Late Friday afternoon, while many were rejoicing the end of the work week, our Maple Leafs issued a press release announcing a couple of non-player moves by Brian Burke as the summer inches to completion. Joining the Maple Leafs are two coached to work with Dallas Eakins’ Marlies staff. First is former Maple Leaf player Derek King. King, it appears hasn’t been involved in the game in a coaching role since 2003-2004 when he finished his second season as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. There isn’t much written about what King was doing over the last 5 years.
Joining Eakins and King is Gord Dineen. Dineen is the coaching veteran of the group having been coaching in the minors for the better part of 9 years. He was the head coach of the Iowa Chops in the AHL last year. The Chops last season were almost playing .500 hockey. They went 33 and 33, however they lost 14 games in overtime! Dineen is widely recognized as one of the up and coming stars in the coaching ranks.
The Dineen hire I understand. He has worked his way through the minor ranks (including a stint with the best named team in sports history, the Macon Whoopie- where I had a chance to meet Dineen after a game down in Macon GA when he was there). He has put in his dues, and has a reputation as being a smart hockey guy who works well with kids and really understands the game. Eakins, while he clearly knows the Leafs players better than anyone else has never been a head coach. Furthermore he wasn’t even a coach for the Leafs last year. This isn’t a knock on him, nor a criticism. It’s just a little odd. Then to add King who seems to have been out of the game, at least at the coaching level for so long is even more bizarre. Not a knock on Burke, who also dipped out of the hockey world to grab Dave Poulin, just hoping he knows what he is doing.
Although it hasn’t been announced, it looks like Burke has replaced Rudy Cantu, who was the teams athletic therapist (read trainer). Andy Playter, who was in the same role with the Marlies last year appears to be the new guy who we will see running onto the ice every time a Maple Leaf goes down injured. Playter also served with the Owen Sound Attack and did a stint in football too. These guys work their butts off all season and most of the off-season to make sure guys remain healthy and get back as soon as possible. Burke has grabbed a former Canuck in Marty Dudgeon who was with the Canucks for a long time as the assistant trainer and he joins the Maple Leafs in that role too. Burke also promoted former ECHL goon, Anthony Belza from the Marlies where he was the strength and conditioning coach to the same role with the Maple Leafs.
We are clearly getting closer (thank god) to training camp as the vacancies are all starting to get filled and with the way the last month or so has gone in this town it couldn’t come soon enough.