Tough to Look Back
This can't be easy for Ron Wilson.
Although he's been getting solid reviews for his coaching work this season with the severely undertalented Maple Leafs, Wilson has to be feeling the extraordinary success of the San Jose Sharks.
On one hand, many of the players that have powered the Sharks to the best record ever in the NHL history after 30 games were not only coached by Wilson and his assistants, Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler, but taught their first NHL lessons by that crew.
Wilson still has ties to that organization, still talks to Sharks players, still discusses hockey matters from time-to-time with GM Doug Wilson. On the other hand, of course, the way in which rookie coach Todd MacLellan has guided the Sharks to such a powerhouse, 52-point showing so far is, to some degree, an indictment of that which Wilson couldn't do.
Maybe he'd just been there too long. Maybe some players - everybody mentions Patrick Marleau - were no longer able to flourish under Wilson's coaching strategies.
The reality of course, may also be that many of the younger Sharks - Devin Setoguchi, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Ryan Clowe, Christian Erhoff, Milan Michalek - are a year older now, and that the addition of Dan Boyle to the back end has proven to be a major plus for a team that lacked that type of presence on the back end.
Wilson's team, of course, also had some very strong regular seasons, and it will be what MacLellan can push the Sharks to do in the post-season that will really matter. He came into this job from the rival Detroit Red Wings with keen insight into what made the Sharks beatable in the spring, and may thus be able to focus on those areas when the second season begins.
Any which way you cut it, however, this can't be easy for Wilson. The Sharks must still feel like his team in many ways, and he is such a proud man you know he believes he could have done exactly what MacLellan is doing had he been given the chance.
But he wasn't.