To Fire or Not to Fire: The Problem of Employing a Close Friend

For certain reasons the word around Toronto media is that Ron Wilson’s job is secured for the near future. Why? Well a few common reasons are cited:

1: This is a team in rebuild mode. You don’t want to fire your coach for doing poorly when he has nothing to work with.

2: Toronto has had a very poor core of players to work with. You can’t blame the coach if no one is producing.

3: Wilson’s system works. The quick, offensive minded attack and point-shot-screen powerplay gets the job done, it just needs to be executed properly.

4: And finally, Wilson is a close friend of Brian Burke. If anyone knows the team and the coach, it’s the GM; he makes the calls and should know when Wilson’s time is up.

Well, if these four points are in fact true, then Wilson should stay on for the time being. There are a few problems, however.
The first point is difficult to argue against. The simple fact is that the team is still rebuilding since blowing up the JFJ team. One of the only problems is that the the team’s total number of points at the end of the regular season has been going in a downward trend since Burke took over and Wilson stepped in as coach (83,81,74 in the last 3 full seasons). Yes, the Leafs have had great streaks where they appear to be a team that could content for a spot in the post season, but they have also been mired in abysmal losing streaks that cost the leafs standing in the conference.
: The leafs are rebuilding, but seem to be getting worse.

Secondly, the argument is that the leafs have a weak roster and Wilson is working with what he has. The last two years in particular have seen an influx of talented players (e.g. Kessel, Phaneuf, Giguere, Versteeg, Armstrong, MacArthur) and the youth has began to develop (e.g. Schenn, Kulemin, Grabo [although mostly recently], Bozak, Gustavsson). How, then, is Wilson losing more games than 4 years ago? If no one produces, bring in producers, if they can’t turn the light on in the other end and keep the puck out of the net in their own, take a long hard look at the coaching staff.
: The teams seems to have gotten better – particularly defence and goaltending – but the points just aren’t raking up.

Now on to Wilson’s system. The per-season and first 5 or so games saw a quick, energetic team press the attack with confidence in their D and G. Fast, short passes with quick movement in the neutral zone led to chances, goal, and wins; in the meantime, a reliable Giguere and smart back end kept bad goals out and fed the disk up the ice. And then… well that’s just it, it’s hard to say what even happened. Impossible stretch passes, countless turnovers in all ends of the ice, a few weak goals (although otherwise the net has been the best, IMO), and an almost total inability to score. The leafs seem like a completely different team since mid October.
Conclusion: This year the roster is the same, but the results are dramatically different week to week.

Finally, we come to possibly the most critical component: the friendship factor. I think there is little doubt that Burke knows hockey, but is it possible his judgement is being clouded by his affection for Ron? As we’ve seen above, the leafs are getting worse season over season since the duo took over, the team seems to have gotten better but the points haven’t, and – on a more micro scale – the team is inconsistent and seem unable to win many games.
So what’s the conclusion here? Is Mr Wilson doing as good a job as he can with a young, offensively challenged team, or is he unable to sell his players on his style and unable to get them to play consistently? Even if they don’t win em all, the Leafs should look like the same team from one night to another.

So the question becomes, is Ron Wilson’s job safe because of Burke, or in spite of Burke? Would another GM have moved on by now, or at least in the near future (providing things stay the same)? Or is he good enough to be kept on, despite another losing record?


Post Script: For the Love of Hockey, if all you want to do is leave an anti Leaf comments, or personal hatred for some player, or myself, or anyone else that comments: just don’t! This form is for people who care about what is being discussed. If this doesn’t interest you just read something else.

85 Responses to To Fire or Not to Fire: The Problem of Employing a Close Friend

  1. TheLeafNation91 says:

    So…Wow, after tonight I'm just rattled. Stupid, the Leafs play stupid hockey, and this is why they lose 8 of their last 10…

    1. Komisarek's great assist on Cammalleri's goal
    2. Grabovski not taking the C on Halpern's goal
    3. ALL the STUPID turnovers

    Who are we to blame? Theirs no Toskala and Raycroft…THE GOALTENDING HAS BEEN GREAT THIS YEAR

    The DEFENCE is very good with good players (Even Komisarek minus his blip tonight has been very good the last while)

    The OFFENCE is not great, but then again, Phoenix is not that much better but they manage.

    SO WHO DO I BLAME???? RON WILSON. Continuous stupidity that is not fixed is on the coach, not the players. The Leafs COULD of easiuy won that game, or atleast take it to a 0-0 tie after regulation but STUPID mistakes that players constantly make costed them tonight. And I blame coaching tonight.

