If you have been to this site on a somewhat regular basis, you will know that I have posted a number of times about Ron Wilson.
I can’t much criticize him as a coach. I mean, yes, the special teams have been pretty lousy the three years that he has been here and the Leafs have yet to make the playoffs under his leadership.
And yes, he’s never “won a Cup”, but a lot of really good coaches have never won a Cup. The man has coached successfully in international competitions and we should acknowledge the guy, by any standards the casual fan can use, has been a “good” NHL head coach. (If he hasn’t been “good”, then there are a lot of lousy coaches out there…His win-loss record and career win totals are up there…)
My annoyance has had much more to do with his demeanor and his attitude which seems designed to put people off—and not just the local media who would annoy a lot of us at the best of times with their persistently simplistic and often ill-timed questions.
But Ron just goes off sometimes for no apparent reason. I’m sure you’ve seen this countless times after a game or practice, during his little daily scrums. A reporter will say a guy played well, and Wilson makes a sarcastic comment about building statues to the player. (The reporter was just lobbing a hanging curve, just looking to get an easy quote, likely…) If he is ever questioned about strategy, he bristles, as though no one should dare ask him that question, since he is the professional coach.
He obviously doesn’t have much regard for media types, or the fans, though I’m sure he would say he has no issue with the fans. But it is through the media prism that we get the new most of the time, and when he dumps on the reporters, he is also dismissing the fan base with his defensive posture.
But now we come to this Franson thing. We all heard the young defenseman express…what’s the proper term….bewilderment at being told he was sitting out the first two games of the regular season. Now, he is back in the line-up for the Flames game Saturday night, but Wilson has said, somewhat caustically, that Franson better play well because he basically has a target on his back.
In other words, the coaching staff knows what you said and we’ll be watching you like a hawk. Don’t screw up or, since you broke the “code”, you’ll be back in the press box.
Is that peculiar, or what?
Hey, I get that we (and the coaches) want our athletes to be “team guys” and suck it up when they have to sit, but I can’t say I’m shocked that a young guy who has some nice elements to his game is wondering what the hell is going on here. I mean, Franson is not Bobby Orr and the Leafs have the makings of a decent blueline corps, but, as I said the other day, this isn’t exactly the 1977 Montreal Canadiens, either, with Lapointe, Robison and Savard occupying the top three sports on defense.
So the player spoke out, sort of. Coaches hate having their decisions questioned, especially by their players, and even more particularly in public by the players, via the media.
But that said, don’t the Leafs want guys on the team who want to play, and aren’t satisfied just sitting around and collecting their bloated pay checks?
It’s just a tad confusing. I get both sides of this one, and normally I might “side”, if you can call it that, with the coach.
But I just wonder how much the Leaf coach communicates with his players, eh? Not that the player being benched at any point in time will be happy if you’re a swell guy and speak with him privately to tell him he’s not playing while patting him on the back—though that might help a little. But I have to believe that if there had been real man-to-man chats ongoing between the head coach (not the assistant coach, they don’t make these decisions) and the offended player, this would not have “gone public”.
I have no idea what Franson is going to bring to the table. He may be really good. He may be ordinary. Maybe Gardiner will be so good we won’t care about Cody Franson in six months.
But the Leafs traded for the guy. Burke talked him up leading into the season. He has already played in 140 or so NHL games and another 16 playoff games. (How many Leafs can say that?) And you open the season and the guy is on the bench. Players, especially guys new to the organization who have been with other clubs, are anxious to “prove” their worth to management and fans.
They can’t do that sitting upstairs.
This all goes back to what we have talked about on this site this week: the decision to have young Gardiner jump the queue. That one decision (which was unnecessary, in my view) has caused a “minor stir”, as they might have said on Seinfeld years ago. This will probably be smoothed over over. These things usually are, but add this to the list of reasons I wish Gardiner had simply started the season with the Marlies.