Dear Ron Wilson,
I along with most Leaf fans today feel your pain. Our team is not performing and it is frustrating as can be for fans, as well (I’m sure) for players and the coaches. You may feel that you are being unfairly blamed, as has been your feeling throughout your time in Leaf’s Nation. What I saw last night was pathetic. The players let you down early with bad decisions coming one after another. There was, however one important difference between last night and every other night.
You were thrown under the bus! The “Fire Wilson” chants were loud and impossible to ignore. All of Leaf’s nation could see that they were getting to you as your post-game interview lacked all the characteristics of a typical Ron Wilson Blamefest. You were cautious with how you dealt with the media, you actually defended your goalie (FOR ONCE!), and you had a far more mellow tone than I have ever seen from you after a loss. Clearly last night we saw a Ron Wilson who had been emotionally drained and suffered from being called out by all of Leaf’s Nation. All I can say is, you deserved it all! I can think of nothing more fitting than a person being put in the same unfair position that he has put others in time and time again, and that is what happened last night. Two bad plays from the defence lead to this loss, and that should have been on their shoulders, instead it was on yours. Justice was served!
Going forward, there is no way you recover from this, aside from a miraculous 10-game winning streak from the Blue and White. Judging by the player interviews yesterday (Schenn - it seems he was quite content with the fact that the Leafs lost, and I’m sure that the idea of the coach, who has hindered his development, being gone is responsible for this) I don’t see this occurring. You are as good as gone. So I’d like to take this opportunity to explain to you how this team should have been coached. Let’s start with what I would have said at the beginning of the year with this team, starting with the goaltenders:
“Gus, Reims. You are both new to the game and have never been relied on as a starter for an extended period of time. You WILL make mistakes and I am more than okay with that. Forget the fans, forget the media. I am the ONLY PERSON you need to impress here on a nightly basis. I want to see you adopting the techniques you are taught. I’m sure they will be difficult to get used to at first, but you will eventually get comfortable with them. Allaire is a good coach and will get you playing well.
Since I expect mistakes, and want to see improvement, I WILL NOT be switching you in and out every game. Instead I will make this a learning curve for both of you. You will both alternate on a 5-game cycle. Regardless of the outcomes of each of your 5 games, you will play through them. This will give you the chance to get into a rhythm and allow me to see how quickly you can bounce back from a bad loss should it occur. Half-way through the season this may change if one of you emerges as a true #1, but until that point, you will continue to alternate. Should you both perform admirably, I will continue the cycle, as there is nothing I would like more than to have 2 goalies I can rely on all year and in the playoffs. Stay strong, remember to try to improve on a nightly basis, and play the game to the best of your abilities! That is all I can ask of you.”
“Boys, I’m sorry. I am truly, truly sorry for what I put you through last year. My system is terrible for the defence, and I should have realised it sooner. We are going to change things up dramatically. I do like the way we were able to get the puck out when we actually succeeded in doing so, so I will try and keep that aspect alive. To do this, I plan on each pairing consisting of a defence-first defenseman and an offence-first defenseman. Phaneuf-Gunnarson, Gardiner-Schenn, Liles-Komi. Franson will be working on both aspects of his game and will sub in when people are struggling to find some good combinations. The combos that work are what I will go with.
Gunnarson, Schenn, and Komi, your job is defense first! I want to see minimal handling of the puck. You are responsible for grinding guys out in the corners, and you BETTER own the front of our net! Phaneuf, I am looking at you too. You have size, use it! I want players scared to plant themselves in front of Reims and Gus. That is YOUR area, keep it that way. Should any of you (aside from Phaneuf) happen to gain control of the puck, I want you to pass it off to your defensive partner or winger ASAP, and if they are not available, just get the puck to centre! Cover for your offensive partners, and play solid DEFENSIVE hockey!
Liles, Gardiner, Phaneuf, and Franson. You are the puck carriers. I want you to make those first passes out of our zone. Our forwards are speedy as hell, make sure you catch them at full flight. Speed on the attack is going to get us goals. If there is no pass, don’t be afraid to skate with it. Remember, you all have defensively responsible partners who are always ready to cover for you. Keep your heads up, and make the smart plays. Always remember that it is better to circle back and wait for the right opportunity than to rush an opportunity that isn’t there. Puck control is key for you!”
“Believe it or not folks, you are the one thing I can take credit for. You have blossomed these past few years, and despite your recent struggle, I know you have the ability to keep up and even improve your numbers. I need the work ethic to continue for all of you on both ends of the ice, and we will continue to improve. You represent a team that arguably has the largest following of any NHL franchise. Make them proud!”
Take Care Ronnie, you will not be missed.
- Leafs Nation