Jeff Blair+Ron Wilson = Hope For Toronto Sports

There are two things to like this am. One is Jeff Blair’s article on Ron Wilson and Two is Ron Wilson himself.

Blair brings a level of journalism to the daily grind of covering the Maple Leafs we haven’t seen in these parts in a long time. While he doesn’t get overly technical he at least does his homework. When you read his work you can actually hear the guys who he is interviewing say what the quotes say. You don’t have to read things several times over to try to understand what the hell he is talking about.

His account last night on Ron Wilson and his struggles in handling Luke Schenn and Mikhail Grabovski, the two Maple Leafs “rookies” is a really good read.

“”Uh-uh, you never try to take the game in your own hands,” said Schenn, who went into Toronto’s game against the Colorado Avalanche last night with four assists. “[Wilson] took me aside yesterday and said that he wasn’t even worried about me getting points, never mind goals and, well, when your boss tells you that …” he said, letting his voice trail off.Wilson has shown a sensitive side in dealing with Schenn and Grabovski, the 25-year-old centre who hadn’t scored in 11 games going into last night. The pair are clearly not among the players he refers to as “weeds.””

It’s nice to know that the guy who rips some of his guys publicly makes the effort to talk to the younger guys differently. The stuff I saw last night showed me that Schenn took Wilson’s comments to heart and settled down a bit.

“Of the two rookies, Wilson suggested that Grabovski’s woes present a bigger challenge. Wilson refers to Grabovski as “a sensitive person who grinds himself up when things go badly and that only makes things worse.” More to the point, Wilson appeared okay with it.”Luke’s background is different than Mikhail’s,” Wilson said. “[Schenn’s] a physical player. If things are going badly he can get a big hit in and feel as if he’s accomplishing something. With Mikhail, it’s all about making plays and scoring goals and setting up his linemates, and if it’s not happening he gets frustrated. We know we have to be more patient with Mikhail than with Luke.”

No two people are alike and the same rule applies for hockey players. It’s a good sign that Wilson is smart enough to realize that and deal with players differently. This is the exact type of coverage that I want from a reporter in my town. It’s the type of coverage that we don’t see elsewhere. It’s why the Globe is, right now the best sports section in town.

Here are two of the best quotes from Wilson I have seen since he took over:

“Hockey’s a reactionary sport,” Wilson said. “In baseball, you can make adjustments like, say, moving your hand down a tenth of an inch, because you have time to think about it. In hockey, if you’re thinking about making a little adjustment, the play’s probably already happened and you’re standing there wondering why you failed. You can think before a game and do imaging before a game — those are all great ideas — but when the game starts you need an open mind. You need to let it collect experiences.”

“The most fun you have as a coach is seeing people grasp new ideas and employ them and have success with them,” Wilson said. “That’s what we’re going to be going through the next couple of years. We’re going to get even younger. Next year will probably be the same thing, with six or seven rookies. I’m not worrying as much about winning as I am about ensuring these guys get better every day.”

How great would it be to watch a team next year with 6-7 rookies??? How much differently do you think Wilson look’s at Blair when he asks the types of questions that garner these types of responses? It’s a really interesting to read this type of stuff.

“It doesn’t take spending a great deal of time around the Leafs to realize that Schenn and Grabovski, as well as Mike Van Ryn and Jeff Finger, are viewed through a different lens than players who were here previously. And that’s how it should be. Wilson gets a pass for this season because of the mess he inherited, and while he won’t be expected to win the Stanley Cup next season, he and his staff will be judged on how Schenn and Grabovski improve. Will Schenn better know how to read the flow of the game? Will Grabovski improve on faceoffs and, in Wilson’s words, “learn to stomp on a loose puck, particularly in the defensive zone?”That will be the beginning of Wilson’s body of work with the Maple Leafs, the way the success or failure of him and his staff is measured. That, too, is how it should be.”

I once worked at a place where after the “season” ended (it was a seasonal place) the new manager said that the only way that the business would run efficiently was when all the old employees were gone. He was right. Whenever you try and instill change you have people who are resistant to it. Those who have been around the longest seem to make the most noise because the tend to lose (not loose) their “seniority”. It is easy for them to say, “That’s not the way we do it around here” or “That is not the way _________ used to do it.” Wilson and Burke will probably find it a lot easier to get buy in from new leafs then from old for the same reason.

6-7 rookies next year- how awesome does that sound???? Bring on 09-10!

you can read Blair here

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