As the Leafs embark on another campaign after an offseason which has seen the team make some fairly significant changes, there are still plenty of questions left to be answered. Can Reimer live up to his sensational rookie year? Is Tim Connelly the centre that will finally give Phil Kessel the playmaking support he needs? And the big one that is on everyone’s mind, can the Leafs finally give their fans playoff hockey?
While both Reimer and Connelly’s production will weigh heavily on the success of the Leafs, the actions of one man could make all the difference in whether the 2011-12 season is another crushing disappointment or a long awaited success.
That man is Coach Ron Wilson. Wilson has had little success creating a winning atmosphere for the Leafs and also at endearing himself to the fans and media. His brash, standoffish demeanour with the media has not allowed him to find a special place in the hearts of reports and fans alike.
Wilson is entering the final year of his contract and in his three previous seasons with the Leafs, Wilson has amassed a record of 101-107-38, a record which has not led playoff hockey in Leafland during his tenure.
The Leafs brought Wilson in largely because they had a young, inexperienced team that required a coach who would be able to teach the coachable aspects of the game. This refers mostly to special teams. Over Wilson’s three seasons the Leafs have averaged a 16.3 per cent powerplay efficiency, good enough for 23rd in the league over that time period. The penalty kill has been an absolute disaster with the Leafs killings off only 75.5 per cent of opponent’s opportunities. This ranks the buds DEAD LAST in the entire NHL since Wilson took over. For a coach like Ron Wilson who has the reputation as being a “special teams expert” these numbers better be even more unacceptable to him than they are to Leafs Nation.
Wilson’s lack of ability put together special teams systems that work may ultimately be his downfall. Here’s hoping that he spent the offseason going over the video and working hard to come up with systems that will get the Leafs at least into the top half of the league for powerplay and penalty kill.
Even though GM Brian Burke has made it clear that he has complete faith in his good buddy Ron Wilson as bench boss, it’s fair to say that if the Leafs miss the playoffs Wilson’s days with the team will be over. Burke has not offered Wilson a contract extensive at this point and it seems that he, like the rest of us is taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude towards the coach.
Even though I’m not the biggest Ron Wilson fan on earth, I want to see him succeed, because if he succeeds, the Leafs succeed and honestly I don’t care if Carleton the Bear is coaching them, as long as they are winning.
GO LEAFS GO.