West Coast hockey gets short thrift in Toronto, until one of their coaches potentially gets hired by MLSE, so it can sometimes be tough to form opinions on the people that operate in the relative vacuum of the 10PM EST puck drop. In those cases, it's best to get your information straight from the horse's mouth or, in this case, the blogger's fingers before it gets wrung through the Negative Nellies in the media. This is the first of a few West Coast perspectives on the Leafs' apparent new coach.
One of the features that I did ocassionally last year, and will hopefully resurrect, involved reaching out to fellow bloggers to answer five questions. For this look at Ron Wilson I am glad to have fellow SBN blogger diecast dude contributing his knowledge of Ron Wilson. You can read his work on the Sharks at Fear The Fin or his work on NASCAR at Restrictor Plate THIS.
From this we can glean that Wilson works well with youngsters, which presumably should be a huge plus for the Leafs, and that he might not be the best motivator for the faint of heart (ie the no-trade group) which might be a plus in the long-term. Also, we can apparently expect some massive blow-ups with the media.
1. What was your overall impression of Ron Wilson's time as the Sharks' coach? The media consensus in Toronto has quickly become that he was a coach that had a super talented team but wasn't able to get them to perform. Is that a fair assessment?
Perhaps I'm jaded from seeing them eighty times a year, but I'm not altogether convinced the Sharks are that talented of a team. Yes, they have Joe Thornton who is magic during the regular season, and a good stock of quality players (Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, Evgeni Nabokov, etc). But the constant turtling in the playoffs... ah well.
To answer the question, the media consensus is also Doug Wilson's consensus in that he believes the team is far better than the post-season results have shown.
My overall impression is Wilson was very good for the team when things were going well, but when it mattered was unable to get the team where it needed to be as far as competing.
2. The Leafs are moving towards a much younger roster with an eye towards building a young core of players that will be able to compete for the Cup in a couple (if lucky) seasons. How would you rate Wilson's ability to work with and develop young players?
Wilson is excellent with young players. The Sharks routinely brought in two or three rookies every year during his tenure, and he was able to work them into the lineup without them being a detriment plus nurture them into improvement. Two recent examples are Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
3. The culture around the Leafs has been, rightly so, labelled a country club. Even though Maurice made improvements in terms of the team's training regime there was still a general lack of accountability other than the Carolina guys (Battaglia and O'Neill). How does Wilson handle underachieving players? And how did that approach affect his relationship with Patrick Marleau?
Wilson's primary motivational technique for underachieving players is apparently public sarcasm. It didn't work in San Jose. Patrick Marleau spent the entire first half of this past season in a funk, and it's difficult not to assign at least part of the reason for this to Wilson berating him after last year's playoff loss to Detroit in which he was invisible. There was also trade talk constantly looming over his head, much of it fueled by Wilson's lambasting of his captain. Doug Wilson has always been a huge Marleau supporter, so I imagine this contributed to the reasons Ron Wilson was let go.
4. The Toronto media can make playing for the Leafs a fish bowl. Do you think that Wilson can survive in an environment that can often become toxic and give rise to personal vendettas?
He is going to have a very tough time with that. Out here, what little media attention the Sharks get -- the total number of newspaper writers who cover the team on the road, let alone full-time, is exactly one -- lavished praise on him, and I doubt he got much bad ink in his earlier stops (Anaheim and Washington). Given how curt he was with visiting media out here, I see trouble on the horizon.
5. Any advice/warnings for Leaf fans?
Don't hate him because he's American! Seriously, while he wouldn't be my choice for leading a team to hang out with Lord Stanley, when it comes to a rebuilding scenario he's in his element. From that aspect he's a good choice for what the Maple Leafs need.
Keep an eye on him and the media, because there will be fireworks.