    Burke better smarten up and realize that Wilson's tactics are not working, I realized it after a long time but now I'm positive. This season might get pretty ugly, pretty soon.


  2. leafy says:

    I applaud Don Cherry for calling out Wilson's bullshit.

    After Thursday's game, despite Kadri having a very good game, Wilson immediately said Kadri has "nasty habits".

    But as Cherry pointed out Saturday, Wilson only said that to justify his decision to cut Kadri when the season started.

    I, for one, didn't buy Wilson's baloney comment for one second. Kadri had a great game and he knew. He's a total ass hole.

  3. leafy says:

    Re the goaltending, I hope now you can see why I believe Gustavsson should be the Leafs no 1 even after Giggy comes back.

    He's on top of his game right now, and playing better than Giguere. He's coming into his own as an NHL goalie, and the last thing you need is having him sit again. He should be playing every game I think.

  4. TheLeafNation91 says:

    I'm probably going to get reamed by Leaf fans for this, but at some point do the Leafs dangle Jussi Rynnas infront of other teams face.

    Gustavsson looks like a number one, and trading Rynnas would be scary, as he's one of our top prospects and destroying the AHL this year.

    I don't know, I feel like his value is getting high and trading him could get a decent center or center prospect atleast from a team needoing a goalie or about to need 1.

  5. leafy says:

    Time for people to talk about Stamkos in the same class as Crosby and Ovechkin. He's that good.

  6. lafleur10 says:

     that was a great game last night! the goaltending was outstanding price and gustavsson sure put on a show!price is starting to show that we made the right decision in trading halak,price right now is in a zone.the leafs have nothing to worry about with this gustavsson kid they are set in goal,if it wasn't for him i have no doubt that the score would've 6 or 7-0 easily!

     mike komisarek had a beautiful assist on cammalleri's goal! lol

  7. leafmeister says:

    Alright Burke. Here is the plan:

    Trade Deadline: Kaberle to SJ for Devin Setoguchi, 2nd – We need some forwards.

    Over the summer:

    Komisarek, 3rd to Atlanta for Jim Slater – Salary dump. Atlanta can take it, they gain a 3rd, and get a decent, albeit extremly overpaid defensemen who can eat up some quality minutes. It would allow them to move Byfuglian to forward.

    Beauchemin to Dallas for Steve Ott – Moving the money from defense to forward, particularly the bottom 6 should be the intention until this can be done:

    Sign Steven Stamkos to an 10 year, 110 million dollar deal.

    Sacrifice 4 1st rounders? Done. The Leafs have the franchise player locked down for the next 10 years. Tampa gets 4 1sts which is a pretty bad deal, but given the financial situation, and the other big money guys there, I dont think they could match. Stamkos does not have much choice in the matter, but he was a Leaf fan growing up, and he is friends with Schenn, so TO would be a perfect destination.
    Resign Luke Schenn 4 years, 4 million per. Resign Devin Setoguchi 2 years, 1.3 per. Resign Mike Brown, 1 year, 750,000. Resign Tyler Bozak, 1 year, 1.5 million (I think he still has a good future, but he is a massive slump, so he will come cheap) Fred Sjostrom, 1 year, 750,000, Resign Carl Gunnarsson 2 years, 1.8 mil per. Resign JS Giguere 1 year, 1.5 mil (He likes, Burke, and TO, and Marty Turco money would suit him fine.)

    Trade Grabo to whoever will take him.

    UFA Period: Sign Ian White to a 3 year, 9 million dollar deal – He played good hockey here. Sign Christian Erhoff 4 years, 3.8 per.

    Next year:
    Nazem Kadri (1.9) – Steven Stamkos (A) (11) – Phil Kessel (5.4)
    Devin Setoguchi(1.3) – Tyler Bozak (1.5) – Nikolai Kulemin (2.3)
    Kris Versteeg (3) – Steve Ott (2.95) – Colby Armstrong (3)
    Fredrick Sjostrom (.75) – Jim Slater (1) – Colton Orr (1)
    Mike Brown (.75)

    Dion Phaneuf(C)(6.5) – Luke Schenn(A)
    Ian White (3) – Christian Ehrhoff (3.8)
    Keith Aulie (.75) – Carl Gunnarsson (1.8)

    Jonas Gustovsson (1.3)
    JS Giguere (1.5)
    Total: 58.5 mil

    Move the roster away from a massively expensive defense who leads the league in turn overs, to a deadly forward core, with scoring on every line except the 4th, and solid, reasonably priced, defense. It is built top 6, bottom 6, as Burke likes. I know Burke likes his defense big, over priced and slow, but once he sees a mobile, solid, more offensively minded group, I think he would change his mind. Immediate Cup contenders? Maybe, but they certainly would be within 3 years.

