Ooooh god they scored again didn't they


So…I have some questions about Ron Wilson.

Right off the bat, I’ll admit that much to the dismay of many readers, I quite like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite their lack of recent success, if I could play anywhere in the league, they’d be a top five destination. I think Brian Burke is awesome, the city’s passion is awesome, and I genuinely want them to do well.

So, I have some questions about Ron Wilson.

Today I read the James Mirtle blog on Cody Franson, and how he felt about being named the Maple Leafs 7th defenseman heading into the regular season. The recently-acquired defenseman will watch opening night from the press box, where he can eat popcorn and start cultivating some hate for the people who assigned him that seat.

How does he know he’s been relegated to 7th? Well, he happened to see Ron Wilson’s Monday media chat (the ones where he always looks just about ready to drop a cyanide capsule), where Wilson made these somewhat-harmless yet still-informative comments:

“Right now [Franson] is our seventh defenceman, but I wouldn’t hesitate to play him in any situation,” he said. “That’s just the way it is right now.”

Not sure why it looks like I did a poor job of photoshopping that jersey on him

That was, by all accounts, all Franson had heard despite the fast approaching NHL season, being under contract, and having potential falling out of his pockets. This is me being biased towards my favourite coach ever, but the Blues’ Davis Payne would be on the ice after practice talking with that kid and making sure he knew exactly what the hell he was doing on defense. A lot of younger coaches would be.

To have your only communication with a 24 year old new player go down through the media like that baffles me. I know Ron Wilson is a bit of an old-school guy (or whatever), but what does he think coaching is all about? You’re a professional communicator, for cripes sake. You’re an educator.

This is not the first time a Maple Leaf player has implied that he has no idea why he’s sitting, why he’s in the doghouse, or what he can do to improve (Brett Lebda was apparently another guy). 

To make matters worse, Wilson is apparently not a big fan of speaking with the team after losses, instead opting for the good ol’ fashioned “if you don’t know what you did wrong, then I’m not going to tell you.”

(Counting on fingers) Okay, so he’s not speaking to players. He’s not speaking to the team after losses. We’re at two… (thinking) so he’s probably doing 50% (or considerably less) than what great coaches do. He’s only coaching in-game and in-practice.

Well, times have changed.

When my dad played for the Islanders back in the day, there were very few personal relationships between players and coaches. There weren’t so many “open door policies.” Not to minimize what the great coaches of yesteryear did, but a lot of it was assembling the right lines, having the best roster, and getting the on-ice matchups you wanted when you wanted them. Most coaching happened between puck drop and the final buzzer, as opposed to on whiteboards and in offices.

This is a different world than that. Most young prospects who’ve been aimed at the NHL, told they were going to make it, and groomed accordingly were, well, coddled. You don’t have to like that fact (nobody does), but every Nikolai Zherdev and Patrick Kane and Whoever TheHell has always been the most important player on his team coming up. They don’t respond well to being mindlessly sloughed aside.

Half your job as an NHL coach is doubling as an HR guy these days, which frustrates a lot of them, and wastes a lot of their time. But you can’t just not do it, or your lose your players. That Toronto roster ain’t all bad – it’s awfully early to get in your young d-man’s kitchen and commence with the scrambling of eggs. Hell, the Toronto media will do that for you.

The fact is, nobody responds well to not knowing. If you’re messing up your TPS reports at work and you actually care about your job – as these players do - wouldn’t you rather hear it from eight bosses than none, so you could improve? (“I’ve got eight bosses, Bob.” “I beg your pardon?” ”..Eight bosses.” ”Eight?” “Eight, Bob.”)

I’m not sitting here calling for Wilson’s head. Everyone can change, can improve. But distant, tight-lipped negativity gets eff-all accomplished.

I just don’t get it.

Comments (14)

  1. weird. There is no normal scenario that I can think of that would make this kind of handling of players understandable. Even if he held a personal grudge against him for whatever reason, he’s still an asset that you’ll have to use at some point. Why have that asset uncertain and less than optimally motivated?

  2. Yeah, tough to just bite your lip and not get the chance to prove what you can do in game one. I’m sure he feels he improved a lot over the summer, as most players that age do.

  3. Interesting that there was some negativity surrounding Scott Gordon too. You wonder if new systems were introduced and how much even Wilson is aware of them to let players know what’s up…Still falls back to him, but bringing all of those extra guys in this off-season, didn’t you get a sense that Wilson was on borrowed time anyway? Maybe he’s trying to get himself Costanza-fired.

