Silver Lining: Burke, Wilson Return To Toronto After Proving Their Worth

Jon Neely@@iamjonneelyAnalyst IMarch 2, 2010

It's been a whirlwind 48 hours for Ron Wilson and Brian Burke. Sunday afternoon they stood in front of the world as their team fought in a battle of epic proportions for the Gold Medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

And in case your life is on an NBC time-delay, they lost.

And after the game that was the definition of an emotional rollercoaster, after Sidney Crosby had crushed the hopes of anyone not wearing a maple leaf on their chest, and after Wilson and Burke watched their players collect their Silver Medals, it was back to Toronto to their real jobs.

Not sure what's worse—watching your Gold Medal hopes slip away in overtime or returning to your actual team that doesn't have a snowball's chance on Cyprus Mountain of getting anywhere close to a championship game.

The only other silver these men will be seeing this season in Toronto will be from their golf bags.

And it doesn't help that they're simply flying from one Canadian hockey-crazed city to another—the only difference being in Vancouver its "Louuu", in Toronto its "Booo."

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Yes, it should be quite the change for both the general manager and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, back from Vancouver with the taste of defeat still fresh on their breath and still 21 games remaining in the NHL regular season to sit through. It should be an interesting final two months around here.

Entering the Olympics Team USA was not expected to have a shot at the gold medal, nevermind being one goal away from Olympic glory. But Burke and his crew put together a team the way he always has believed in: six top forwards, six grind guys. And it worked.

Led by the strong play of Zach Parise and the out-of-this-world play by goaltender Ryan Miller, the American team didn't lose a game, didn't even trail in a game as they battled their way through the tournament until they were lined up to face off against the Canadians in what would become one of the greatest hockey games ever played.

They fell just short, and though you'll be hard-pressed to hear either man admit they're satisfied with the results, what they did was remarkable. They took a team that was said not to stand a chance and brought them a stone's throw away from winning it all.

Sounds sort of familiar, doesn't it? Two men brought in to take a team from low-expectations and not enough skill to standing at the top of the hockey world with a chance at a championship.

Okay, so the first part does anyways. That whole "chance at a championship" part still has a lot of work in front of it. But Leaf fans should take solace in the fact that the two men who are expected to turn the Leaf franchise back into a respectable one just did it on the world stage, and it only took two weeks.

Certainly the skill level between Team USA and the Maple Leafs differs greatly, with better offense, defense, and goaltending—not to mention more exciting to watch—but with the trade deadline looming, and a massive facelift already underway, the Olympics should be proof that these men know what they're doing. All it takes is the right mix of toughness, talent, and some outstanding goaltending to have yourself a team that can compete.

We watched as All-Star Russian and Swedish Teams crumbled under the pressure, the slew of offensively gifted players not able to gel together fast enough to win games when it mattered. But then came along little old USA and their grumpy old GM proclaiming at every chance he got that they were the underdogs.

Because they were.

Just like the Leafs are. Actually, the Leafs are more like that ugly, homeless dog that's being crushed underneath the underdog, but you get the point.

We now have something to look at and say, yeah, these guys know what they're doing! It will take a little (more) time, it will take a little (more) patience, but the evidence is now there to say it can be done.

But until that time, it's back to reality for Burke and Wilson. Back to the everyday grind of being a last-placed team in the center of the hockey universe, chants of "Let's Go Canada" still ringing in their ears.

It's back from one of the toughest losses they'll ever face in their careers in hockey, only to rejoin a team that has a lot more of them in their future.

Only time will tell if this Leaf team will rise just as the American team did, but in a funny twist a fate, that might be something Burke and Wilson now have thanks to their loss to Team Canada.

Because even though their team is the worst in the NHL, it will be a long time before any Leaf fan is caught without a smile on their face.

And they can thank Sidney Crosby and Team Canada for that.