    And finally, a move that will get everyone on my side: Fire Ron Wilson, his massive ego, and his inability to take criticism. Build the new coaching staff around Dale Hunter and Doug Gilmour.

  8. leafmeister says:

    No kidding. Habs fans should cheer Komisarek. He did a hell of a lot more for them then he did for us. It was a shame to see such a great effort by Gustovsson wasted by Komisarek's boneheaded play.

    I just hope they put on a show like that on Feb. 12. Im hittin' MTL for that game.

  9. lafleur10 says:

    hahahahahaha………komisarek  was saying that he missed playing for a winner and in a winning environment and was sending a message that he want's to come home! lol hahaha just a little humour there leafmeister but yeah that game that you are going to in mtl should be lots of fun especially if our 2 goaltenders play that type of game again!

  10. realistic_leafs_fan says:

    I know, it's ridiculous this guy still is coaching here.

    He underachieved in San Jose and he is doing the same here!!!

    Stupid plays come back to coaching. Yes, it's the player that makes the stupid play…but it's the coach that puts in the systems and discipline.


    If Burke believes he has brought in the right players…then coaching is the problem.

    Except for Grabo, and Kadri in his junior years…I have not heard of these players being a problem on their previous teams.

    I don't know how many times I have to say this…We are a better team with worse results. Coaching, plain and simple.

    Finally a couple of Leafs fans agree!

  11. realistic_leafs_fan says:

    I get the frustration.

    Dale Hunter and Doug Gilmour….hmm. I like it. Anything but Wilson for crying out loud!!

    A lot of the moves are a great thought and we would be better.

    Don't see some of it happening unfortunately.

    Don't think we see Stamkos come here because you have to have the four first rounders to compensate the signing,  Boston has ours this year.

    Don't think we will get Giguere for $1.5mil…be nice if we could. I think he will be offered closer to $3mil per if not by us but someone else.

    Setoguchi has been getting worse each year and I believe if he comes here it may be sooner than the trade deadline and for less than Kaberle.

    Then there is Kaberle…If he won't waive his no-trade(which is his right) he isn't going anywhere.

    I also see problems with Gustavsson and Kadri. Gus will want more after next year and if he doesn't get it…I believe he is UFA. Kadri will be RFA in 2 more years…could be big money there needed as well.

    I like Ian White and believe he could be had for a little less but since Maurice obviously wanted him back and he is still young, I see him staying in Carolina as they are re-building. Expect Carolina to re-sign him before free agency for $2-2.5 mil per.

    The other trades…a lot make sense for both. But who knows if any of those teams would take it. Then again, that's the fun of trade rumours.

    Like I said. I get the frustration.

  12. MystifoLeafs says:

    Personally I would like to see the leafs resign MacArthur as well his play has been great as of right now and I would love to see him back next year.

    But your right if we sign one it should be Richards just because he is what we truly need, also anyone who thinks Burke would go after Semin just remember what he said about Kovi. If he never went after a one dimensional russian  the first time what makes you sure he will go after Semin? Although I like the guy he will not be in a leafs uniform.
  13. realistic_leafs_fan says:

    It all depends on Reimer's development.

    Is he a legitimate back-up in the NHL or is he a career minor leaguer.

    I think if we trade him it would have to be for(or in a package for) a high quality centre and not a "decent centre". We have enough "decent" ones already. We need a real number1.

    No use giving up a great prospect for a minor improvement. Agree?

  14. MystifoLeafs says:

    Be it Giggy or I would even like Rolston as a veteran to help the guys develop because either one of them could be a great mentor for those guys. Shame about NJD though I grew up always watching them and loving how there defense could not be beat and Martie just keep the score close and now he has little to no help and its a shame. Almost wish he was on the likes of Detroit so he could get that shot at another cup he rightfully earned.

  15. MystifoLeafs says:

    Stamkos was always up there.

  16. realistic_leafs_fan says:


    I am a little confused by your comments.

    You said.."Before the Nashville game the leafs weren't going to the net and they weren't finishing their checks."

    Is that not absolute proof that the players are NOT listening to Wilson?

    Not trying to be confrontational…It seems to contradict your first sentence.

