Thursday, November 26, 2009

In defense of Coach Ron Wilson

There are legions of fans and sport reporters/analysts that have begun debating the merits of firing Ron Wilson. That comes with being the coach of a last place team and having high expectations placed on you. It doesn’t help that you have a personality that will rub people the wrong way. Still even the popular Paul Maurice could not hang on to his job in Toronto without delivering better results. And while everyone else is piling on, Gary Roberts told Bill Watters on his radio show that he felt that the Leafs conditioning was suspect. He did admit that he no idea what the Leafs conditioning program consisted of but that didn’t really matter much to the media. Their headline was written for them although slightly out of context.

So is Wilson doing that bad of a job? Here are some positives to dwell on:
  • Their power play is 8th best in the NHL just below the Capitals.
  • Their penalty killing is still last in the NHL but over the past 10 games has had an efficiency rate of 85% which compares with the top teams in the league.
  • They 16th in the NHL in shots given up which is a vast improvement over last season. They are spending less time in the own end of the ice. The fact that they are 4th in the league in shot taken underscores their weakness in top 6 forwards. Monday’s 61-shot loss is a prime example.
  • A number of players are having career years. Part of the reason is that many players who would have a limited role on a strong team are getting more ice time on a weaker team. But Wilson is getting the most out of these guys. Kaberle is on pace to reach a career high in points (85); Stajan is on pace to score 22 goals and 58 points; Hagman is on pace to score 40 goals and 54 points; Ponikarovsky is on pace to score 28 goals; Kessel is on pace to score 38 goals; and White is on pace to score 14 goals and 46 points.

    The Maple Leafs are 4th in turnovers and the goaltending has been miserable. The coach can’t do much about turnovers and the team supposedly has the best goalie coach on the planet but he is working with a rookie goalie and one with a wonky groin. Upgrade the top 6 forwards and goaltending and this team will be more than competitive and the talk about Ron Wilson not being an effective coach will disappear.