Leafs coach set to crack the whip
Seven years of living in the Rocky Mountains with the Colorado Avalanche taught John-Michael Liles a few things about wild weather patterns.
But just a few weeks in Toronto and the veteran defenceman has already seen dramatic swings in the hockey climate of the Air Canada Centre.
From a team that opened with a hot record of 5-0-1 at home, to a cold spell of 0-3 and outscored 17-3.
From October ovations when the Leafs saluted their fans post-game at centre ice, to getting booed off the pond Saturday when three team greats were feted for Hall of Fame induction.
From a fling in first overall to hearing the “fire Wilson” chants.
The ACC revealed its nasty side the past three games, a sobering message for new Leafs who might have thought working here would be 41 games with a forgiving fan base. Liles, one of eight players new to the team, insists he’s not discouraged about the fickle nature of the locals.
“Coming from someone who played in a different organization, you get excited to play here,” Liles insisted. “It’s a great building, you know it’s going to be a sellout every night and the majority of the time be on national TV. So you want to make it tough for other teams to come in and play.
“I love playing here, but I know it’s a place that other teams look forward to coming to because of the atmosphere.”
Coach Ron Wilson has seen this schizophrenic streak before. But with the danger of another promising start petering out — adversely affecting playoff chances and his own contract extension — he’s about to come down hard. Saturday’s post-game comments weren’t filtered to protect players who have not been keeping with the program.