A Poor Fit?
Sometimes you really have to wonder why Ron Wilson took the job of coaching the Maple Leafs.
But an open question when Wilson signed on with the club was how he would handle the scrutiny of his work and the performance of his teams in Toronto after stops in Anaheim, Washington and San Jose, places where the coverage of the NHL is minimal for the most part and, at times, non-existent
So far, not particularly well. All these people with their annoying questions and comments
Working in Toronto was always going to be a big, big change for Wilson, a good, experienced coach and a smart fellow, but also one of the more thin-skinned hockey men around
After all, the coverage of the Leafs has exploded in recent years. Twenty years ago, a coach might have to deal with three or four beat writers on a regular basis and the occasional TV camera and radio mike
These days, every day is like a full-blown presidential press conference. But it's no different than the coverage of the Yankees in New York - probably less - the Canadiens in Montreal - less intense - or the Cowboys in Dallas - probably similar
Wilson knew all of this going in. Brian Burke surely did as well, and he appears to be loving it. Not a single complaint. He wanted Toronto and all that entailed
But after winning 34 of his first 84 games in Toronto, Wilson seems to be increasingly resentful of the fact fans and media alike have many questions about his hockey club and aren't afraid to vocalize them
He doesn't like positive coverage of his team or negative coverage. Just the other day in Washington, positive questions about the play of goalie Jonas Gustavsson were ridiculed, with Wilson saying the Toronto media always wants to "build monuments" to players before they've accomplished anything
Then he takes the opposite approach. In Paul Hunter's story today about the Leaf goaltending picture, Wilson takes exception to criticism of Vesa Toskala, calling it "grossly unfair."
Basically, Wilson would prefer it if people just wrote down his words and published them verbatim
He said yesterday Leaf goalies have to perform not "under a microscope but under an electron microscope." True, its not like Anaheim or Washington or San Jose. But didn't he know that? And aren't there terrific benefits that go with working in hockey's Big Smoke, even for a sub-.500 coach? And wouldn't a smart coach use the glare of this market to fuel the performance of his players?
Wilson also loves to play games. For example, he said yesterday "We don't question anything about what Vesa's done," which is a complete untruth. Toskala's play has been a hot debating point within the organization for more than a year, and last year both Wilson and Burke questioned his play and work habits.
The only reason any of this matters, of course, is that blaming the media offers up a crutch that some players are only too happy to lean on
"It's hard to feel good about yourself when you're always being questioned," Wison told reporters yesterday
Well, wahhh. Cry me a river. If I don't want hundreds of emails a week telling me what a moron I am or explaining how I could do my job better, then I wouldn't sign on to work covering hockey for the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper. After 20 years, I keenly understand the reality that readers of The Star feel they know more about the sport than I do and could write about it much more intelligently if given the chance. Both might even be true. Read the comments on this blog sometime. If you're writing hockey in Toronto, you'd better be ready to take a lot of shots if you're going to hand a few out.
With the Leafs, Burke knew what he was in for and accepts it. Doesn't bother him one iota, for example, that not everyone liked the Phil Kessel trade. He's not looking for love or consensus
Wilson, however, bristles under the attention and criticism. He either blames the media for nit-picking or complains that media types don't watch closely enough to understand his team
We're either building monuments or ripping players to shreds. He loves to term it all the product of "you guys," as though reporters and columnists for the Star, Sun, Post, Globe, TSN, Sportsnet, The Score, CBC, The Fan 590, AM640 and every other media outlet think as one, work as one and all do their jobs exactly the same way and with the same dedication and effort. Only always sunny Leaf TV propaganda seems to suit Wilson, and that may not even be true
You've gotta wonder why he took the job in the first place.