Many Toronto Maple Leaf fans were left scratching their heads on Christmas Day when the club’s general manager Brian Burke confirmed he had given coach Ron Wilson a contract extension. This is Wilson’s fourth year coaching the NHL’s most valuable franchise and he’s missed the playoffs in each of the first three seasons. The Leafs were hanging onto a playoff spot when the news was announced with an 18-13-4 record, but were just three points ahead of the ninth-place Winnipeg Jets. In fact, there are seven teams behind Toronto that could possibly take their playoff spot as they’re all within nine points of them.
As well as missing the playoffs with Toronto each year, Wilson’s clubs have had the worst penalty killing in the league since he took over behind the bench. They’re 30th and last again this year in that department and were 28th last season, and dead last in his first two seasons as well. As far as goals against go, the club is sixth-last this season and have finished last, second last, and sixth last out of 30 teams in his previous three seasons.
It’s obvious the team has some glaring deficiencies and thousands of fans are amazed that such ineptitude was rewarded by an extension. It’s conceivable the team will miss the playoffs again this season which would be the seventh year in a row with no post-season action in Canada’s biggest city. Wilson may lead the league when it comes to wins by active coaches at 637 in 1372 games, but even those numbers show he’s won well below half of his games coached.
Burke declined to reveal the details of the contract when he confirmed it, perhaps to keep the uproar by the fans as minimal as possible. It’s those fans that are paying the highest average price for NHL tickets for one of the league’s worst teams over the past decade. The 56-year-old Wilson took over the Maple Leafs in the summer of 2008, just a few weeks after he was canned by the San Jose Sharks. His record with Toronto is 119-120-42 and his overall record over 18 seasons sits at 637-566-169. Wilson’s also coached the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks in the past.
He’s a former NHL player who was drafted in 1975 by the Leafs. He played portions of three season s Toronto before being traded to the Minnesota North Stars where he spent four more years. The Leafs have improved slightly this season due to the fact they have two of the league’s top scorers in Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. However, even with these players being as hot as they are, the team is struggling to remain in a playoff spot.
If Kessel or Lupul get injured before the season ends it’s almost certain the Leafs will nosedive and miss the playoffs yet again. Many Leaf fans are wondering why Wilson was given an extension before the team sews up a guaranteed playoff spot. Other than the fact that Burke and Wilson are close friends, most fans can’t really figure it out.