"I hate each and every one of you media dirtbags"
Editor’s Note: This is an entry in our search for Fresh Blood at TLN. Every possible contributor will get three posts to strut their stuff and then we’ll ask you readers to help us choose who is going to join.
BY: RYAN FANCEY @RFANCEY3
If there’s any doubt right now about whether the Leafs are in free-fall mode, there shouldn’t be. This is the definition of plummeting. The team is torpedoing down through the standings, and right now it’s the goaltenders who are rightfully taking a lot of the heat.
But now, as expected, the head coach is taking his fair share as well. Whether it’s warranted or not is still up in the air, and will be debated over by many in the next few days until either (a) Wilson is canned, or (b) the Leafs turn this thing around.
Personally, I’m undecided on what I think should happen with the head coaching job in Toronto right now. While many have chosen to pick a side, I’m not sure I can say for sure whether the Leafs should rid themselves of Wilson or just stand pat and let things carry on. But regardless, there are certainly two sides to be explored here.
In the realm of pro-Wilson – which is losing residents at an alarming rate – it can be argued that the head coach has still yet to have a solid team on the ice, and many of his problems lie in brutal goaltending; basically something he cannot control. Fair enough.
From my own view, one of the things that would bother me about being in Wilson’s position is that he’s sort of handcuffed in terms of his own roster. Since Burke has failed in some recent signings – mainly Komisarek and Armstrong’s 7.5 million dollar pressbox salaries – Wilson has been put in a tough spot from time to time when trying to get the right group of guys on the ice. He has to deal with guys being pissed off about whether they believe they should be playing, as was evidenced earlier this season when he had that little media spat with Cody Franson. It’s hard to have sympathy for super-rich athletes and coaches in that type of situation, but it still makes things tough – players want to play, and whether it’s in the media or not, you know the guy who sits isn’t pleased.
Another pro-Wilson argument would quickly point out the successes of players like Kulemin, Grabovski, and MacArthur who have all, at one point, found new levels to their game during his tenure. Luke Schenn used to be part of that group but we’re unsure what to think about him at the moment (same can be said for Kulemin I guess, but he’s lower profile). Most recently, Jake Gardiner has been given a boatload of responsibility despite his young age, and it’s good that Wilson recognizes his skills, so one could point to that in a "Save Wilson" campaign as well.
In the "Fire Wilson" party there are a lot of folks who will point to the penalty-kill woes, the lacking defensive system that may be burying the Leafs’ own defencemen and goaltenders, and a dearth of communication between player and coach. Wilson has been criticized in the past for not being a "player’s coach", so his detractors could load that one up in their arsenal.
I’m not saying either side is right or wrong, and there are solid arguments from both.
For me, personally, it comes down to this; I could really care less if Wilson gets fired, and I won’t complain if he stays around for the next twenty games either. But I will say that, if Wilson should get the hook, it’s because the Leafs simply need to try something new. It isn’t that he’s a disastrous coach or he killed this team — the Leafs are still a bubble team on paper — it just may be time to see if something else works better.
There’s no doubt that Wilson absolutely has to be fired for this reason should the Leafs miss the playoffs, and I’ll revisit with a Fire Wilson article of my own at season’s end. If he’s let go before that, perhaps the best route would be to keep Scott Gordon around in the interim and then make a decision on Gordon, Eakins, Carlyle, or whoever else’s name may pop up in the summer months.
Through all of this, whether you’re on the "Fire Wilson" team or not, it’s only right that these questions are being raised at least.
— Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on twitter @rfancey3