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Aug. 22, 2006. 05:50 AM

Two of the most popular captains in the history of the Maple Leafs are now facing off against each other in the job market.

Doug Gilmour and Rick Vaive are rumoured to be among the candidates vying for the vacant assistant coach's job with the Toronto Marlies under head coach Greg Gilbert. Also believed to be in the mix is another former Leaf, defenceman Bob McGill.

"I've talked to Greg and he's very aware that I'm very interested," Vaive, 47, said yesterday. "I'd like to get the opportunity to sit down with him and (Leafs general manager) John Ferguson to discuss what the job is all about.

"There's no doubt I'd like to get back into coaching."

Gilmour could not be reached yesterday but he was rumoured to be in the running for the head coaching job with the Marlies that was eventually filled by Gilbert. Gilmour downplayed his interest at the time, saying he didn't believe he was suited for the job with the American Hockey League club.

But Gilmour, 43, was almost hired as an assistant with the Hamilton Bulldogs two seasons ago and said he had a definite interest in taking on that role with the Marlies.

"I would look at that, for sure," he said.

Gilmour will coach his own 10-year-old son this season in AAA hockey with the Don Mills organization in the GTHL.

The Marlies' assistant job came open when Paul Maurice was promoted from head man on the farm to be the bench boss with the Leafs and he brought assistant coach Dallas Eakins with him. Joe Paterson remained with the Marlies to be an assistant under Gilbert.

Unlike Vaive and McGill, who recently had a stint as the coach of the OHL's Oshawa Generals, Gilmour has no high-level coaching experience. But he is beloved in Toronto — his brief return to the Leafs in 2002 was virtually greeted with palm fronds — and Ferguson might see his hiring as a way to pump up interest in a Marlies team that faded in popularity as its inaugural season played out.

Vaive, too, was once a fan favourite here and though he played on some bad Leafs teams he managed 50-goal seasons in three consecutive campaigns in the early '80s. After retiring as a player in 1993, he became a head coach for five seasons in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays followed by another two seasons as the head coach with the AHL's Saint John Flames.

Reasonable success at those stops set him up for an opportunity in the shadow of the Maple Leafs, as head coach of the OHL's Mississauga IceDogs but a disastrous campaign there in 2000-01 got him fired after the junior team posted a 3-56-7 record. He hasn't coached since.

While Vaive conceded that was "a very difficult year," he said he learned from it. He said he also benefited from several seasons as an analyst for Leafs-TV "getting a different perspective, watching what other coaches do and seeing what works and what doesn't."

Like Vaive, McGill had some success coaching at the AHL level, as an assistant, and in the ECHL, as a head coach, but he also flamed out in his chance at a high-profile job in the greater Toronto area. He was fired as head coach of the Generals in 2005 after Oshawa had posted a 15-48-3-2 record. Like Vaive, as well, McGill has been working for Leafs-TV.

Vaive didn't think his status as a former Leaf would aid him in catching on with the Marlies.

"I don't think that factors into it," he said. "I think they'll just take whoever is best for the job."

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