"That guy there, in the net? He's done."

I hated playing for coaches who determined how well the team played in a given game by the outcome. You win, practice is lighter, everyone can joke around, and things are on the right track. You lose, well, the effort wasn’t there, we need better conditioning, let’s practice for an extra 30 minutes.

That’s just not how hockey works. Sometimes you get a few bad bounces, sometimes you get a few bad calls, and sometimes….sometimes your goalies just play like shit.

For those reasons, I like this Ron Wilson press conference. Obviously his team didn’t score enough goals to win - he doesn’t imply that the team played well - but he liked the direction things were going in a loss, the same way he didn’t like where they were going in some previous wins.

But when he turns his focus to his tenders….woosh. These are some daggers he fires in the post-game press conference. Watch, then I’ll do my best to translate the message he’s sending his goalies using my undergrad degree in Complete Speculation.

(As a random aside: I think it’s bizarre that a coach will act like another team gives a damn which not-very-good goaltender they play. Like Ken Hitchcock would “game plan” differently for Ben Scrivens or Jonas Gustavsson? That’s just coaches trying to make people think their job is harder than it is.)

Let’s take a look at the three most important quotes:

“We need to support our goalies if they’re having a rough time, and play better defensively, but sometimes that’s hard to do if you don’t give up any chances and a puck’s in our net and it’s not a scoring chance.”

Next…

“Their goalie made a number of big saves and unfortunately we couldn’t get a save.”

And in response to a reporter’s question “How do you move ahead when both guys are kinda fighting it?”

“Well, they’ve gotta work hard in practice, that’s their responsibility, to, sit there with Frankie, go over the games. At least we go on the road….maybe they can relax a little bit, not worry about what’s gonna happen if they make a mistake.”

In my mind, that last one is the most important quote.

When teams are dealing with prospects, players they’re trying to work into legitimate NHLers, they treat them differently and give them every conceivable break. Those players get helped and coddled and defended until eventually (after a PROLONGED period of minimal-to-no results) the coach starts to give up and go ”they’ve gotta work hard in practice, that’s their responsibility.”

As a player trying to read between the lines of Wilson’s comments, I hear:

“This is the NHL. If you don’t get it done – and believe me, it’s on you - we’ll find someone who will. There’s nothing I can do to save you at this point. You simply have to play better, or you’ll be packing your bags. The moment we decide to give up on you isn’t far away.

Your responsibility. It’s the verbal version of a face slap and smelling salts. Now or never.

Before you’d see a bad thing happen to a teammate or yourself (scratched, traded or cut), you’d see the coach direct his attention at that person with a comment or two in the days leading up to it. The comments will be wrapped in coach-speak, but they’re always some version of this wake-up call. You’re on notice.

For the goalies in Toronto, it is now or never. If we see another couple off-nights from either of these two, changes will be made. They got off to too good a start to piss away points while waiting on Reimer’s return.

Comments (18)

  1. I know that the Allaire brothers have a lot of respect in the goalie coaching community, but I think Francois might not be a great fit with the goalies that they have not named Reimer.’

    Allaire is very system oriented and I know don’t know that his blocking style works with guys like Gustavsson that is a more reactionary goalie.

    Guys like Mitch Korn in Nashville tend to be more flexible and try and coach his goalies to their strengths as opposed to the square peg in round hole approach that Allaire appears to go down a lot of the time.

  2. I kept trying to listen to the press conference, but I kept getting distracted by that shirt. What are those things? Ribbons?

  3. James, yeah I heard that observation made yesterday too. A definite possibility, but that’s part of the point – if Gustavsson needs to play a different way to be successful, well, it’s time, bucko. Speak up and go back to what works for you.

    Clare – I’m pro-the-colour-purple (especially with suits), and even I recognize that’s awful.

  4. I find the problem with Gus is that he just makes stupid mental mistakes. Look at the goals hes let in since he took over I’d guess 2/3rds of them are bone headed. That awkward catch one he missed, him sliding all over the place last night, the list goes on. While i agree that Allaire may not be the best to coach Gus, Gus needs to understand that he can learn to settle down his feet, use his body more and rely on his flexibility/athleticism if needed. He relies wayyy to much on diving around now.

    The more concerning problem is that he almost seems aloof with his play. “I was unlucky last night”. REALLY?

  5. JB,

    The tough part is how can Gus improve himself if his goalie coach isn’t working with him in a manner that will make him better?

    It would be like telling you to improve your play on the PP if the coaches made you the guy that goes to the front of the net and you’re a guy who is better off on the half wall.

    I think the Leafs need to do a better job getting goalies that fit what Allaire teaches (although that didn’t work out great with Giggy…) or give Keeks his job back.

  6. Wilson’s a jerk. Trying to blame everyone else for his failure. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs don’t make the playoffs again and he gets canned.

  7. The coach has got to work harder; that is HIS responsibility. Goalkeeping is a problem here but so is the coaching. Special teams are the worst every year, for example — a clear indication of coaching failure.

