WILSON'S TIME IS UP

Steve Lansky
November 12 2010 12:47PM

OK, Leafs’ fans, the time has finally come to discuss something. Should Ron Wilson continue as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Is he the right man to control this hallowed bench “moving forward” (my favourite John S. Ferguson cliché)? Does he possess the tools and skills to ensure that this club, no matter how good or bad it is, plays to its potential? Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, and last – it’s time for a change.

In the National Hockey League, a head coach has just one main role: Make sure he has put his team’s players in the best position to succeed. It is no more complicated than that – and don’t let anyone feed you any BS that it is. The coach does not shoot the puck.

He does not ever take a face-off. He cannot stop the puck. He never takes a hit and never delivers a check. But he decides who will do all those things. He must know his personnel inside and out. You can use Scotty Bowman as a reference on this one. Scotty knew his players better than they knew themselves. Ditto Glen Sather in Edmonton. And Toe Blake in Montreal before him.

If a coach doesn’t have that deep-seeded knowledge of his players, forget it. He’s got no shot. But a head coach’s role can also be very ambiguous. And that’s why it’s not a simple black-and-white issue. In Toronto, Ron Wilson does not decide who will be sitting on his bench…but he does decide what they will be doing once they arrive there. And that’s why it’s time to make a change. Whatever Wilson is telling his forwards (assuming it’s something), they are not listening. And once that simple attention component is gone, it’s never coming back. He’s obviously lost the room.

Why else would J-S Giguère step on Tuesday night and literally carve his forwards and coaching staff in front of the media? That’s not something Giguère would do lightly, yet he did it. He clearly felt it was something that needed to be said in a public forum. Shouldn’t that be Ron Wilson’s job (assuming Wilson felt it was required)? Of course it should. Wilson is like a lost puppy. He appears not to know which way to turn. Or which tack to take.

That, Leafs’ fans, is not acceptable.

These players are professional. They should not need a motivational speech before every game. But they are not doing what they need to do to win. The Leafs’ forwards are not working their a**es off. Fans are becoming more and more vocal about how Toronto’s forwards are simply not putting in the effort that’s required to succeed on the ice. They are skilled players (every NHLer is), but with that skill has to come overwhelming desire.

If that desire is not there – and Wilson cannot ignite it – he’s done. Who replaces him? I’m not 100% certain it needs to be someone with extensive NHL head coaching experience. A few names come to mind. For now, you can formulate your own list. Either way, it’s time for Brian Burke to officially end Ron Wilson’s time behind the Leafs’ bench – because the players ended it about ten games ago.

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Steve Lansky's first exposure to the game was at storied Maple Leaf Gardens, running downstairs at the end of every period just to watch the great Dave Keon walk off the ice to the room. A decade later, while he was still in high school, Oilers' head coach Glen Sather asked Lansky, "Hey, how'd you like to be our team statistician?" In 1983, at the age of 22, Lansky became the youngest producer in the history of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, giving him a front-row seat to the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty. Lansky also helped launch Rogers Sportsnet's fledgling hockey coverage when the network made its début in 1998. You can follow him at bigmouthsports.com and at twitter.com/bigmouthsports
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