Nazem Kadri has felt the sting of Ron Wilson’s quips as much as any Maple Leaf, but was among the first to offer congratulations Monday for the head coach’s contract extension.
“There was some tough love to begin with,” Kadri admitted Monday at the MasterCard Centre. “He’s been around awhile and definitely knows how to handle himself.”
That often has meant a tough jab at Kadri on the bench or through the media when Wilson felt the hot-shot first-rounder, or some other young Leaf, needed to be knocked down a peg.
“Personally, I know I need to be straightend out every once in awhile,” Kadri said with a chuckle. “That’s not so bad. I’ve come a long way as a hockey player and a person.”
Defenceman Carl Gunnarsson said being chirped at by Wilson was a shock at first after laid-back coaching in Sweden.
“Some coaches can be funny, but over here, they’re honest and then there’s brutally honest (Wilson). He’s doing a great job. It’s a completely different experience from back home, a different mentality. You have to learn to deal with that. It’s the best league in the world and that’s the way it should be. Sweden isn’t that hard, but it’s getting there.”
With the Sabres, and before that, the Atlanta Thrashers, winger Clarke MacArthur played much more skittish. As a Leaf under Wilson, he had a career season in 2010-11.
“He’s given me the opportunity to make mistakes and be able to get back out,” MacArthur said. “I owe a lot to him for that. It’s nice to know he’s staying.”
Winger Jay Rosehill says the public might get the wrong idea about Wilson if they base opinion just on sound bytes.
“He usually has a pretty good, upbeat attitude and keeps it lighter around here. Which is what guys these days appreciate. You respect him and want to work for him, but it’s nice that a guy doesn’t think he has to be Mr. Mean and Angry all the time.
“I think it was tough on him being in the last year of a deal. You come in here with a job to do and have to worry about that (contract) stuff on the side.”