Oh, those halcyon hours after the NHL Trade Deadline, when GM Brian Burke steadfastly refused to pay the freight for late-season deals, optimistically stating that "I still believe that this group can get it back on the rails."
Just over 24 hours later, the Toronto Maple Leafs give up a goal 13 seconds into the game, lose to the Florida Panthers, 5-3, and a group of fans chanted "FIRE WILSON" loud enough to make it a talking point for the local papers.
From the Globe & Mail, the maligned Ron Wilson said:
"It's frustrating but understandable," Wilson said of the catcalls after the game. "Everybody's frustrated right now. We didn't do anything at the trade deadline, and we came out tentative, to say the least."
While Wilson had fingered his goalies for the blame night after night leading into Tuesday's loss, saying a lack of saves had led to a lack of confidence and a lack of goals, James Reimer wasn't the goat here. This dog was on the whole team, including the old hand behind the bench, as in what's becoming a pattern, it got ugly right from the drop of the puck.
"We didn't do anything at the trade deadline" … c'mon Ronnie, there's little room for Burke under the bus when you just threw Reimer under it last weekend.
According to Mirtle's playoff benchmarks, "Toronto likely has to win at least 11 of its remaining 19 games."
Is there still time for Burke to take the crowd's advice and pull a Lamoriello Special: Turfing his coach to spark the team late in the season?
But since Burke did absolutely nothing to help this team get over the hump and make playoffs for the first time since 2004, perhaps the fans are right. Perhaps it is time to fire Wilson. Burke's got to do something, and there's not much else he can do at this point now that the trade deadline's over and done. There are no immediate saviours down with the Marlies. And his goaltenders aren't exactly brimming with confidence. If Burke wants to shake this team up in the hopes of making the playoffs, perhaps now it's time to fire the coach.
So with all that, what do the Leafs do? I hate to agree with the masses because it doesn't make for provocative writing, but I strongly believe that if/when they miss the playoffs for the 7th straight time, the Leafs have no choice but to fire Ron Wilson. Wilson has enjoyed success as a coach in the past, but virtually none in his 4 years in Toronto. After not making any moves at the deadline, Burke and upper management strongly indicated that they believe the on-ice personnel is capable.
Chemmy from PPP is speechless. And here's a fan-centric video take from The Brodical Son:
Burke's not going to do anything, of course, because every logically appropriate moment to fire Wilson has passed without a trigger pulled. (Including when Wilson was bulletproof due to his Olympic commitment.)
But if the Leafs don't make the playoffs, Wilson should be fired; and one expects he will be fired. With efforts like this against the Panthers, the calls to expedite that decision will increase — but is it too late?