On Christmas Day, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson tiptoed downstairs and tweeted to his followers that he had received a very special gift this year: a brand spanking new contract extension. Well, that and a Red Ryder BB Gun:
"He came! He came!" Remember saying that as a little kid? Well he did: I got a new Red Ryder BB gun and a contract extension!— Ron Wilson (@coachrw63) December 25, 2011
Although GM Brian Burke has not confirmed this, Wilson’s contract extension is believed to be only for one year (according to TSN’s Darren Dreger) which means that Burke has the flexibility to find someone else if he isn’t happy with the final results for his team at the end of the regular season and playoffs.
My Bleacher Report colleague Mark Colvin rightly pointed out that this move was done more to erase distractions from the dressing room and concentrate on winning games than to provide actual job security of the coach. I’ll go one step further.
Brian Burke is a very outspoken and confident individual who believes that he has assembled enough talent to go far in this year’s playoffs. Worst penalty-killing unit in the league aside, there have been many signs this year that he just might have a point.
Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul are amongst the top 10 in scoring and were selected as All-Stars. Dion Phaneuf, an All-Star starter, is a force to be reckoned with at both ends of the rink. Jonas Gustavsson is finally providing some solid goaltending after two subpar years with the team. Finally, there are many role players like Dave Steckel, Mike Brown, Colby Armstrong and Joey Crabb that provide badly-needed depth and sandpaper.
It says right here that Ron Wilson will be fired as head coach if the Leafs do not make it past the first round of the playoffs or at least don’t put up a good fight in the first round and show promise for the next year. Wilson has had three-and-a-half-seasons to implement his systems and find a winning combination. This team has been fairly good so far, but it will ultimately be playoff performance that makes the difference.
With Randy Carlyle currently unemployed and Dallas Eakins doing an excellent job coaching the Toronto Marlies to first place in the AHL’s East Division, familiar options are available to Burke. Although he has a great relationship with Wilson, Burke will probably not hesitate any further. It just isn’t his style.
So hang on to that Red Ryder BB Gun, Ron. At least you know for sure you’ll have it beyond this year.