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Dreger: Maple Leafs have met with Berube, McLellan; hiring could come this week

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The offseason for the Maple Leafs is going to be an interesting one and the first priority for management will be to find a new head coach. 7-Eleven That's Hockey's Gino Reda was joined by TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger on Monday to discuss the latest on the interview process and why it wouldn't be surprising if Toronto made their choice at some point this week.


GINO REDA: For all the latest on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ hunt for a new head coach, let’s bring in our hockey insider Darren Dreger. Dregs, in a perfect world the Leafs could take their time in this process, make sure they get the right guy, but when they seem to be looking at guys that other teams are interested in as well, that may accelerate the process. What’s the latest on the interview process right now?

DARREN DREGER: Well, it’s very interesting to be sure, and it’s not just the Toronto Maple Leafs, to your point, Gino. It’s the Winnipeg Jets. It’s the New Jersey Devils. What’s Seattle up to? Is Jimmy Hiller going to have the interim table ripped off his title as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings? The coaching carousel around the National Hockey League is intriguing, and it was made more intriguing and more intense, I would say, this weekend. We were there on Friday and covered the management media availability of the Maple Leafs, which included the head of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Keith Pelley, Brendan Shanahan, the head of hockey operations for the Leafs, and obviously general manger Brad Treliving, and Treliving made it clear that the process of hiring Sheldon Keefe’s replacement was going to begin immediately. That’s exactly what took place on the weekend. My understanding is that Craig Berube, Todd McLellan met with Treliving, and probably other members of the Toronto Maple Leafs management group, as well. I know Berube spent a good part of Saturday and Sunday morning continuing in conversation, and I think that there are other layers to this interview process, which includes Berube and Todd McLellan, and potentially some others as well. But what I know, Gino, beyond what we’ve talked about specific to this weekend, is there’s a real strong appetite inside the head office of the Toronto Maple Leafs to get something done sooner rather than later, and maybe that has connections to the other groups that are interested in Todd McLellan and Craig Berube. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Maple Leafs hired their head coach at some point this week.

REDA: It’s interesting. There have been 19 coaching changes in the NHL in the last 17 months – that’s an enormous number. Another team that’s out there hunting right now, the New Jersey Devils. Could they also be looking at potential discussions with Craig Berube about joining them?

DREGER: Absolutely, no doubt about that. We know that there has been communication between Tom Fitzgerald, the GM of the Devils and Craig Berube, likewise with Todd McLellan. We shouldn’t be surprised given the amount of experience with McLellan and Berube, and I know that Fitzgerald has had those conversations with those men on more than one occasion. What we can’t quite figure out though, Gino, is the timeline here, because Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils seemed to be ahead of the pack in having those interviews with Berube and Todd McLellan. We know that there’s been a conversation with Sheldon Keefe and Tom Fitzgerald, and there’s a bit of a process that Sheldon Keefe and his family have to go through, but as I said with Brad Treliving and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the is expectation they get something done this week, I feel the same with Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils. What Fitzgerald will tell anyone who asks is that he has interviewed a good number of candidates, and he’d be happy with any one of them. Why the Devils haven’t stepped up to make a formal contract offer to Berube, or to Todd McLellan, or perhaps to another candidate, I can’t be sure. But again, they’re pretty confident in New Jersey they’ll get something done this week. 

REDA: For obvious reasons, a Cup winner in 2019 with the St. Louis Blues, Craig Berube is really popular. So, you mention the Devils are interested, the Leafs are interested, what about the vacancy in Winnipeg, Dregs?

DREGER: Winnipeg is going through their process, and I know that’s an overused word in detailing all of the teams that are still making those coaching decisions. I still feel and believe that Scott Arniel is a top candidate, a real strong chance of taking over for Rick Bowness in Winnipeg. Kevin Cheveldayoff, the GM, wants to make sure that he at least has conversations, or at least goes through an interviewing process with Craig Berube and perhaps Sheldon Keefe. I’m sure internally in Winnipeg they’ve had the conversations about how they approach the opportunity to make the change that they need to make. But again, I think the front-runner is Scott Arniel. Depending on what happens with Craig Berube, Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets at least want to go down that path and have a conversation before making the final call. 

REDA: What about all the talk around Rod Brind’Amour? I realize he is still currently under contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, and they are still a little bit busy in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he doesn’t have an extension just yet, and he could be real attractive if he was interested in moving. Is the fact that these teams are so anxious to get something done quickly possibly take him out of the mix completely as the potential Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach?

DREGER: Any of the teams that we’ve talked about, who again, are exploring a new head coach, would be somewhat foolish if they didn’t wait and see how things play out with Rod Brind’Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes. I believe he’s staying in Carolina. That was made abundantly clear to me via a source. He does not want to leave Carolina, but if they fall to the New York Rangers in five games, then perhaps there’s enough emotion around this situation that the deal that’s on the table, ready for Rod Brind’Amour to sign, is removed from the table. I’m not suggesting that’s likely going to happen, but if you’re a team on the outside, you want to be absolutely sure that Rod Brind’Amour doesn’t all of a sudden become an open-market candidate. I know Don Waddell, the general manager of the Hurricanes, has spent a lot of time trying to get Rod Brind’Amour’s assistant coaches their deals hammered out and signed first, and then he’ll get to the contract signed by Rod Brind’Amour. It’s a long shot at best that he is kicked out of the Carolina Hurricanes organization, but might be enough of a shot that if you’re a general manager looking for a head coach, you’re willing to wait.

REDA: Getting back to Sheldon Keefe just before we wrap things up, we mentioned the fact that he’s in conversations with the New Jersey Devils. Famously, the Leafs with just one playoff series win since 2013, he leaves that situation, if he ends up in New Jersey do you know which other team only has one playoff series win since 2013? That’s the New Jersey Devils. So, I guess it’s, “Be careful of what you wish for.” Hockey Insider Darren Dreger.