Monday, January 31, 2011

Ron Wilson death watch continues

The clock is ticking for Ron Wilson but not because of the CBC/NHLPA poll that showed Wilson to be the most unpopular coach in the NHL. Coaches are not paid to be popular. They paid to produce results. So when you examine his 2½ year tenure as Maple Leaf coach, it’s not encouraging. His current record coaching the Leafs is 83-98-32 with a 24th overall finish in 2009, a 29th overall finish in 2010 and the team sits in 26th place.

You can argue that he inherited a terrible team but this is not same team he took over. The only player on the current roster to have played a game for the Maple Leafs prior to Wilson’s arrival is Tomas Kaberle. So the inherited baggage argument holds no water.

You can argue that you have to expect to drop in the standing during a rebuild. However, GM Brian Burke had made it perfectly clear that this is not a true rebuild. He was quite willing to flip draft picks for a key player and has supposedly turned down trade offers involving picks. In fact the Kessel trade was made on the belief that the Maple Leafs would be competing for playoff spots both last season and the current season. So could Brian Burke been that much off the mark or are their other factors in play?

It’s just the disappointing performance of the team but when you look individual players you have to be concerned. Few players have progressed over the past three seasons with the exception of Luke Schenn, Mikhail Grabovski and Nik Kulemin. Players picked up in trades or as free agents have not matched the level of play that they had achieved with the previous teams. That would include Phil Kessel, Dion Phanuef, Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, Colby Armstrong, Brett Lebda, Kris Versteeg, and Jeff Finger. When you have that many players with declining performance there is only one person to blame. The coach.

We don’t know what it is happening. It could be the players not fitting into his system, maybe his system is flawed, or maybe he has just lost the dressing room. Which bring me back to the CBC/NHLPA poll. If 25% of players named Ron Wilson as the coach they would least like to play for well then some of those players are likely in the Maple Leaf dressing room. Of course this does not come as a big surprise to me since I was of the view at the start of the season that Ron Wilson had already reached his “Best Before Date.”

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