Should Ron Wilson Be Culpable?

Wins and losses right? In the end that is how coaches and mangers in the sports world are judged. There is no good effort, or nice tries, in the end they get judged and perhaps fired for their in ability to win. Seems pretty simple right? What about coaches who are in the most impossible situations, burdened with untalented talent, no real way to win, is it fair to judge those coaches on wins and losses?

Not easy questions in a results oriented game. Look at our beloved Maple Leafs, last year, Ron Wilson’s first, no one was going to judge him based upon wins and loses. The score at the end of a game, certainly at the beginning of the season was almost immaterial right? What about this season? Should it be any different because the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs said that he expects his team to compete for a playoff spot? Is the fact that the GM made lots of changes to a lineup badly in need of changes enough to change the expectations on that same coach?

Let’s look at the cards dealt Wilson. The goalie who couldn’t stop a puck shaped like a 747 last season has been no better this year. The rookie goalie has played just like one. The savior defencemen brought in to shore up a very weak blueilne haven’t faired anywhere near expectation and the rookie sensation who was the apple of everyone’s eye last year is struggling as many 2nd year NHLers do. His only bright spot so far has been that the guy he benched early last season, Ian White has been his most consistent player and the guy that his GM thought he had traded to Boston to get Phil Kessel is a scoring machine.

Upfront, the team can’t find proverbial water even when falling out of a boat in the ocean. They simply can’t score. Only 7 teams in the NHL have fewer goals for than the Maple Leafs thus far. Only 2 or 3 players are scoring at a pace that will take them close to the 20 goal marker. Kaberle has 2 goals and 19 assists! How incredible is that. Of the goals he hasn’t scored (44) Kaberle has assisted on 19 of them, a whopping 43%. On the powerplay it’s even more all about Kaberle. Of the power play goals that he didn’t score (18) Kaberle has assisted on 12 of them over 66%! Talk about a one man scoring machine.

The powerplay is the only thing that the Leafs can actually feel good about these days. They are tied for 3rd in that department (thank you Tomas Kaberle). I would like to say that we should credit the coaching staff with a successful powerplay, however that same coaching staff is dead last when it comes to penalty kill. That’s as close as we will come to a wash.

Damien points out that under Ron Wilson, the Leafs are a horrid 37-63, certainly not a record that Wilson can be proud of. However, what the hell did anyone expect? As cocky, condescending, or whatever other label we want to slap on Wilson, can anyone really look the guy in the face and say, you should be doing more? From my perspective, Wilson’s job still is not about wins and loses. He is supposed to have a younger team and his job is to ensure that his younger guys are learning to win. His job is to change the culture of a team that has been too comfortable losing for a LONG time. Where Wilson is responsible is those games where his team doesn’t appear to be prepared for the task at hand. What does that mean? To me, it’s when his team looks eerily like the team that used to be coached by Paul Maurice. One game early in Maurice’s last campaign the Buds played Carolina at home in Toronto and got absolutely shelled. That was the look of the team that wasn’t ready to compete. When Wilson and Burke came to power here in Toronto, those were the nights we weren’t supposed to see anymore. Unfortunately, this season we have seen the return of that team on more than one occasion.

In response to Damien, hell yes the honeymoon is over. It’ been over a long time. No, Burke won’t fire his coach until he makes several roster moves. Burke is too loyal to gun WIlson down. He also doesn’t appear too proud to admit that moves he made were mistakes. Unfortunately, as painful and yes uninteresting as the Leafs are so far this season, its probably not going to get any better any time soon. Brian Burke is going to have to pull numerous rabbits out of lots of hats to get this team righted any time soon. I’m betting that Wilson will be around for at least a good part of the ride. The alternative, at least this early stage just wouldn’t be right.



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