Game Day: The road trip continues and more from the Ron Wilson interview
Adjust your sleeping habits, warn your boss about lost productivity and get ready to cheer (hopefully) in the wee hours: The boys are out West this week.
Tonight, it's Los Angeles. Tomorrow, let's hope they know the way to San Jose. Then on Thursday, the magnificent Leaf bastards cross the state border and venture into Arizona.
Two games at 10:30 p.m. + one game at 9 p.m. x 96 hours = Groggy Leafs Nation.
Colby Armstrong suffered a scratched cornea after getting sucker-punched by Atlanta's resident douche, Ben Eager. Colby is wandering around with an eye-patch and tinted shades, looking like a pirate who also moonlights as a rap producer.
Fingers crossed for his future depth perception.
The Leafs are on a roll. The playoffs may still seem like an impossible dream, but it's a dream they continue to chase.
"We look at the standings every day," Mike Komisarek told me last week, before the road trip started. "You work hard all summer. You come to training camp and do the testing. You battle every night not to go home at the end of the season and to have nothing to show for it."
It sounds like James Reimer will be returned to the Marlies, sooner than later. On an operational level, maybe this makes sense. But if the playoffs are still the goal, it makes no sense at all.
"I've been working hard and playing pretty well in practice," Reimer told me the other day. "I feel confident."
His confidence is contagious. In every start, you can actually see this confidence leap from his mask and pads and infect every other player on the ice. When he's in net, the Leafs are skating, passing, shooting and scoring with lethal proficiency.
For crying out loud, let the kid play.
At the end of my recent interview with Ron Wilson, I opened my laptop and walked around to his side of the desk.
"Take a look at this," I told Wilson, who put on his reading glasses.
The previous evening, I noticed someone had vandalized his Wikipedia page.
The final line, which has since been removed, read: "As well, under Wilson, all players are encouraged to consume waffles (a carb) after a loss."
He laughed and shook his head: "I wonder if the guy who did that is the same guy who threw the waffles."
Here now, a few more outtakes from the interview...
"Why would I read somebody's blog? I'm actually here. You know, I live this! I'm in the middle of it. I know what's going on."
On helping players cope with the swirling trade rumours:
"Generally speaking, the guys who would be the most susceptible to anything like that would be a veteran player with, let's say, a couple of kids who doesn't want to move anywhere. But when you do hear a rumour that is absolutely not based on fact at all, you basically tell the player, 'Look, these things aren't in any way true. And don't even think that that is being considered.'"
"I wouldn't change anything. It's the greatest job in the world."
"If you go over most of our games, you could say we play well for 56 or 57 minutes and have a bad two or three minutes. Often times, we make a young player type of a mistake and it ends up in your net. If we can fix up those minutes that we have when we don't play well during a game, our record would be much better."
On the mood inside the room these days:
"I think the mood is excellent. I'd be shocked for any player to say that it wasn't. Our practices have been good. I honestly think the mood's been great."
On his life away from the rink, which these days mostly includes movies and the occasional restaurant meal:
"It"s actually quite a boring life to be perfectly honest with you."
"Well, to an extent. That's something you always battle. This isn't like smallpox where everybody is immunized and in 10 years nobody is going to get it. It's always a constant battle and we try to identify players."
On the media:
"You have to deal with the media and you have to understand that they are the link between our team and the fans and there's information that gets put out there. But too often now it's not reporting, it's critiquing. There aren't any reporters any more because everybody has already watched the game. The game is not reported, it's critiqued."
"It's not with regards to me. The 'piranhas' is how they'll get all over a player, not give a young player enough space to actually grow. Plant ideas. A young player will have a great game and he gets built up when he shouldn't be. A young player has a bad game and he gets knocked down when he shouldn't even be responsible for what happened. We're the ones who are putting him in a situation that he might not even be ready for."
On his perceived stormy relationship with the media:
"To me it's totally irrelevant because it doesn't really affect what I am doing as a coach on the ice."
On why he tells his players to avoid reading negative coverage:
"We tell our players not to read that stuff because it really doesn't affect anything they do on the ice. It's not going to affect our opinion. When you're young, it can affect your self-esteem if you read criticism about your play."
On the importance of blocking out distractions:
"To be able to play the game, you've got to put yourself in a world where you block out all the distractions. And media can be a distraction. It can overinflate your opinion of yourself, where you think you are better than you really are. The flipside to that is you might be better than you are being written about."
On the blurring line between reportage and opinion:
"Everybody is a columnist now. Nobody is a reporter. There are no reporters any more. It's an entirely different environment that gets, unfortunately, crueler every year because of what your editors are looking for to sell papers. My God, you go into hotels now you get every newspaper free because nobody will buy a newspaper."
Me: "You're depressing me, Ron. Seriously, you're bringing me down."
Him: "But that's the reality of it!"
"Hey Ref! Nice call! You're as clueless as a blogger!"
BOTTOM PHOTO: FRED THORNHILL/REUTERS