  17. leafmeister says:

    It wouldnt be this years 1st, as it would almost certainly go down after the draft. It would be 12', 13', 14' and 15'. I know, that is a lot, including Kessel that is 6 1sts for two players, but IMO it is well worth it. I would do without 2 seconds thought.

    Giggy would only be playing half the time, and he seems to like Toronto, and he has a strong relationship with Burke. He waived to come to Toronto for personal reasons, he has kids, and I think 1.5 would be fine for him.

    The Kaberle for Setoguchi part is far from the most important aspect. Many of the players could be interchangable, the main point is to move money from the back end to forward, and leave the defense solid, mobile, and with only 1 big contract.

  18. realistic_leafs_fan says:

    Like I said…in theory it sounds pretty solid.

    I don't like all of it, but I am in agreement with a lot if it.

    I agree with moving some back end salaries and using the funds up-front.
    Don't like not having a first rounder for 6 years straight.

    I think blowing it up all over again and giving up another 4 first rounders could really haunt us.

    As you said. IMO

    If Giggy would sign for even $2mil(closer to your number) that's a $5mil savings, Kaberle off the books is another $4.2mil. That leaves us with $9mil to sign some of our own RFA's and UfA's and possibly still get Brad Richards. If we could move a little back end salaries in the meantime we may be able to afford a first line winger as well for $3-4mil per, via trade or free agency.

    Another way of maybe doing it. I realize that means no Stamko which is your biggest catch.

  19. leafmeister says:

    The Leafs with Stamkos, Kessel, Kadri Schenn and Phaneuf, combined with complimentary players like Versteeg, Kulemin, and Armstrong etc. would be a playoff team, probably one of the top teams in the East, as well as dominating the northeast. The 1sts would be all in the 22-30 range. Stamkos is at Crosby/Ovechkin level.

    I am not against getting Richards, as it is consistent with the focus on building a forward core, but he is not ideal. He is no longer young, and his year to year compete level is questionable. Plus Mojo would have a stroke.

  20. MystifoLeafs says:

    The stamkos plan has one flaw, that being they have the money at this moment to lock him up, they have the salary already freed up and I heard that the talks of a contract renewal are in the works as I type. (As I said its a rumor so who knows if its correct.) 

    I do agree and I thought about this all day today about how could Toronto free up 10 million in cap space and get this guy signed via offer sheet. I hope Burke does it also, He said he wants to build this team through Trade and UFA well Burke add RFA offer sheets to because THERE IS YOUR PLAYER. Also if you get Stamkos that will make other players come and want to be apart of Toronto just because they look like a cup contender and with any luck allow us to sign at a discount to keep our main core intact i.e (Kessel, Stamkos, Kadri, Schenn.) With those main pieces who knows then maybe we get one brother by the name of Brayden wanting to join his bro at a discount when hes a UFA.
    As for the Fire Wilson if I remember correctly Mojo put my plan in action and created the "Fire Wilson!" Petition so join the revolution and show MLSE who really runs this team!
    Although I doubt it will not work and for Kaberle I think we could squeeze the likes of a second rounder out of SJ with Seto if Kaberle keeps pace. but sure Im down with the majority of it.
  21. leafy says:

    Well I give credit where it's due, I thought the Habs were making a huge mistake getting rid of Halak, but so far, Price is proving me wrong. He looks great out there and proving to be the real deal.

    Buy yea, Gustavsson is the man. In my mind anyway, it's pretty clear who's the Leafs no 1 goalie.

  22. realistic_leafs_fan says:

    Don't get me wrong. I would love to see Stamkos here.

    I would be surprised to see Tampa let him go and not get something done before the end of the season(new contract wise).

    Richards is not as good as Stamkos there is no doubt. He is only 30 though. I wouldn't consider that to be too old.

    Tampa is a pretty solid team and I can't see them getting rid of their franchise player. I could see Tampa making some other deals in order to make cap room so they could keep Stamkos…just as we would want our GM to do if we had him.

    I could see them trying to move Malone or St.Louis or maybe Ohlund just so they could keep Stamkos.

    As you said. He is up there with the Crosby's and Ovechkins.

    Would you let him walk for picks? I doubt Yzerman will.

    Hope Mojo has his "life signs" button paid up LOL…Richards is more likely to land here than Stamkos.

