Leafs look to groom ‘elite, young’ coach in AHL

Of the seven Canadian NHL teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs have proved the most disappointing this season, with Edmonton winning the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. But there doesn't seem to be much hurry by Shanahan to make a big move yet.

The housecleaning continues and yet another important job has opened up within the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.

Gord Dineen will not return as head coach of the Toronto Marlies next season, Maple Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas announced Tuesday after reaching the decision in consult with president Brendan Shanahan and director of player personnel Mark Hunter.

“The decision was based on the fact that we’re undergoing a big organizational shift in philosophy,” Dubas said on a conference call. “Part of that is wanting to bring on an elite young coach that we can groom along here.”

Dineen has been offered a position to remain with the Marlies as an associate coach while the American Hockey League club begins an immediate search for a new head coach.

“There’s strong incentives for organizations in the NHL to develop elite coaches within. There’s an incentive system and a compensation system,” Dubas explained. “We hope that we’re developing coaches that teams want to pay us draft picks to one day hire.”

Marlies associate coach Derek King was relieved of his duties, and assistant coach Ben Simon has been offered another position within the organization.

At the top of the list to replace Dineen as the Marlies’ bench boss could be Sheldon Keefe.

The coach of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds worked under Dubas before the latter joined the Maple Leafs, and Dubas said the Leafs obtained permission from Sault Ste. Marie Monday to interview Keefe. That meeting has yet to take place.

Keefe guided the Greyhounds to a remarkable 54-12-2 record in 2014-15, his first season behind the bench since Dubas departed for the NHL.

“I will discuss it with Sheldon, but he’s not the only coach that we’ll discuss it with. We’re in the process of seeking permissions elsewhere as well,” Dubas said.

Dineen held the Marlies head job for less than a calendar year.

“If we had gone through and had a poor year, it would’ve been easy [to demote Dineen]. But the fact we did make the playoffs, it made it more difficult,” Dubas said. “Gord’s one of the most wonderful people that I’ve worked with in hockey.

“Once we find a head coach, we’ll let him sit with Gord and see if Gord’s comfortable [with remaining as an associate]. And if he’s comfortable and other opportunities haven’t arisen for him, then we’ll move ahead with that.”

Promoted to run the Marlies’ bench on July 15, 2014, Dineen had previously served as the Marlies’ assistant coach in five seasons.

Under Dineen, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate secured the playoffs’ seventh seed with 87 points and a 39-28-9 regular season record but was eliminated from Calder Cup contention in the first round, losing a best-of-five series to the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings).

The Maple Leafs continue to search for a new general manager and head coach as well, but Dubas declined to answer questions on the big club Tuesday.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.