18. Looked back at a piece I did on Ron Wilson when he first got the job in Toronto. He said he never talked to players after games because he knew he'd be too tough. Fits with some of his harshest public comments. However, one player did tell me the strangest thing about all of this is Wilson is much more supportive in private.
19. For example, as the team's struggles got worse, there were at least two occasions where the coach put together encouraging videos. One showed all the things they'd done right early in the season, the other was of hard goals they'd scored, to illustrate the types of plays they needed to make.
"All I really want to do is win the Stanley Cup," Wilson says. "Then I would be released. If we won, that’s the last game I’ll ever coach. Honest to God I would have no hesitation. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, to have my name on the Cup with my dad and my uncle. That’s honest to God how I feel.
"This is the team I grew up with. Punch Imlach was the last coach who won. That would be just the coolest thing in the world. I’m not about coming back the next year and having everybody pat me on the back, knowing I could be the mayor of Toronto. That doesn’t interest me at all. I could just quietly go away and have all of this satisfaction, knowing that this was something I dreamed about all of my life, this was something I managed to do, and now I can actually breathe."
One day last fall, Ron Wilson is walking through the underground labyrinth of tunnels that connect all of the major points in the city’s downtown when his cellphone rings. On the line is Scott Gordon, his assistant coach with the U.S. Olympic hockey team, and they begin talking about issues surrounding the coming Vancouver Whistler Games.
A shortish fellow in standard business attire walks by, sees a familiar face, and does a bit of a double-take. Then he walks up to Wilson, who is still talking, and hollers the following directly into his ear.
"You’re the worst [expletive] coach I’ve ever seen. You’re a [expletive] idiot."
Then the man in the suit walks away, leaving Wilson standing there, with Gordon laughing on the other end of the line.
It doesn’t end there. Anyone who knows the way Wilson relishes the cut and thrust, understands that he likes to get the last word, can imagine what comes next.
He sprints through the tunnel – his antagonist has a 50-metre lead, but he quickly catches up – and stops him dead in his tracks.
"You said something back there. Now say it to my face."
His critic is momentarily taken aback, but eventually summons his courage and repeats his critique, complete with f-bombs.
I love our [Team USA] goaltending when we do make a mistake. I’m not always used to, personally over the last two years, of getting the big save so to speak.
They want to play and are disappointed in their ice-time. I've never ever heard a player say that before have you? This happens all the time.
Just play better as simple as that and your numbers show if you play well or not. Nobody's entitled to ice-time. Unfortunately a lot of players today actually believe they're entitled no matter how they're performance is to just automatically play without accountability or responsibility.
I wish everybody was out here bitching and complaining but then they went on the ice and backed it up with performance.
You ask me this every day Howard. It’s like water boarding or Chinese water torture until I crack. I’m not going to crack, I want to win every game. So it does get frustrating when you don’t win. We should send you to Guantanamo, we’d solve all the issues that we had.
You would drive some of these guys nuts. I would interview these poor guys, the prisoners, after you’ve interrogated them and see what they have to say. It would be fun.
Don’t look now, but those Toronto Maple Leafs—the team left for dead about a month ago—are within two points of a playoff spot (of course, they’re tied with five teams, but that’s parity). All of this happened despite having a horrific goals-against and an ungodly 70% penalty kill rate.
Part of this coincides with the arrival of Phil Kessel, but part of this seems to follow a pattern Ron Wilson had when he first arrived in San Jose.
Vesa’s done a great job recently, and before Vesa, Jonas was making some big saves. And it’s huge. You start to trust your goaltender, other things fall into place.
8. Ron Wilson - Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs
After a Stanley Cup appearance in his first season with the Washington Capitals, Wilson was never able to recapture the magic he had in 1998. His final season in Washington coincided with Jaromir Jagr's(notes) arrival in D.C. After back-to-back Southeast Division titles, the Caps missed the playoffs in 2001-02 and Wilson was given his pink slip. Rebounding with San Jose the following season, Wilson took the Sharks to the playoffs four years in a row, including a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2004, and won the Pacific Division twice. Wilson is the winningest coach in Sharks history with 206 victories and has the third most wins among NHL coaches this decade with 367.