Obviously Burke and Wilson are buddy-buddy, and Wilson’s not getting fired. That’s what happening; I just don't know if it's wonderful news for Leafland.
Of course, much of this season’s misery couldn’t have been coached away.
It wasn’t Wilson’s fault that his goaltending options were Vesa Toskala (AKA Lost Save), Gustavsson, who’s showing promise now but was not NHL-ready until the last third of the season, and Joey Joe Joe.
It wasn’t Wilson’s fault that management made him send talented youngsters to the minors while high-salaried underachievers discarded scoring chances—their own and the opposition’s.
It wasn’t Wilson’s fault that Mike Komisarek’s attempts to justify his new big paycheque made his old one look too big.
But here’s the problem. Look at last year’s Leafs. Now look at this year’s team. Until Burke blew up the team on January 31, the talent level was as good as last year, or better.
Now, it’s true that they didn’t win a lot of games last year. But of all the sorry Leaf seasons since the lockout, I enjoyed watching last year’s team the most. They didn’t have the talent to win consistently, but they tried hard every game. No lead was too high, no deficit was too deep. When Ron Wilson benched players, they came back and played hard.
This season there was none of that. For too many games the Leafs were listless and hopeless. Half the roster was benched at one time or another, to no discernible effect.
The improved play of traded Leafs says something about coaching. In the Pittsburgh-Ottawa series, was that the same Alexei Ponikarovksy whose listless play drove me nuts in blue and white? I thought Burke got robbed on the Steen-Stempniak trade, until Stempniak turned into a point-a-game man after being traded to Phoenix.
Power play and penalty kill are strong indications of coaching. The Leafs stunk at both.
Obviously there's much we're not privy to. What happens in the dressing room ought to stay there, and player motivations are always opaque.
What do you think?