|Courtesy Maple Leafs Hot Stove|
Then came the 2011-2012 season. What many felt was a make or break season for Ron Wilson as coach. The Leafs had brought in the pieces to make everything work. Tim Connolly was brought in to be the number one centre between Lupul and Kessel. The Grabovski - Macarthur - Kulemin line was looking to establish themselves as a solid second line. John-Michael Liles was brought in to replace Kaberle, Jake Gardiner broke out of camp as a rookie sensation and the look of a solid young Leafs team was there. At the end of the first month Toronto was sitting second in the Eastern Conference and were well on their way to a great season. And even after the second month Toronto was sitting in fourth place. The first two months which had normally spelt doom for Toronto had turned into optimism. However, like seasons past, the penalty kill was near the very bottom in the league. What was supposed to be Ron Wilson's strength had turned into a very big weakness. Soon after the Leafs were showing promise they slumped and headed into the new year in 10th place, 2 points out of 8th. A long cry from where they were early in the season. After battling in January Toronto sat in 8th place and were in a spot to control their destiny.
Then February came. What would be the death march for Ron Wilson and perhaps the Leafs season. After going 3-0 to start the month the wheels would fall off. The Leafs would go on to lose 10 out of 11 games with their one win being an overtime victory in Edmonton. The players looked like they had lost all confidence and Ron Wilson looked and sounded like a man defeated. The worst game of the losing streak came at home against Florida. A 5-3 loss that led to Toronto fans chanting "Fire Wilson".
It turned out that Brian Burke listened to the fans and decided to let Ron Wilson go. Four seasons of no playoffs. A losing record. A dismal penalty kill. All factors that led to his firing. What Toronto fans must realize is that the players need to improve. There is only so much the coach can do. The team needs to win the battles, gain some confidence and fight for their lives. Toronto is now in 12th place in the East. They are 5 points back of Winnipeg and have 18 games to turn their season around. I fear that if things do not change there will be a very different Maple Leafs team next year. Something that very well could be needed. It will be interesting to watch over the coming days and see if Toronto can turn into a team we can be proud of.
Look out for Justin's blog on what head coach Randy Carlyle will bring to the team.
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Info via TSN.ca, NHL.com, mapleleafs.com