  23. MystifoLeafs says:

    Haha yeah, I fear for mojo if we have Richards in a leafs uniform this year, I will say that I think there is a better chance of Stamkos in a Leafs Jersey then seeing Semin in a Leafs jersey. Sorry for all you fans but he is not a "Burke type player.". I will admit as I said before he is my favorite in Washington hands down even though he did not succeed in the playoffs but sure Jumbo Joe never does anything there as well.

  24. leafmeister says:

    No doubt. It would require Stamkos to actually really want to come here, which is not impossible, as in his draft year this was one of his preferred locations, and he is friend with Schenn. He would have to just refuse any offer from Tampa, and try to force Yzerman's hand in the form of a trade, or a massive offer from TO. If the offer pushes 11 mil, I think Tampa would not be able to sign that, as they are iffy in regards to ownership. Especially if they front loaded the deal somewhat, so that the immediate money owed would be too much for Yzerman to have the authority to sign.

  25. realistic_leafs_fan says:

    I don’t see Semin coming here either. Talented, but No grit. Not a Burke type of player at all.
    Do you remember his one and only fight…looked like he was trying to hit the guy with a purse.
    Something is likely to happen before Christmas. When it does…then we can evaluate what the next move needs to be.

  26. realistic_leafs_fan says:

    It would be sweet to have him.

    Two things;

    1)Does he really want to leave Tampa and come here?

    2)Burke HATES offer sheets…do you see him going against his own beliefs?

  27. mojo19 says:

    Ya definitely. If Giguere likes the situation here and would come back for around $3 million I would definitely prefer that over 2 young, unproven goalies. Its nice that Monster is playing well, but its also nice to have a reliable veteran to lean on if you have to.

  28. mojo19 says:

    Well I don't hate the idea, but keep in mind the last time we traded a Finnish goalie with that much talent….well you know.

    On the other hand i have imagine Burke would come up with a better return than Andrew Raycroft if he does decide to move Rynnas.

    Still, like I said before, I like the fact that we have some options and some depth in the system. We seem to have a handful of capable, talented, young goalies who could develop into starter. Statistics show that most guys don't turn into starters, so the more options we have, the better chances we have of producing something real. Dont forget when we traded Rask it was because we already had Pogge. Let's not make that mistake again.

  29. mojo19 says:

    I really don't think either Richards or Semin will be a Leaf guys. But at this point I would take either one. Talent is talent.

    I still hate Brad Richards. Over rated, overpaid, is consistantly among the league's worst in plus minus. Miss handles obvious passes.

    Considering everyone considers him to be this legit superstar who is "consistantly in the top 10 in league scoring" consider that he's only been there twice, and that was 6 years apart, and he's never posted over a point per game in back to back seasons. In fact, he's done it only twice in his 11 year career. Although it looks like he might do it again this year.

  30. MystifoLeafs says:

    Mojo I know you hate Richards and as you said talent is talent and I would put aside my hatred for Ovechkin if it meant Toronto making the playoffs.

    As for Stamkos, I know Burke is against the offer sheets but I think the pressure of MLSE and the fans wanting results in the time frame we were promised could cause him to make a offer sheet to the Lightning and remember with Kessel he threatened Boston with a offer sheet and he gave them what they would of got in return for him so to be fair that could count as a offer sheet. Don't put it past Burke if he tried something like that this year with Stamkos. 
  31. mojo19 says:

    talent is talent. And we're short of it, so ya i'd sign Brad in the offseason, but lets not trade guys like Aulie, D'Amigo, Etc. for Brad.

  32. MystifoLeafs says:

    I would not give up Aulie for Brad way too big of a hit and then I am stuck watching Komi give up the puck. I figured soon Aulie would surpass Komi and force him into a state like Finger. Same goes for Gunnar and even Blacker if he can continue to develop. 

    as for D'amigo I like him way too much and where ever he goes in the NHL I wish him the best of luck because he is going to make it mark my words.
  33. MystifoLeafs says:

    Yeah, if you want Giguire to stay I say everyone from Leafs Nation head over to there house with a array of baked goods to show how much we love having them here. Like come on how is he not going to sign if the fans are nice enough to bake his family assorted cookies, cakes, pies, etc. 

    Same goes for Kaberle if we choose to keep him. Bring on the muffin baskets!
  34. MystifoLeafs says:

    I think coaching has been a major problem for a long time. Missing the playoffs this year by a massive amount of points should give Burke an idea that its not the players for once.

  35. MystifoLeafs says:

    I like Gus but I am not having that heart break again. Rynnas signed here for a reason and lets keep him. If he feels he wants to leave later on then sure but don't treat your signings like that even in a time of horror.

Leave a Reply