Wilson pushes for young Leafs to be consistent

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

It's definitely going to be an interesting season in Leafland.

Imagine, a Jekyll and Hyde team covered by a "bipolar" media. Or, at least that's the way head coach Ron Wilson sees it.

Wilson talked yesterday about how he believes his young club is neither the cream of the NHL crop, despite a great performance against the defending Stanley Cup champions Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, nor are the Leafs a bunch of dogs, as they appeared to be against the Montreal Canadiens in their home opener at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

"I've seen the good and the bad," Wilson said yesterday, after putting the players through their paces at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "So, somewhere in between probably lies our team. We have to find a middle ground."

Wilson's priority with the young, rebuilding Leafs is to get them to collectively buy into his defensive and forechecking system and to bring a consistent effort to the arena every night.

Another duty of his, it seems, is to protect his players from getting too high after big wins or too low after losses. And one way to do that -- if a post-practice rant yesterday is any indication -- is to encourage them not to read the newspapers.

"I've already seen how every- body gets euphoric when you win a game and how every- body wants to blow up the world when you lose a game, and I don't understand that kind of hysteria. And a lot of it comes, believe it or not, from the media -- in the sense of a bipolar approach to reporting, instead of a nice and even approach to everything," Wilson said, after being asked how his club could beat the Wings 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena, and then lose 6-1 to Montreal at the ACC.

Wilson, like pretty well every other professional coach in North America, insisted that he does not read newspapers, but gets a sense of the media "hysteria" by the questions asked -- and it's something he doesn't love, nor does he want his players to get caught up in it.

"I can't tell you guys what to ask, or anything like that. I don't know how I'm supposed to do that, except just don't read crap that's printed in the paper," he said, while suggesting that the Toronto hockey media has as an inflated sense of self-importance.

"Please," he said, interrupting a question. "All of your questions are related to the media and their importance. Ask me about the hockey team, not about how you guys report the action. That seems to be a question all the time: 'How are we handling the media?' It's irrelevant. It's how we are playing on the ice that is more important, as far as I'm concerned. Not our response to you."

Wilson described it as "gotcha" media.

"I've already heard that term in the U.S. political scene -- gotcha media. It's irrelevant," he said. "We have a job to do, we practise, we try to make ourselves better every day and that's what the goal is."

The Leafs' job this afternoon, other than to stay clear of the media hysteria, is to figure out a way to beat the St. Louis Blues, who are 1-1 during the regular season and posted a similar record against the Leafs in the pre-season. The Blues are loaded with offensive talent, with the likes of Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald, Brad Boyes and veteran Keith Tkachuk on the roster. Wilson said he will be looking for some consistency.

"No one's come out and said from our perspective that we're going to be a great team. Good teams usually find a consistency in their mental approach to games and every- thing that goes along with that," he said. "And we're a team that has to learn. Before we're ever going to consider ourselves a good team, we have to learn to be consistent and not get overly excited."


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