Ron Wilson behind the Mapleleafs bench on December 31st
First off, let’s look at the Toronto Maple Leafs, before Wilson got there.
The Leafs had already missed the playoffs the previous three seasons, all since the NHL lockout. Right after the lockout, the Leafs had an aging core, led by Mats Sundin and Eddie Belfour. The now Hall of Fame goaltender, the Eagle, looked like he had aged more than five years during the one-year lockout.
Additionally, the new generation, which was not drafted well, was not ready to take over for the team in Steen, Stajan and Colaiacovo.
Management’s John Ferguson Jr. and coach Paul Maurice did not have much to work with, and were unable to take the team even a step back to playoff contention by filling in gaps.
During those three years, they tried filling the big hole in net with both Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala, who were not the answers.
The Leafs had just missed the playoffs by one position with one and two points, respectively, during the 06-07 and 07-08 seasons. Then they dropped considerably the third season in 08-09, finishing in 12th and being 11 points out of postseason action.
The team was at the bottom in penalty killing, gradually getting worse despite a decent power play and leading after two periods.
During that last season, the main core, nicknamed the "Muskoka five," did not allow themselves to be traded, most having a no-movement clause. It did hurt in the transition to rebuild, but captain Sundin and co. thought it would be better to go down with the ship in their minds.
Management had to have a different view, so new-age thinking coach Ron Wilson was brought in during the offseason. Midway into the 08-09 season, Brian Burke was given the helm of the team to manage.
Burke then tried to start by making the team more truculent and pugnacious, while working on getting more depth, better youth and proper scouting.
In doing so, Wilson didn't have to work with, also. The “Muskoka Five” was gone, and he had to pick up the pieces and get this team in the right direction and play bearable ice hockey.
This proved to be very hard.
During the next three seasons under Wilson, the Leafs were 12th, then 15th (at the bottom) and then 10th last season in the Eastern Conference. Somehow, the team still has one of the worst penalty kills and are currently at the bottom of the basement this season.
However, their power play is in the top five, and in leading after two periods, they are tied for first with four other teams in the league.
This season looks brighter, as the Leafs are currently sitting in seventh place in the conference. Also, since the middle of last season, they have been a playoff-contending team and also happen to be the youngest team in the NHL.
Statistically, the Toronto Maple Leafs are moving in the right direction, but there are a few things they need to improve drastically.
Ron’s demeanor might not be appealing in the Toronto media, but what should be discussed is how the team is doing. They are on pace for seventh place and 93+ points, which they haven’t topped since being a playoff team before the lockout.
How much does Ron Wilson really deserve a contract extension? From the outside looking in, he’s still a question mark. If the team does not keep improving, then more then just Wilson’s head will roll.
In my opinion, it is still too early to tell.