Whoever the Toronto Maple Leafs hire as their next head coach after firing Randy Carlyle, we can safely say they will not be bringing back Ron Wilson. The former bench boss, who was canned in 2012 just over two months after receiving an extension, was on TSN Radio Tuesday and sounded like a man whose phone has stopped ringing for NHL jobs.
The Leafs have allowed 3.02 goals per game, good enough for 25th in the NHL. A porous defense is something that Wilson has noted when watching the team play this season under Carlyle.
“I never saw any evidence of being committed to defense,” Wilson said. “I think sometimes they would, but more often than not they didn’t, and that’s really the result of it being that Randy gets fired. Total lack of consistency.”
Wilson would know bad defense, his Maple Leafs teams averaged 3.49, 3.21, 2.99 and 3.16 goals allowed per game in his three-and-a-half seasons in Toronto, which ended with a 130-135-45 record and zero playoff appearances.
So now that Carlyle is gone, it’s on the players to help turn things around. It sounds as if Peter Horachek will run the show for the rest of the season, so a Mike Babcock/Dan Bylsma/Peter DeBoer lifeline may not come until the summer. But according to Wilson, the Leafs may not be able to win, no matter the head coach, with this current group.
“Some of the core players have failed under two or three different coaches, so it’s got to be the player’s fault,” he said.
But are they uncoachable?
“I wouldn’t really say that clearly, but you’d have to surmise that some of them might be uncoachable.”
Phil Kessel may not fall under Wilson’s list of “uncoachable” players, but he did express frustration with the Leafs’ current leading scorer.
“I think you can win with Phil Kessel,” Wilson said. “He shows obvious signs of brillance throughout the year. But Phil’s problem, and I think it’s pretty much the way Phil’s been his whole career, he’s two weeks on and two weeks off. You just hope that you can get him playing his best hockey for as long as possible. You can’t rely on Phil. It’s just the way it is. He comes and goes, and he gets emotional. He lets that affect his game and his relationship with other players.
But that’s just the nature of the beast. That’s what you have to coach. You have to know that Phil’s going to give you everything he’s got for two or three weeks and then for the next two or three weeks, everything seems to go wrong for Phil. That’s just the way it is.”
During a scrum on Tuesday, Kessel did not take too kindly to being asked if he was difficult to coach.
Of all the issues with this current Leafs team, trying to make the guy who's led the team in both goals and points since the 2009-10 season one of the scapegoats is truly bizarre.
This all, of course, isn’t the first time Wilson has thrown bombs Toronto’s way since being fired. Go back to this past November when he called Air Canada Centre a “morgue” and Leafs fans “dispicable” after another jersey-tossing incident.
It’s pretty safe to say that now when someone gets fired in Leafs Land or things aren’t going well, radio stations can always turn to Wilson in their rolodexes for some interesting soundbites since it's going to be a while before this circus brings down its Big Top.
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