Welcome back to the Mecca of Hockey, Ron Wilson.
Many people tend to forget that this is not Ron Wilson’s first visit to the T Dot.
Ron Wilson was a Maple Leafs draft pick back in 1975—however, he only played a spattering of games over three seasons before heading to Switzerland. Now 28 years later, he is back—and he brought a whole new game and frame of mind with him.
Ron Wilson got his coaching start as an assistant in Vancouver under Maple Leafs former Coach and GM Pat Quinn. He was the first coach in the Mighty Ducks' short history. However, he really made his name and developed his defensive coaching style in San Jose, coaching them to four straight playoff appearances.
Now in Toronto, Wilson has introduced the rebuilding Maple Leafs to a defensive-first method of play. The Maple Leafs are showing signs of this method working. However, they are lacking the experience on the back end, with only two proven NHL defensemen with Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle.
For Wilson’s defensive mind set to work with this team, he is in need of another couple NHL veterans to shore up their back end.
Wilson’s big problem is going to be getting the Maple Leafs forwards to buy into this defense first frame of mind. With forwards like Nik Antropov, Matt Satjan, and Jason Blake that can only play offence, this may be too much for these second- and third-line players.
However, Wilson does have some blue collar grinders that can play two-way hockey in Dominic Moore and newly-acquired Lee Stepmniak.
Wilson has coached the Leafs to a record of 11-12-6, which is one game ahead of the Eastern Conference perennial powerhouse Ottawa Senators. THat isn’t too bad for a team predicted to be last in the league this season.
Wilson has brought something unexpected to the Maple Leafs—a never-say-die attitude. No matter how hard you come at this rebuilding Maple Leafs team they do not fall back on their heels. They will out work any team in the league, in any city, in any arena, against any line.
Ron Wilson is slowly turning this team into a pack of blue-collar grinders that will aggravate opposing coaches and players alike.
Also, this new blue-collar Maple Leafs team can never be counted out of a game. Ron McLean said it best in New York when the Maple Leafs were down 2-0 after two periods of play, “The Leafs have got New York right where they want them, ahead by two” .
All this being said, I believe that Ron Wilson has been great behind the bench of the Maple Leafs, and things are only looking up with the hiring of Brian Burke and Dave Nonis. The tandem of Burke and Nonis will bring the right people in that will fit into Ron Wilson’s strategy.
So in this writer's opinion Ron Wilson gets an A+, and should be behind the bench from years to come, bringing the Maple Leafs back to the top of the NHL’s Eastern Conference.