TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Randy Carlyle in a bid to salvage a season that has started to slip away, the National Hockey League team said on Tuesday.
The decision to part ways with Carlyle comes with Toronto having lost seven of their last nine games and clinging to the final wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins.
"It’s never an easy decision to make when changing your leadership but our team was not trending in the right direction and we felt an immediate change was necessary," Maple Leafs General Manager David Nonis said in a statement.
Assistant coaches Peter Horachek and Steve Spott will handle coaching duties for the Maple Leafs in their next game on Wednesday against the visiting Washington Capitals.
The Maple Leafs' coaching job is widely considered one of the toughest in the 30-team NHL given the intense media scrutiny and pressure to bring home the franchise's first Stanley Cup since 1967.
On top of that, the Maple Leafs have topped Forbes' annual ranking of the most valuable NHL teams in each of the last nine years, most recently valued at $1.3 billion.
Carlyle, who coached the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2007, arrived in Toronto with plenty of pressure to help the team snap what has become the league's longest Stanley Cup drought.
He took over the coaching duties from Ron Wilson and had his most successful season with Toronto during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign in which he led the team to a 26-17-5 record and their first playoff berth since 2004.
But a losing skid late in the following season that cost his team a return ticket to the playoffs, combined with the team's latest slump, ultimately cost Carlyle his job.
Carlyle went 91-78-19 since taking over behind the Maple Leafs bench in March 2012, and the team is in fourth place in the eight-team Atlantic Division.
Reporting by Frank Pingue,; Editing by Ed Osmond/Steve Keating