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Maple Leafs Axe Coach Murphy

After an agonizing, two-month review of his performance, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Murphy was finally fired Tuesday.

"We did some good things, but in the end we didn't make it," Leafs president and general manager Ken Dryden said. "We have to get better."

Dryden said he hopes to have a coach in place for Saturday's draft, but wouldn't discuss specific names.

Pat Quinn was seen as a top candidate after meeting with Dryden over the weekend, but was noncommital when reached at his home in Vancouver on Tuesday.

"I don't think I can verify anything for you," Quinn said.

Dryden said he had met with Quinn, but said nothing had been finalized in terms of a replacement for Murphy.

Dryden has also talked to Terry Murray, who was hired by the Florida Panthers last weekend, and considered former Colorado coach Marc Crawford. The steep compensation due to the Avalanche -- a first-round draft choice and cash from a successful team -- cooled the Leafs' interest in him.

"I never thought this would happen until this morning when I talked to Ken," Murphy said during his own news conference Tuesday. "I always thought there would be light at the end of the tunnel. That's one of the reasons I didn't say anything. I didn't want to hurt my chances of coming back."

Murphy, who had one year remaining on his contract, acknowledged the protracted review was trying. "It's been a difficult time for the last four weeks and I'm kind of glad its over."

He had kind words for Dryden.

"I think Ken Dryden is a very fair and very nice man. I like Ken Dryden. He really cares, he wants to make the Leafs better."

"I hope the team gets a lot better, and quickly."

He said he has no jobs lined up, and admitted some opportunities have passed him by while the uncertainty over his status lingered.

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He described the Leafs as a hardworking team in need of more first-line players.

"More young players are needed and more better players are needed. When those holes are filled, this will be a pretty good team."

Murphy, 47, didn't get the Leafs into the playoffs in either of his two seasons in charge. His team was 30-43-9 in 1997-98 and 30-44-8 in 1996-97.

Dryden said Murphy was hard-working and dedicated and said he enjoyed working with him.

"I do regret how this vigil played itself out for Mike and for his family," Dryden said. "I wanted to see who else might be available. That really is what has been going on for the last six, eight weeks or so."

Murphy was an assistant with the Leafs from 1991 to 1994 and with the New York Rangers in 1995 and 1996. He was named coach of the Leafs on July 3, 1996.

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