How about a playoff guarantee, Ron Wilson?
“I never make any guarantees,” the Maple Leafs coach said on Wednesday. “That’s ridiculous.”
While Wilson was unwilling to make a bold prediction, he figures this Leafs team is the best one he has had since taking over as head coach on June 10, 2008. Of course, none of Wilson’s previous three teams participated in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Toronto has not been in the post-season since 2004. The Leafs’ odyssey to correct that begins on Thursday night when the Montreal Canadiens visit the Air Canada Centre for the 2011-12 regular season opener.
Wilson heads into the season without the safety net of a contract extension and could be fired if the Leafs stumble in the first couple of months. Scott Gordon, one of his new assistants and a former head coach of the New York Islanders, could step in.
But that’s all speculative, and Wilson had other things on his mind on the eve of Game 1.
“This clearly is the deepest team and most skilled team we have had,” Wilson said. “It’s an entirely different feeling. We started well last year, but I think what makes us feel really good this year is we believe in our goaltending probably more than we ever have.
"The back end is much more mobile than it has been since I have been here. Those two factors right there, keeping the puck out of your net and moving it out of your end, is huge.”
James Reimer will start in goal, while Tim Connolly (upper body) will not play.
Newcomer David Steckel played on the left wing at practice on a line with centre Philippe Dupuis and winger Colby Armstrong.