Wilson under fire
ACC fans voice displeasure with Leafs coach
STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson yells at a referee during a game against the Panthers at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Feb. 28, 2012. (FRED THORNHILL/Reuters)
TORONTO - The chants started just after Jason Garrison scored the fourth goal for the Florida Panthers early in the third period.
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is an easy target. Heís not outwardly warm and can be sarcastic and caustic, and he has yet to guide the Maple Leafs to the playoffs since being hired in 2008. Everyone it seems wants him fired, including the fans at the ACC Tuesday night.
Personally, I donít buy into the sentiment that Wilson is the main, or only, problem with the Leafs, or that the players have stopped playing for him ó which was the theory being kicked around the ACC press box Tuesday night. Wilson doesnít play goal and he surely doesnít order Luke Schenn to give the puck away brutally once a game. And there have been many games this season when the Leafs have actually outplayed the opposition and lost.
But since Burke did absolutely nothing at the trade deadline to help his team get over the hump this season and make playoffs for the first time since 2004, perhaps the fans are right. Perhaps it is time to fire Wilson. Burke has to do something, and thereís not much else he can do now that the trade deadlineís over and done. There are no ready saviours down with the Marlies and his goaltenders arenít exactly brimming with confidence. If Burke wants to shake this team up in the hopes of making the playoffs, perhaps now itís time to fire the coach.
That being said, Burke likely wonít fire his good friend because itís clear that making the playoffs this season is not a priority for the GM. He said as much on Monday. Burke said heís not going blow up his precious rebuild for the sake of squeaking into the playoffs.
So there you go. Itís the same old, same old in Leafsland.
IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
As per Burkeís decision not to trade for someone to help the Leafs reach the playoffs this season ... there is a school of thought that if youíre within smelling distance of the playoffs, you go for it. First of all, despite Burkeís pronouncements that he his building for a future Stanley Cup run, there are no guarantees that the Leafs are going to be a great team in the immediate future. Yes, theyíre young and have some assets, but you never know what you have with young players. Burke owed it to the long-suffering fans, not to mention the MLSE shareholders, to go for it this season. At least try. There have been upsets in the first round before. And you donít have to blow up a team to acquire one key player that might help you get over the top. But he didnít do anything for the here and now. And now itís probably too late.
Burke said Monday that he received a firm offer for goaltender James Reimer three days before the trade deadline but rejected it immediately. Maybe he should have done the kid a favour and traded him. As the game against Florida demonstrated, Reimerís confidence is shattered, and the ACC fans are getting on him almost every game. Reimer gave up two goals on the first two shots and three on the first 11 against the Panthers. And heís been playing like that largely through the month of February, and has lost four in a row.
Schenn was not impressed with the sarcastic booing by the ACC faithful, particularly those directed at Reimer. ďItís no question when youíre getting booed every game, itís not going to help you turn things around and get your confidence going. Itís a struggle for everyone right now but in particular James is taking a lot of heat. Both goalies are. And I donít think itís very easy for them.Ē Schenn should wake up. Leafs fans have good reason to boo ... Wilson coached his 1,400th NHL game, tying Pat Quinn for fourth in league history ... Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek played after being a healthy scratch the past four. It was the 500th game of his NHL career.
Before the trade deadline there were plenty of scouts at the ACC. A day after the deadline, there were fewer scouts, but there were two front office guys from the Calgary Stampeders ... ACC keyboard guy Jimmy Holmstrom played a couple of ditties in honour of the visiting Florida team, including the Beatlesí Here Comes the Sun and Weíll Sing in Sunshine by New Zealand-born Canadian Gale Garnett.