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Watt named head coach of lowly, divided Leafs

Tom Watt, an assistant who has been running the Toronto Maple Leafs since Friday, Monday was named head coach of the NHL team for the rest of the season. Watt becomes the 12th person to have the job in 13 seasons, and takes over a team that has only one victory and a tie in its first 12 games. It is the franchise's worst start ever.

Watt, who was in his first year as an assistant to Doug Carpenter, was named coach on an interim basis when Carpenter was fired Friday.

In Watt's only game as coach, the Maple Leafs lost 3-1 Saturday night to the Buffalo Sabres.

In 1981, Watt took over a Winnipeg Jets team that had won only nine games and compiled 32 points the previous season. The club responded by winning 33 games and collecting 80 points. That 48-point turnaround stands as the largest improvement in NHL history and it earned Watt coach-of-the-year honors.

Watt was hired in the summer as Carpenter's assistant after two seasons in a similar role with the Calgary Flames.

"We thought about the what if, what if (Carpenter being fired) scenario when he hired him," said general manager Floyd Smith.

Watt takes over a divided and unhappy club. Several players have said off the record that a couple of players quit trying for Carpenter.

"I don't know if they're going to work for me," Watt said. "This is going to take more than one person. It's going to take everybody pulling together."

Around the league

Whalers: Hartford defenseman Dave Babych underwent surgery Monday for chronic pain in his right wrist and will be out at least three months. He played in six of the Whalers' 12 games and had five assists.

Player of the week: Right winger Brett Hull of the St. Louis Blues was named the NHL's top player after scoring seven goals in three games.