As we all watch the Leafs play their most inspired hockey (in a meaningful time frame) since probably the end of the 2003-‘04 season, something keeps coming back to me:
Have we seen Ron Wilson at his best yet behind the Leaf bench?
I raise this because, if we believe that coaches have an impact on team and individual player performance, and I do, if you just look at the final “results” from Wilson’s first three years in Toronto, his time here may well be judged a failure. If, despite this wonderful push, the Leafs don’t quite make the playoffs this spring, that will mark the third straight year under
that they fell short. (Seven years overall, but who’s counting?) Wilson
We could, on the other hand, say, “He has the team playing really well now...they're the third-best team since the All-Star break” and suggest his patience, teaching and leadership has helped this young squad turn the corner.
I think back to his time in
, and Anaheim, Washington . At each stop, he spent about five seasons, if I’m not mistaken, and helped lead Washington and San Jose in particular to a degree of success. He took the Caps to the finals, and has seen his teams have fairly deep runs in the playoffs. He had a very talented team in San Jose , and while they never made it to the finals, they were a certainly a powerhouse squad under his tutelage. San Jose
In any event, Burke has continued to re-make the car during
’s entire time behind the Leaf bench. That was (and remains) a necessary process, and through the roster changes the Leafs have not quite met expectations—until now. Wilson
The penalty-killing has been a sore spot during a lot of
’s tenure, and the power play not much better, at least on a consistent basis. And those things are often attributed to coaching, though surely personnel has something to do with it. Wilson
As those of you who follow this site well know, I’m not a fan of Ron’s rather acerbic and dour ways with the local media when asked questions he doesn’t like (which are many). It’s not that I care, it just makes him look constantly unhappy, which is a shame when he has one of the best jobs in the entire sporting world. Whatever- it's his life, his choice.
But as a coach, I just sense that we have not seen
Wilson play with a full deck just yet in . And for that, and other reasons, it seems logical that Burke will extend Toronto as soon as this season is over. He has hitched his wagon to Wilson so far, and the roster tinkering continues, as it must. Wilson
I believe that Burke wants to see (not only because he thinks it’s the fair thing, but because he believes
is actually the right person to lead this team) what the veteran coach can do with a better roster, which is now beginning to slowly take shape. Wilson
And, so do I.