A Look at the Maple Leafs’ Last 5 Mid-Season Coaching Changes

TORONTO — Mike Babcock became the fourth straight Toronto Maple Leafs head coach to lose his job with the team on the road when he was fired Wednesday. Sheldon Keefe made his debut as the 40th head coach in team history Thursday when the Leafs took a six-game losing streak into a road game against the Arizona Coyotes.

Here’s a look at the last five Maple Leafs coaches who took over the team after a mid-season  coaching change.


Took over: Jan. 6, 2015

Replaced: Randy Carlyle

Leafs’ record at time of coaching change: 21-16-3

Leafs’ record at end of season: 30-44-8

Toronto was still in a playoff position when Carlyle was fired following a 5-1 loss at Winnipeg, though it had lost seven of its last nine games. Former assistant Horachek took over as interim coach and debuted behind the bench with a 6-2 loss to visiting Washington. It didn’t ever get better for Horachek, who posted an 8-26-6 record as Leafs coach as Toronto finished second-last in the Atlantic Division standings.

Peter Horachek
Peter Horachek (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Leafs cleaned house after the season, parting ways with Horachek, three other coaches and general manager Dave Nonis. Babcock was then brought in to kick-start a rebuild in Toronto.


Took over: March 2, 2012

Replaced: Ron Wilson

Leafs’ record at time of coaching change: 29-28-7

Leafs’ record at end of season: 35-37-10

Wilson was let go following a six-game losing streak that put the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances in jeopardy. Then-Leafs GM Brian Burke compared the situation to an “18-wheeler going right off a cliff.” Carlyle, who coached the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup title, had been fired by Anaheim earlier in the season after the Ducks struggled to a 7-13-4 record. Carlyle led Toronto to a 3-1 win over Montreal in his Leafs debut, but the team finished the season 6-9-3 under their new coach and missed the playoffs.

Randy Carlyle Toronto Maple Leafs can improve
Randy Carlyle (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

He led Toronto to its first playoff appearance in eight years the following season, but the team missed the playoffs again in 2013-14 and Carlyle was fired in 2014-15. He compiled a coaching record of 91-78-19 in Toronto.


Took over: March 5, 1996

Replaced: Pat Burns

Leafs’ record at time of coaching change: 25-30-10

Leafs’ record at end of season: 34-36-12

Burns, who had led the Maple Leafs to the Western Conference final in 1993 and 1994, took the fall after the struggling team lost eight straight games and went 3-16-3 over January and February. Beverley, then the Leafs’ director of pro scouting, director of player personnel, took over on an interim basis. The Leafs skated to a 2-2 tie with the New Jersey Devils in Beverley’s debut. They ended up making the playoffs for a fourth straight season after going 9-6-2, including wins in six of their last eight games, with Beverley behind the bench. Toronto lost to St. Louis in six games in the first round of the post-season. Mike Murphy took over as head coach to start the 1996-97 campaign.


Took over: Oct. 29, 1990

Replaced: Doug Carpenter

Leafs’ record at time of coaching change: 1-9-1

Leafs’ record at end of season: 23-46-11

Watt, who had joined the Maple Leafs as an assistant coach for the 1990-91 season, was quickly thrust into the spotlight when Toronto fired Carpenter following a dismal 1-10-1 start. The Leafs beat the visiting Minnesota North Stars 5-4 in his debut but couldn’t turn the team’s fortunes around as Toronto finished last in the Norris Division and missed the playoffs.

Back then, four of the five teams in the division qualified for the post-season. Watt remained head coach in 1991-92, and was replaced by Burns, formerly a successful coach with Montreal, for the 1992-93 campaign. Watt compiled an overall record of 52-80-17 with Toronto.


Took over: December 1988

Replaced: John Brophy

Leafs’ record at time of coaching change: 11-20-2

Leafs’ record at end of season: 28-46-6

George Armstrong
George Armstrong (THW Archives)

Armstrong, the popular former Leafs captain and a favourite of then owner Harold Ballard, took over behind the bench after Brophy was fired 33 games into the 1988-89 season.  The Leafs ended a nine-game winless streak in Armstrong’s debut with a 4-3 win over St. Louis, but Toronto went 16-26-4 the rest of the season and missed the playoffs. Armstrong was replaced by Carpenter after the season and returned to his scouting duties with the Leafs, a position he holds to this day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2019.

The Canadian Press