May Be Time To Can Wilson

With a 0-5-1 record, its maybe time for a coaching change in Toronto.

Yes, its only been 88 games into Ron Wilson’s career as coach of the Maple Leafs but already he appears to have lost the attention of the players.

While the demise of the team early this season is not all his doing, he is part of the problem. And as the old saying goes, its easier to can the coach than dump 20 players, especially in a cap world.

So a change behind the bench seems the most logical move.

The team has given up a league worst 27 goals in the 6 losses. They are barely over 50% in terms of penalty killing success rate and all the problems from last year, where shoddy defence did them in, its rearing its ugly head again this season.

Indeed, it seems unfair. They dont have arguably their best forward in the lineup. They’ve lost both goalies to injury and there is a host of new players resulting in some time needed to gel.

But its not working.

From this point of view, Wilson is trying to make lasagna our of lemons. He has seemingly tried to make his team play a style completely not suited to the talents given to him.

He wants his team to be aggressive, be physical and be a full out, hard forechecking team. That simply cannot be done with the makeup of this group.

6 of their top 9 forwards are European. They simply do not play that kind of hockey over there. It isnt a stereotype or a Don Cherry bias. Its the truth.

Yes they are good skaters and have skill, but ask them to try and put opponents through the glass, well thats just a waste of time.

They have the weakest group of centres in the league. Sadly rookie Bozak is arguably their best two-way centre along with journeyman Wallin. Key cogs like Stajan, Grabovski and Mitchell are either too soft or lack enough defensive awareness to handle the role.

It does not help either having an ultra small group up front. Sure there’s Orr but there is no one on the roster who would have defencemen looking over their shoulder.

Blake and Grabovski are tiny. Wallin, Stempniak, Hagman and Kulemin are not strong enough to win puck battles. Ponikarovsky and Stajan are two of the most softest forwards in the league. And to expect rookies like Stalberg or Bozak to carry the load is asking for trouble.

The makeup of this team seems best suited to play a strong transition style with emphasis on positioning and quickness rather than brute strength and nastiness. Sure GM Brian Burke wants truculence and belligerence but this group is far from that.

They are not suited to being a forecheck team. Maybe a team that plays trap or left-wing lock or heck even the Swedish torpedo is probably better. To expect a player like say Ponikarovsky to change his whole game and be the next Cam Neely and start pile driving people is plain stupid.

Using a more passive style that leans more on speed and smarts has to be the best route as they seem over aggressive and are showing complete neglect to positioning.

The style of play hurts the D as well as they seem hell bent on making something happen physically out of nothing. The likes of Beauchemin, Komisarek, Exelby and Schenn have tried much too hard to establish a physical game. While the crowds would love a bone crunching hit, playing steady D is appreciated by the true hockey fan.

If they hold their position, the ability to make something big happen, just happens. Right now they are looking too hard to being an aggressive, hardnosed team and they simply cannot play that way.

Using that style is a fault of the staff not recognizing what a team has and using its strengths.

Lets take the Predators as an example. Coach Barry Trotz had them playing a high octane offence when they had Kariya, Forsberg, Radulov among other key stars. When they became depleted, they were turned into a rather passive, strict defence first team. The coach recognized the look of the roster and adapted accordingly.

Unless Wilson can do that in the next 11 days (with just 1 game in that time), he deserves to be canned. He has not shown any willingness to budge of his game plan. Be it arrogance or stubborness or job security of a 4 year contract who knows. But its about time he steps up or steps aside.

We all know goaltending has let the team down so far. Outside of the 2-1 loss where “the Monster” played well, its been a weak effort in goal the other 5 losses. It has been deflating not getting the big save or even the first save. Its why a good goalie always makes a coach look good.

But the problems of the Leafs go beyond goaltending right now. The team is not responding, have looked like quitters and are not heeding the advice from the coaches. That’s why a change behind the bench may be the most sensible move.

It would be a bitter pill to swallow for Burke as Wilson is a friend and his coach at the Olympics. But the team that employs him has been dreadful and something must be done with that, regardless of the optics.

