Leafs reportedly considered hiring Craig Berube's ex-teammate instead

This would have been an....interesting decision.

Michael W.

The Toronto Maple Leafs officially hired the 32nd head coach in team history last week, bringing aboard Craig Berube as the official replacement for the recently terminated Sheldon Keefe. 

Berube was ultimately chosen by Leafs general manager Brad Treliving from a list of candidates who had interviewed for the job, including Todd McLellan and Gerard Gallant. But just how close were they to hiring a former teammate of Berube, who was also known for being a hard-nosed customer on the ice? 

According to NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, one candidate that was speculated to have been on the radar of Treliving and the Leafs was none other than Berube's former teammate with the Washington Capitals, Dale Hunter. Hunter played in 1,407 games in his NHL career with the Quebec Nordiques, Capitals and then a short stint with the Colorado Avalanche.

Following his playing career, Hunter delved into the world of coaching as the bench boss of the OHL's London Knights, where he would coach future Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner. He also helped lead Team Canada to gold, leading the National Junior Team at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

He spent one season in the NHL as Washington's head coach, spending 60 games in that position as the successor to Bruce Boudreau and racking up a record of 30-23-7. He chose not to return, electing instead to resume his coaching duties with the Knights. 

"We also know they talked to Todd McLellan. We reported last week they talked to Gerard Gallant," Friedman opined during the latest "32 Thoughts" podcast. "You know who I wonder if they asked about? I don't know that it ever got to the interview stage, but I wonder if they asked about - Dale Hunter."

However, Jeff Marek didn't sound quite as optimistic about the notion of a potential venture to Toronto for Hunter. 

"I think the temptation of coaching Mitch Marner once again is a tempting one for Dale Hunter... but, I've always been under the impression that, unless it's his brother [Mark Hunter] running and NHL team, I don't know that Dale Hunter would want to go.

I've always been of the belief, and no one has told me otherwise, that Hunter has always wanted to break Brian Kilrea's record for most coaching wins in the OHL. Right now he's number two. He's got a great setup in London... his life's in a spot where he's really, really comfortable."

Did the Leafs make the correct choice with Berube, who has far more NHL coaching experience than Hunter? 

Recommended articles: