View Full Version : Article Submission - Relax Leaf Fans: It's not time to fire Wilson yet.

12-07-2010, 09:15 PM
Relax Leaf Fans: It's not time to fire Wilson yet.
On December 2nd I was lucky enough to be there live, and watch my beloved Edmonton Oilers walk into the Air Canada Center - and absolutely pummel the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0. While I was loving it, along with several hundred other Oiler fans, understandably the Leaf faithful were showering their team with boos. I even saw one fan toss his Leafs jersey from the upper deck, into the lower one.
The most popular chant that night from Leaf Nation? "FI-RE WIL-SON". I didn't come as any great surprise. Call in shows on local sports radio, The Fan 590, have been bombarded with angry fans wanting the coaches head on a platter. There has been several stories written in the Toronto media, saying the same thing: Ron Wilson needs to be fired.
Since that night, the Leafs have rattled off two wins in a row, and sit with a 10-12-4 record overall. The two wins have calmed things down a bit (it's amazing how quickly two games can change things) but you can be sure when the Leafs go on another inevitable losing streak, fans will be screaming for Wilson's job once again.
While I can understand their frustration, I just don't see the logic in what Leaf fans want.
There are normally two reasons why a coach gets fired; The team is underperforming, and the GM feels that a change in coach will result in a turnaround to salvage the season, or the GM is covering his own butt and axes the coach in an attempt to cast blame, extending his stay a little longer.
There can be other reasons, like a power struggle between a coach and his boss, or sometimes an older coach is pushed out to make room for a younger one, but in most cases it is one of the first two.
If Wilson is going to be fired then I'd like to understand the reason. It's not going to be the unique case of a power struggle. With all due respect to John Muckler & Ted Nolan, it just doesn't happen very often. This certainly wouldn't be a case like Scotty Bowman walking away, so Dave Lewis can take over. No, it would have to be one of the usual reasons.
So if Wilson is to be fired is it because the Leafs are underperforming, or is it so Burke can save his own skin? Both suggestions are ludicrous.
Brian Burke is very secure in his job. There is no reason for him to push the panic button. Just past his second anniversary as Leafs GM, the man brought in as saviour of the team isn't going anywhere. He's not going to drop the hammer on his long time friend just to buy himself some more time.
That leaves the notion that Toronto is playing below their ability. Wilson's tactics are costing the Leafs wins, and a change behind the bench should change their immediate fortunes. Sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me.
Wilson is a coach that brought the expansion Mighty Ducks to respectability pretty quickly. His presence immediately vaulted the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup final. He helped turned a bad San Jose Shark squad into a perennial contender. His international exploits are even more impressive. He lead Team USA to victory at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996. More recently he guided an underdog American team to a Silver Medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics. His team was an overtime goal away from winning the Gold. He possesses a 592-511-101-77. He's the 8th all-time winningest coach in NHL History, and ranks first in wins among active coaches. He'll have moved up one notch on that all time list before the end of the season, and has a great chance to retire in the top 5.
Does this sound like a man who's bringing the team down?
The truth is, the Leafs have a bad roster. They've got mediocre goaltending, a porous defence, and a forward corps that can't score on a regular basis.
What Wilson's critics can't seem to name, is the player that's underperforming due to Wilson. I don't think anyone can.
Looking at the forwards, Clarke MacArthur is having a career season. Mikhail Grabovski & Nikolai Kulemin are both on pace to improve last year's point totals. Kris Versteeg is right where he was last year. Phil Kessel should also finish with more goals than last year.
When it comes to the blue line, Luke Schenn has been one of best Maple Leafs all year. The play of Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, and Dion Phaneuf has all be equal to that of their play in their respective seasons before coming to Toronto.
Goaltender JS Guiguere has looked decent (which is an improvement on how he looked in Anaheim) and youngster Jonas Gustavsson looks like he could hold down an NHL job for years to come.
The only way that anyone could fault Wilson for the job he's done with this group is if they expected him to work miracles. The unfortunate truth is that the Leafs have a roster that really should rank them in the bottom five in the NHL. Any higher than that, and you can probably thank the coach for keeping them a little competitive.
Fire Wilson? It's not going to happen, at least not during the 2010-11 season. Not only will it do nothing to improve the team, but axing the coach would immediately start the real clock on Brian Burke's tenure, because once you're a couple of years into your second coach's stay - people will start to question the GM's performance, not the coach's.

12-09-2010, 04:39 PM
Thanks Sean! Edited article posted here: http://www.sportscardforum.com/articles/2010/12/relax-leafs-fans-its-not-time-to-fire-wilson-yet/