Monday, June 02, 2008

Coach Wilson?

Ron Wilson has apparently been hired as the 27th coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. My immediate reaction: should be an interesting three years before he gets fired.

The Coverage (pick your poison)

Sean at Down Goes Brown
The Globe and Mail
The National Post
The Toronto Star
The Toronto Sun
or just Google News it

The Plan

Anyone who thinks the Leafs aren’t operating with a plan hasn’t been paying attention (no, not the JFJ plan that changed every 15 minutes – the Cliff Fletcher Plan).

Now, whether or not this is a wise plan is another matter altogether…but all circumstantial evidence is certainly pointing at Brian Burke being the next GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.


GM candidates not interviewed? A veritable who’s who of hockey men.

GM candidates interviewed? Just one: Dave Nonis, a former employee and alleged best pal of one Brian Burke.

Coaching candidates interviewed? Just one: Ron Wilson, a man who credits Brian Burke as having the most profound impact on his hockey career (Oh, and Burke is Godfather to Wilson’s daughter).

Clearly the traditional sequencing is off (hire GM, let GM hire coach) but it certainly looks like Fletcher is clearing the decks for Burke, whether it be this year – when’s he still under contract to Anaheim - or when Burke’s contract expires (2011?).

The Hire

I think Ron Wilson is a dick (top-drawer insight and analysis there, eh?)

Beyond that, I have no idea how good of a coach he might be. Furthermore, where did nice-guy good-quote Maurice get the Leafs?

Wilson appears to be a significant upgrade over Paul Maurice, especially when you consider their respective winning percentages and the rate at which their teams have qualified for the post-season. (One of my main concerns with Maurice when he was hired was how infrequently his clubs made the playoffs. He'll be a perfect fit in Florida.)

Ron WilsonPaul Maurice
Winning Percentage .543.492
Playoffs8 for 143 for 11

The difference between the two coaches becomes even more apparent when you compare special teams (The Leafs went from the #1 PP under Pat Quinn's final year to 16th and 15th under Paul Maurice).

Ron WilsonPaul Maurice
2008 PK 1st29th
2007 PK14th27th
2007 PP2nd16th

The Pedigree

Wilson coached the Washington Capitals to the Cup finals in 1998 and also won the ugliest trophy in the history of hockey.

His teams in San Jose have been charged with underacheiving. The last few years the Sharks have been among the Stanley Cup favourites but have been eliminated in the Conference Semis every year since the lockout.

As for the complaint that Wilson hasn’t won the big prize, the number of Stanley Cup winning coaches looking for work comes in at a grand total of two: Bob Hartley and Pat Burns.

Hartley was fired after winning the Cup in Colorado and did nothing in Atlanta (I'd rather the Leafs be coached by Tom Watt, ok maybe not).

I’m not sure of Burns’ health status or if the Devils would be willing to even let him interview with the Leafs (not sure what MLSE has done to their NHL brethren, but getting access to other teams’ staff hasn’t gone so well).

Yeah, there is a third Stanley Cup winning coach out there in Larry Robinson, but I suspect he’s not in the market to be a head coach given his history of demoting himself.

(Unless I’m completely mis-reading things and the critics that are looking for a more storied resume are willing to roll the dice with Terry Crisp or Jacques Demers…)

The Alternate(s)

I think John Anderson could have been a very intriguing candidate, especially given his Toronto roots (and the potential to restore his burger empire to its rightful place at the top of the burger world).

Anderson has been to the AHL finals three times in the past seven years and six times in the past eleven seasons. But the political reality down at the ACC (and JFJ’s legacy) is such that I don’t think this organization can risk going with a rookie GM or coach for some years to come.

The Goofy Asides

For anyone that wants to complain about the timing of this announcement drawing any attention away from the Stanley Cup, I have one question: did the Leafs release a statement on Ron Wilson? Was there an official news release? Did MLSE book a media conference? Um, no, no and no.

The media broke this story and if they were really concerned with the sanctity of the Stanley Cup game or of not overshadowing the Penguins and Wings they would have sat on this story (odds of that happening are similar to me winning the Conn Smythe. Oh, I should add: I'm not a strong skater).


  1. Anonymous10:56 am

    The souvlaki at John Anderson's was even better. Classic

  2. Anonymous12:34 pm

    So Wilson couldn't get the job done in San Jose, surrounded by talented young players, but MSLE thinks he can achieve success with the modicum of talent the Leafs have? Are we sure JFJ isn't still running the show?

    If there is one guy out there that has proven he can get the most from the least amount of talent, it's Pat Burns. He did it here before.