Ron Wilson seems to have difficulty understanding that while his job in Toronto may not be in jeopardy, his reputation certainly is.
Even though general manager Brian Burke has seemingly presented Wilson with a “free pass” for the remainder of this season, Wilson has yet to realize the media is still going to take its share of potshots at him—and deservedly so.
Now into his third season with the Maple Leafs, Wilson has done very little to convince Leaf fans that he is making this hockey team better.
The Buds' play on special teams has undergone marginal improvement, where they rank 20th and 21st league wide in power-play and penalty kill percentage.
Wilson has juggled with a variety of player combinations on the first line, but none have resulted in increased productivity. Meanwhile, the Leafs continue to play sloppily defensively.
Personnel changes aside, this team is playing the same brand of boring, ineffective hockey Leafs teams have since the lockout.
While watching an exciting tilt between Western conference front runners Detroit and Vancouver Saturday night, I couldn’t help but marvel at the passion both teams played with.
Granted, the Red Wings and Canucks boast arguably two of the most talented lineups in all of hockey, but that doesn’t excuse the Leafs for their flat play of late. Passion is passion, and teams with or without a lot of talent can play with it.
As my roommate observed, every puck battle was fiercely contested; a scrum seemed to follow nearly every whistle.
Have you seen much of that in Leafs games this year?
Clearly Ron Wilson is incapable of forcing his players to play this way. But shouldn’t he at least be able to inspire them to play that way?
Wilson does not strike me as the kind of coach with any real ability to empower his players. If his interviews are any indication of the kind of energy he brings to the locker room, Lord help us.
Wilson has shown very little accountability for the Leafs' shortcomings in his conversations with the media. He manages to attribute any and all substandard play solely to the inabilities of his players. He uses “them,” “him” and “he,” but rarely “we.”
As a fan I find that lack of ownership unsettling. Watching Wilson lose his cool in post-game interviews, you begin to get the sense that this is a man whose ego outsizes his passion for the game. Resembling something of a younger Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears, he has been every bit as cantankerous and often disingenuous.
Impatient and increasingly bitter, Wilson had better find a way to inject some levity and energy into the Maple Leafs locker room. If not, Leafs fans might find themselves in for another disappointing season, and—despite the assurances of his GM—Wilson might find himself out of a job.