People have called for a mulligan on the Kessel trade. People are calling for the heads of Blake and Toskala. People cannot wait to see Finger and Stempniak cast away. People want young Nazem Kadri to carry the load now.

But at the end of the day, its not going to matter. The team improved vastly on paper this off season. Surely not all of these newcomers suddenly stopped knowing how to play hockey in 6 games. They should be improved but are not.

A roster makeover, a full camp and 15 exhibition and regular season games combined has done nothing to improve the team. For that, maybe its time a new voice starts pointing them in the right direction.

We can look at it 2 ways. With just 1 game over the next 11 days, maybe Wilson gets the reprieve and gets the chance to start anew and changes things up. Or, with this light sked, maybe a change now, allowing the new coach lots of time to teach and practice would be just what the tonic ordered.

There are some candidates. Damian Cox in his article on passingly mentioned some guy named Gretzky as a possibility. While a longshot, that would be maybe the shock and awe move to have an impact and easily be the sexiest move made.

Or they could turn to experienced fellows like MacTavish, Carbonneau, Nolan, Hartley, Laviolette, Keenan, Therrien, among others.

No matter who, at some point the players will have to start listening. And the safe bet is they will… long as it’s not Wilson’s voice.

106 Responses to May Be Time To Can Wilson

  1. mojo19 says:

    You posted those links, now read them! I think they should put your mind at ease. The first link is to a really good article by nords, which is almost identical to the article written in the star today by Damian Cox.

    Lots of reasons to be optimistic here! But I don't understand why you would post a link to something that argues against what you're trying to argue??? I was going to try to find that same link to show you!

  2. leafy says:

    Anything is possible. Jack Layton could be prime minister. George Clooney could get married. Paris Hilton could announce she's a virgin.

    But playing the odds, I'd take my chances with two top 5 draft picks over Kessel.  And I'm sure Burke would too. He just miscalculated on the Leafs performance this year, which is entirely his fault.

  3. leafy says:

    I didn't post Nords' article for the article itself. I posted it for the comments below it. I took a lot of flack for sticking to my guns, but so far, I wasn't too far off, no?

    A sidenote on Damian Cox: he's sort of a mixed bag. Sometimes he's extremely smart, but sometimes he's way off. Do you remember how thrilled when the Leafs got Owen Nolen? Then later on, he was complaining about how the Leafs squandered too much future. He's the biggest second guesser in the media.

  4. mojo19 says:

    He's hot and cold, but for a guy who's mostly negative and critical of the Leafs its nice to see him write something like this.

    by the way I recently found errors in a Cox and Steve Simmons article. Last week Cox wrote that its okay Kadri didnt make the team and for the record Bozak and Hanson are still looking for their first goals as pro's as well. Hmmm really Cox? I recall Hanson scoring vs Marty Brodeur late last season. And Steve Simmons wrote that someone who is too young and didnt do their research listed Sundin ahead of Salming on the Leafs all time great's list. He then went on to say that Sundin was never selected to be a first or second team all star. Ironic that Simmons called out someone else for not doing their research because Sundin was the 2nd team All star Centre for the NHL in 2002 when he finished 2nd in the NHL in goals. Bad Simmons. That season by the way, in the midst of the clutch and grab era, Iginla was the only 50 goal man, and only Guerin and Sundin cracked 40.

  5. mojo19 says:

    You'll be disapointed when the Leafs don't draft in the top 5 then.

  6. cam7777 says:

    you're breaking up the bad yoko.  us leaf fans have to stick together, or risk being shat on by the lunacy that is bbruins, lafleur, and other biased morons who look for every possible oppurtunity to harass us. 

    lots of teams haven't played up to snuff this year.  calgary just had a 3 game losing streak.  what if they have another one, and lose six of 7 games?  is their season a write off?  the habs are in worse shape than the leafs as of now.  with the way things look, they can only get worse, while we can only get better.  they've lost 4 in a row.  the wild, the preds, the panthers, lots of teams underperforming by a landslide.  there's also lots of teams performing way over their heads in colorado and phoenix (and in my opinion, the rangers too, although they are not as big of a surprize as the other two).  let's just wait till game 15 or 20 to decide if the Leafs season is ruined and the Bruins have acquired Taylor Hall.

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