It’s hard to argue that Ron Wilson has been anything other than a highly successful NHL coach. The fact that he has not a Stanley Cup does not diminish, for me at least, his standing in the game.
He has made
Washington, Anaheim and better on his watch and has won more games as a coach than all but a handful of guys in the history of the game. San Jose
The guy can coach.
That said, it’s hard not to notice the players’ poll (over 300 NHL players, administered by Hockey Night in Canada and the NHLPA) released on Sunday at the All-Star game in
. While the “poll” seems to suggest that while Raleigh Toronto remains a preferred destination for many players (while not near the top of the "want to play there" list, only 5% said it was where they least wanted to play), when it comes to coaches, 24% of the players responding evidently named as the coach they would least like to play for. Wilson
Now, sometimes guys have an ‘at-a-distance’ impression of a coach that really isn’t fair. And, once they play for him or get to know him, they actually like playing for him.
, as I’ve often posted over the past year or so, seems to be growing ever more impatient as his time behind the Leaf bench doesn’t produce the kind of results he is accustomed to achieving. Now three years into his “program”, the team is better on paper and has a completely re-vamped roster, but it still finds itself staring up at a lot of teams in the NHL Eastern Conference standings. Wilson
Some months ago I wondered aloud why a guy with his track record, with arguably the best job in hockey in the best hockey market in the world, would sound so unhappy so often? (Click to see the earlier story.)
I still don’t understand it.
That an intense individual is frustrated by his team’s relative lack of success, sure, we all get that. It’s a wins and losses business. And often unfair to coaches.
fans have not been impatient or unfair. If anything, they are unbelievably patient and supportive. So much so that they are willing, yet again, to buy into another GM’s re-build— even after that GM initially stressed that he had no patience for a five year re-build, which is exactly what we are in the midst of now. Toronto
And the media? This is the same media that every
coach has to deal with. Some coaches have been more gracious than others. And yes, it can be difficult dealing with the daily questions. But a Toronto post-game “press conference” is usually filled with uncomfortable silences, caustic replies to simple questions and abrupt endings. Wilson
Now, does any of this impact why a player may not want to play for him? I have no idea. Privately, the company line is that he is good with the players, spends time with them—and is well regarded by his players, some of whom have defended him earnestly in public when the media suggests he could be fired.
But there has to be a reason why one quarter of the players who took part in this poll named him as the guy they would least want to play for.
It doesn’t mean he’s not a good coach. It doesn’t mean he won’t help turn the Leafs around.
It will just be a shame if, whenever he leaves this job, he looks back and regrets that he didn’t enjoy a great gig a whole lot more.