55, spent seven seasons as coach in Anaheim and led the team to five playoff appearances. Only Detroit's Mike Babcock has more playoff wins than Carlyle's 36 since 2005-06.

The Sudbury, Ont., native was fired by the Ducks in December after a rocky start to the season.

Burke remained loyal to Wilson until the end, continuing to defend the coach after fans chanted "FI-RE WIL-SON!" at Air Canada Centre to conclude a recent homestand. But eventually he was forced to move in another direction.

"The talk in town doesn't really matter," Wilson said earlier in the day at a Leafs practice ahead of a game today in Montreal. "We've got a job to do."

The fourth stop in Wilson's long NHL coaching career was arguably the toughest. Tasked with getting the team back into the playoffs in June 2008, the best the Leafs managed under him was a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season.

Wilson compiled a 130-135-45 record with Toronto and leaves the team sitting fourth on the NHL's all-time list for games coached.

Otherwise, it was far from a milestone season. In their last 11 games, the Leafs allowed 45 goals, an average of more than four per game.

It was clear last summer that Wilson's hold on the job was weakening. In June, Burke fired assistants Keith Acton and Tim Hunter, a longtime Wilson ally, and replaced them with Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon, who had past head-coaching experience with the New York Islanders.

Wilson was hired for the job in 2008 by interim GM Cliff Fletcher. The 56-year-old signed a contract extension in December and will be paid through the end of next season. It remains to be seen whether he'll make his way back to the NHL.

The Leafs have 18 games to play, which is plenty of time to put a streak together to avoid missing the playoffs for a seventh straight season. Burke kept his team intact at Monday's trade deadline, believing it can win. They have since lost two in a row.

 

-- The Canadian Press