LOS ANGELES -- Ron Wilson may be out of sight to one of the former players most likely to stand up to the hard-nosed Maple Leafs coach.
But he's never out of Blackberry range.
So Jeremy Roenick planned to get some advance jabs in before the Leafs visit San Jose tonight to take on the same Sharks team that released Wilson this past spring.
"I'll probably be watching (last night's game against the Kings) on TV and text him about what he's doing wrong," Roenick said yesterday in a phone interview from further up the Golden State. "He'll probably get (the message) between periods. Ron's a Blackberry junkie."
He may also be a good bluffer. Wilson grumpily cast aside the significance of his return to San Jose, saying tonight's game at the Shark Tank is "no sentimental journey."
Don't buy it, says Roenick, who perhaps understood Wilson better than any player he has coached during his 15 years in the NHL because they were able to cut through the mutual bluster.
"Absolutely not," Roenick said when asked if he believed Wilson's stance on tonight. "He had some fantastic years in San Jose and had a lot of respect both in the locker room and the community. He did a lot to get this team to an elite level.
"There's no way he can come in here and not feel some sort of emotion. It's impossible, especially with him having been here for so long."
It's six years ago this week that Wilson arrived in San Jose and began to transform the franchise into one of the NHL's best (and for fans in the east anyway, best-kept secrets).
Despite becoming the winningest coach in Sharks history by compiling a record of 206-134-45, Wilson was fired in May, ostensibly because the team was bounced from the second round of the playoffs each of the past three seasons. For his part, Wilson says he has moved on, that he has his "dream job" with the Leafs and that if you've been fired as often as he has, returning to a new building is old hat.
"I've been through this three or four times, it's not any different than any other game," Wilson said. "We are in a different set of circumstances than San Jose. We are a team that's trying to find our way and rebuilding. They are building for something else entirely.
"(The Sharks) fired me, I was on the red eye and on the golf course the next morning. The first thing I did was bust out my golf clubs and move on."
The Sharks have moved on as well, leading the league in wins (20), points (41) and goals (92). But Roenick said Wilson deserves some of the credit and "the work ethic Ron helped build" still is evident in the locker room.
"I'm enjoying watching them have success and that's the honest to god's truth," said Wilson, who was replaced by rookie head coach Todd McLellan. "I spent a lot of time with those guys. They just continue to develop. We were the second best team in the NHL last year. Every year we got a little bit better with a ton of young guys."
For the most part, Toronto players still are trying to figure out their new boss. While Wilson isn't above the odd dressing-room prank, the aftershocks of his no-nonsense demands for accountability are still a challenge.
"I think it's going to be a work in progress," said Leafs forward Jason Blake, one of the players Wilson has ridden hardest. "He's a tough guy to read, but there's nothing wrong with that and I have the utmost respect for him. "His job is to get his players to perform up to their potential every shift, every night."
Perhaps because his interaction these days is mostly via text message, Roenick has a different take.
"I always liked Ron since I played for him in the (1998) Olympics," Roenick said. "I had an absolute blast last year. He made being around the locker room fun again.
"I wish I could be up there (in Toronto) to see him in action. With him and (new team president Brian Burke) that's a one-two punch I can't see losing for very long."