  4. The unfortunate thing about this is that in any other market that wasn’t Brian Burke land Wilson would be long gone. Now like you, I’m not calling for Wilson’s head on a platter, instead I’d just like to see some consistency from him. You can’t call out one of your top prospects (Nazem Kadri) when he’s not putting up points. I mean, the kid was playing on a line with Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb. Not a whole lot of offensive support there. Honestly, I’d imagine that with injuries and suspensions that he’ll end up playing 70-75 games this year anyway so if I were Franson I wouldn’t fret too much. Sad to see him not in the opener though. I think he has way more upside then Gunnarson.

  5. Franson should expect to be the 7th d-man to start. Burke has too many and obviously Cody is in the Leaf’s future or he wouldn’t have been traded for. A trade of Gunnarson or (hopefully) Komisarek is expected so Cody should quietly wait. As for Wilson losing his team due to his handling of players, there’s no evidence of that. If Lebda didn’t know what the problem was….well, c’mon..

  6. as a torontonian…tough hearing this kind of news…not that its a shock. toronto has so many young guys they need to succeed before they can go anywhere…you’d hope the coach picked for the team would be better dealing with them. that aside…i personally think the kid ranks 4th or 5th on that depth chart and should be in the lineup.

    love the new blog bud…keep it up!

  7. If I may say – these are terrific, reasonable comments, and we’re dealing with a (somewhat) negative article on the most popular team in the league. I think this blog has potential.

    • great stuff. although id probably follow bourne anywhere his puck daddy stuff was always my favorite.

  8. Justin, I was just gonna say the same — such great comments here. Of course, that’s what happens when you write a great post. Will be interesting to keep tabs on this situation…(Ron Wilson, not the comments. But those too!)

  9. I’m sure what makes this especially difficult for a young player like Franson is that while being a former Predator, he’s used to direct line and open communication from the coaching staff. Barry Trotz has a reputation for being an incredibly open coach, and he demands the same from all of his staff. He’s picked up players from the airport when they were traded to let them know how important they are. The ‘farm team’ Milwaukee Admirals have the same communication and expectations set early to let the developing players know what to expect. It has got to be hard on a kid who has had that type of treatment during his pro career to have what seems to be a total 180 in the way he’s communicated with by the coaching staff.

    I wish Cody well and would like to see him develop into an offensively minded two way player that can handle both ends of the ice. I enjoyed watching his shot from the point, and felt Nashville had a chance to score when he was on the ice. I was sad to see him go, and outraged that Lebda was the return. Thankfully Nashville will never play Lebda, and I hate we gave an asset like Franson away for essentially nothing, but I doubt I’m alone in wishing Cody all the best in his pro career.

    Ron… get your communication classes on….as a coach your job is to get the most out of your players… this article suggests there may be some opportunity in that area.

    • I think your first paragraph hit the bullseye. I would also venture that it couldn’t have been easy for Cody to leave a town where he openly loved to live and work, as well as leaving one of his oldest and closest friends (Shea Weber). Cody has also admitted that as kid, he was a huge Leafs fan. It all stings and it all stinks.

      think your first paragraph hit the bullseye. I would also venture that it couldn’t have been easy for Cody to leave a town where he openly loved to live and work, as well as leaving one of his oldest and closest friends (Shea Weber). Cody has also admitted that as kid, he was a huge Leafs fan. It all stings and it all stinks.

      Obviously, trades, waivers, injuries and being called up-and-down is part of the game and guys must get a grip on the anxiety/frustration that comes with that. But what is most upsetting to me is the sense that this particular situation is all about shenanigans and ulterior motives. It’s despicable to see anybody caught in the middle of some elaborate telenovella – “well, it looks like he’s out for now but really it’s just until Tweedledee and/or Tweedledum get traded…” If he’s being used then he deserves the dignity and respect of a private conversation so he understands what’s going on. I grew up in Quebec with legions of Leafs haters, but I later moved to Toronto and discovered lots of reasons to like them, despite all their problem child ownership issues and all the requisite dram. Which makes it even harder when something like this happens. I think people want to love the Leafs but this is probably a perfect synopsis of why it’s so much easier said than done.

  10. Great article, and great points. It’s even more concerning on a team such as the Leaf’s. If this team had an established base and was just trying to tweak things this season it wouldn’t be so bad, but the Leaf’s are relying on developing young players and it seems RW doesn’t understand how to do this.

  11. Thanks Bakes! One more thought: you’d think that with so much media, there’d be more behind-closed-doors combo, and the kid would know exactly where he fits in.

  12. IWantToKnow WhereThe TorontoMapleLeafs GoingToMakeTheNHLPlayOffsTisYearandIReallyHopeThatTorontoMapleLeafsPlayersStopTakingDumbPantilys andFightingAllTheTimeand IReallyHopeThatTheHockeyPlayersStartGoingToTheNet

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