June 08, 2008
If I'm a Leafs fan, this post would be riddled with misspellings because of the paper bag over my head. But I'd also be fairly happy to hear the news that Ron Wilson has a verbal agreement with General Manager Cliff Fletcher to become the next head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, accepting a rather generous offer.
Not just because it's a signal that hiring one of Brian Burke's boys will be catnip to lure -- or is part of some illicit agreement that can't even be thought about without perking up Gary Bettman's ears -- Brian Burke to leave Anaheim to take over the Leafs. Taking that out of the equation, Wilson is still a solid hire and a better fit than other candidates for the current incarnation of the team.
John Tortorella's hair-trigger temper combined with the Toronto media instigators would have been great for YouTube but not necessarily for the fortunes of the franchise. Someone like Joel Quenneville may have won some games, but his decision-making and coaching philosophy would have fallen out of favor rapidly. The young coaching candidates would have been eaten alive; of the veterans, Wilson brings the best intangibles.
He's got a soft hand with young players and a pimp hand with veterans, until his message wears thin; looking at who might be playing in Toronto next season, that's the right philosophy for a coach. (If he can squeeze something tangible out of the next three years of Bryan McCabe's tenure, give that man the Jack Adams.) Wilson's unorthodox tactics are either going to be praised as revolutionary by the media or considered rather insane. It all depends on whether a "Hanta Yo" speech still gets results with the next generation.
More than anything else, Wilson has a record to run on.
He's found instant success with bad teams and with teams that were loaded with talent. No, he's never won the big prize; and his demise in San Jose was due to his inability to motivate the unmotivated during the most critical time of the season. But if any Maple Leafs fan is currently worried about what this team's psychology will be in the conference semifinals under Wilson, I believe that's legal grounds for commitment to a licensed mental health facility. Baby steps, Leafs fans ... baby steps.
Pension Plan Puppets has been running a series about Ron Wilson-as-Leafs-coach from the perspective of West Coast blogs that covered him. Part One, Part Two and Part Three all point to a coach that can get results in a hurry, but one that has an expiration date for his effectiveness. That's a fair assessment.
I wonder if teaming him with Brian Burke can extend that warranty? Otherwise, I doubt Burke will waste his time with 50-question quizzes if things don't work out, even if they are buddies.