November 19, 2009
Ketchup could solve what ails Leafs
By GARY LOEWEN, SUN MEDIA
How be we arrange to have Ron Wilson sent to the Marlies for a two-week conditioning stint?
Or, at the very least, stick the Maple Leafs coach in the press box for a few games alongside any or all of the following: Garnet Exelby, Colton Orr, Lulu Kulemin, Matt Stajan.
Having three wins in 19 starts, and with numerous players seemingly regressing, it’s fair to say that Wilson isn’t getting much out of his team.
General manager Brian Burke isn’t going to fire Wilson, not now, but he might consider lighting a fire under the coach’s butt by some other means.
Wilson’s job is safe because:
a) He is in only the second year of a four-year contract worth about $1.4 million annually;
b) If Burke is going to use his “fire the coach” card, he isn’t going to play it this early in his tenure as GM;
c) Least importantly, Wilson and Burke are friends. (Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford and coach Paul Maurice are buds, too, but that isn’t going to stop Maurice from getting fired for a second time by his pal.)
At the same time, Burke’s own reputation is at stake here.
Wilson has played the nice guy (remember dodgeball, paintball) and has played the heavy.
Might we suggest a short-term change of scenery behind the bench?
Not even one-quarter of the way through the season and the Leafs already are 11 points out of a playoff spot.
Something needs to give, Mr. Burke.
Heartache by the numbers
They say statistics are for losers, so here are a bunch lately regarding the Leafs:
Mikhail Grabovski, 4 games, 0 points, -4;
Lee Stempniak, 4 games, 0 points, -2;
Nik Hagman, 6 games, 1 point, -3;
Lulu Kulemin, 5 games, 0 points, -2.
Kulemin has three goals in 15 games, and is tied for 597th in the league with zero assists.
He is averaging 13 minutes 26 seconds of ice time and is supposed to be an offensive player; how is it possible he has managed no assists in 15 games?
Or, try this ...
A Sun reader has a tip for Leafs coach Wilson.
“I have used it on teams I have coached when they get into a funk like the Leafs are now in,” Dave e-mails from Buckhorn.
“I bring plastic ketchup bottles into the dressing room, on to the bench and anywhere else the team will see them and leave a message on the blackboard saying, ‘I am tired of playing catch-up hockey.’
“The team soon turns it around because they don’t want to see any more damn ketchup bottles around the rink.”
That might work ... in Heinz-sight.