  8. Jonas Gustavsson was playing well (or atleast good enough to get some wins) and Wilson went and gave their AHL goalie a start. Since then things have been a mess.

  9. Forget about the fact that the Leafs’ goaltending has been less than adequate for a second because the bigger problem with this team is the coaching or lack thereof. For starters, the Leafs are prone to starting games very slowly and that points to being unprepared. The undisciplined nature in which the team runs around in their own end blowing their defensive zone coverage also points to bad coaching. Then there’s the PK which is dead last and the PP which isn’t much better… all of these things are the responsibility of the coach. Brian Burke has given him more than enough talent to work with and he is clearly not up to the task and in my opinion Wilson, more than anyone else is holding back the Leafs.

  10. Everyone is so quick to blame the coach. Wilson’s lack of coaching skills has got them to 3rd place in the league and what we’re witnessing lately has been a lack of execution from the net out that led to a couple of bad games. The goaltending issues aren’t the coaches fault and the lack of scoring has had more to do with running into a hot goalie than anything else. Can’t blame Wilson for that. Oh and Assistant coaches run the special teams so don’t hang the PK and PP woes on him either.

    • Ye… they use to be #1 and dropped.

      Majority of the goals are on fast break, nothing to do with coach decisions its mometum.

      Ron Wilson and brain burke are a terrible combo, they should just ship them and get a new gm and coach.

  11. like i said before. pretty funny. but dammit where are the goal scorers?? you can put blame on the goalies till ur blue in the face. address. lack of goal scoreing. never mention that. if your going to coach. let them shoot the puck. its all-ways make the pretty pass. or lack of being unsure when to shoot??? why is wilson going to jump evey ones ass for not takin the shot?? pretty sad if thats what your coach does. wake up wilson an let these guys shoot. its bull shit. an you can even here the crowd to shoot. what part of that dosent a coach understand??? fnnnnn un real!!!! GO LEAFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Hey Rob, the argument could easily be made that the Leafs got to 3rd place in spite of the coach. As a matter of fact if you have been watching the Leafs this year you would know that they have not played a full 60 minutes yet and why is that? The very lack of execution you talk about has been present even when they were winning, it’s just that they were getting away with it. There are plenty of coaches around the league getting more out of less talented rosters than the Leafs, take Edmonton for example, no one in their right mind who knows hockey would say that their blueline is superior to the Leafs and true they might me getting great goaltending but at the same time why are they playing such sound positional hockey? The answer is better coaching…

  13. Leafs weaknesses are easy to exploit: everyone tends to back in toward the goalie (even more so with Reimer absent) – so, if you play them like Florida did, you just forecheck the daylights out of them at the start. Giveaways, poor coverage, and juicy rebounds abound, which keeps the Buds jammed into their own end. A smart coach can combat that: put your forwards out higher, closer to the point men, and use quick passes to break out. Nothing deflates forechecking faster than quick counter-attacks. You begin to generate scoring opportunities or you draw penalties. You must exit the zone with speed, however, or the opposing D will just cut you off at the red line (did you see FLA do to the Leafs Tuesday?). Yes, and your D must join the rush – when was the last time a Leafs D did that? forget about giving up a 2-on-1 – Leafs problem has been 2 on 5 attacks.

    An opposite tactic, if you have Steckel or Bozak on early in a shift, is simply to ice the puck. Yes, ice the puck, and let your C win the face-off, and re-start. Slow the opps’ momentum down. Russians used to do it to Canada. This is better than chasing the opps around in your zone, while they appear to move the puck on a string.

    In my opinion, whether the goaltending is good or bad, you accomplish nothing by crowding your own crease in a funk. One more thing: giving up 2 quick goals 4 times in a season is suspect – but 4 times in 2 games? If that don’t quit, someone gets fired, or someone gets benched – maybe both. No excuses. If I’m coach, at this point, I tell the guys: whoever is on the ice for a quick 2nd goal against is BENCHED.

  14. It may not surface for a few years, but in the final analysis I predict that F. Allaire will prove to have exerted a negative influence on the Leafs’ goalies. Mark my words!

  15. Wilson always has someone to blame! I guess that is why the players voted for him as they did during the All Star break. I imagine the ones that voted for him had probably played for him at some point and that’s why they don’t want to play for him again. He always throws someone under the bus. I just wish he would throw himself under the bus.

  16. He’s right. His goalies have to play better.They suck. Signed hard core leafs fan

  17. Gustavsson is not an NHL caliber goalie, Scrivens had 1 bad game big deal even the best goalies in the league have bad games….like what’s wrong with Miller this year? Scrivens played his heart out in the St. Louis game made 38 of 40 saves and stopped all 3 shooters in the shoot out…I’d say that’s a pretty good bounce back. Ship out the Monster or release him outright the guy sucks, and bring up Rynnas to back Scrivens up.

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