If you hadn't guessed, Ron Wilson's been getting on my nerves a bit recently. And it's not just the team's struggles that are bothering me, though that's where it begins and ends, but also the cold, cynical, sarcastic, snarky nature that Wilson employs when speaking, through the media, to the public.
I think Wilson forgets sometimes that he isn't just speaking to the reporters assembled, but to the masses. The people holding microphones and notepads are only there because Leaf fans are listening and reading. That's the audience. Reporters and journalists and columnists and even bloggers just record the things that are said and sometimes they flaunt their opinion to add or create context, but the conversation is with the audience, and a condescending attitude is a shtick that wears thin real quick.
"We’re a .500 team and apparently we should be 1.000,”
Wrong. No one is suggesting we should still have a perfect record, but you know what? We could have been 1.000 after game 5, but instead Lebda took a goaltender interference penalty in overtime. Two people are responsible for that; Lebda and the coach. Also, .500 sucks. That's not a measure of success or acceptability. Please don't start talking that way. That's a losers attitude.
Ya, I know I'm being harsh but I'm tired of Wilson's preoccupation with his high horse keeping his clothes clean while the team and fans wallow in muck. Take some responsibility. For instance:
"I mean, it suddenly switched from Lindy Ruff to me overnight, and it’s always coming out of Toronto. There is some coach in the league that we’re talking about and I get asked not just about my own situation, but every other coach who is losing a couple of games and it always seems to come out of Toronto, not from the city where the coach is struggling a little bit.”
Are you joking? First of all, who won the game that night? Second, the always coming out of Toronto thing is a red herring. Of course you're going to get asked about your situation and others, and of course a greater percentage of the news-narrative will originate from Toronto, and aside from Ron Wilson, there are no other NHL head coaches working in Toronto so they have to be from somewhere else by default. It's enough to make me think he's gone off his rocker. For instance, from before the ill-fated loss to the Sabres:
“That’s half the problem with our society,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after the morning skate, leaping to the defense of his colleague. “You’re married to your wife, and you have a rough spot … ‘Oh, that’s it. I’m getting a new wife.’ We see that every damn day in our society. We just get rid of things.
“The one thing you don’t generally do is get rid of your kids.”
“I don’t think.”
“Not many people say, ‘That’s it. I’m trading my kids for a new set of kids,’ right?”
According to Nicholas J. Cotsonika, Wilson "leaped" to the defence of his Buffalo counterpart and seemingly got on a roll after only gentle prodding. This assumption is backed up by Sean Fitz-Gerald who wrote in the Post:
"Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson got on a roll during his pre-game briefing with reporters on Saturday, touching on everything from the status of the modern family to the continued development of Luke Schenn and the notion of the NHL adopting a system for coaches to challenge on-ice calls."
By the way, the quote from Wilson in which he ponders disposing of family members and exposes the root of half our society's damn habitual problems is one of the strangest tangents I've ever heard from a sports personality in Toronto. It's bizarre. I'd love to hear more from Ron Wilson about his bitter contempt for society and know what the other half of our problems are but I'm not sure why he's thinking about that and not about hockey. Who cares about Lindy Ruff? Or society?
But that was just the tail-end of his answer. It began a long ways back, according to the Post. Keep in mind this is only a "partial" transcript:
On whether rumours about job security – based on the speculation swirling around Sabres coach Lindy Ruff – can become a distraction:
“Well, I’ve had enough of that here. It happens most of the time. You lose two in a row, you should be fired or something. I don’t think that it’s a distraction to Lindy. How long has he been there? 13 years? So, along the way, if he’s been there 13 years, probably 30 times someone has said he should be fired.
“To take on a job of this magnitude, you have to have a fairly thick skin. And you have to believe in yourself. And over time, Lindy’s done a great job. They’ve been in this same spot four or five times along the way. You just have to be patient.”
On the importance of trust and support between a coach and a general manager:
“I don’t know what’s going on in the Buffalo organization, but coming in (the media room), I hate to say this, but your opinions don’t really matter in the board room or in the locker room. You guys have your opinions. And whatever’s going on in Buffalo, I guarantee you they’ve got their finger on the pulse.”
"They’re just going through a rough time right now. You go through a rough time in your life."
And then Wilson launches into his tirade against the North American way of life. These aren't answers to questions. This is just him going off. Finally he wraps it up with a cryptic comment that sounds more like he's talking about his own situation then anything to do with Lindy Ruff:
“You’re going to have rocky times. You stick in there. You battle through it. Don’t take the easy way out. You’ll be better off for it in the long run.”
So it seems to me that Wilson was far from bombarded with questions he didn't want to answer about his well-respected colleague but was quite happy to jump in there and lead the conversation, and then unwittingly turned it in his direction when he put himself in the scenario and projected the outcome. You're going to have rocky times. You stick in there. You battle through it. Don't take the easy way out. Who's he talking about? Lindy Ruff still? He's gone existential on us, just like Paul Maurice did.
It's interesting to me that Wilson hasn't had stronger words for the team's performance but instead found a way to praise them while appraising his own work:
"Defensively, with a couple of exceptions, we’ve played very well, we’ve kept the shots down. Our penalty killing, except for two games last week, has been excellent, we’ve really improved in that area … at some point it’s all going to click in, and we’ll start to see the results we expect.”
I like that part at the end. Finally, some optimism and encouragement. I can't wait until "some point" comes, and I'm sure that when it does and people say what a great job the Leafs coaching staff have done to turn things around, Wilson will have none of that and will deflect credit to the players who overachieved their talent and finally caught up to his coaching ability.