Wilson won't be homeless for long
But then came the playoffs and with them, some of the usual postseason difficulties. Once again, Wilson reverted to the abusive tactics that he had been told by management to forsake.Ron Wilson is about as much of a hard ass as they come these days. He can't help it: It's in his background, it's in his blood.
Between periods in one game, he wrote the names of Matt Carle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Milan Michalek on the board in the dressing room.
Jabbing at the board for emphasis, he said, "These are the guys that are letting us down."
Wilson's father, Larry, played in the NHL with Detroit and Chicago in the '50s, but spent the majority of his career, 13 years, as a high-scoring centreman with the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL. He was a player-coach for two years in the IHL until age 39, then took up coaching full-time, first in the minors and later for the Red Wings, where he lasted 36 games.
Detroit won three games under Larry Wilson, and by the next year, at 47, he was in the CHL.
Larry's older brother and Ron's uncle, Johnny, was a player and a coach, too, although his NHL career lasted longer than Larry's, 688 games all told from 1949-62. Johnny became a head coach in Los Angeles for 52 games in the late '60s, lasted 145 with the Red Wings from 1971-73 (they missed the playoffs both years), and then coached the Colorado Rockies for a year before taking a job with the Penguins for three, where in 1978-79, closing in on 50 years old, his team in Pittsburgh finally made the playoffs and even won a round.
He was back in the minors with Springfield a year and a half later.
Ron Wilson knows the ups and downs, the ins and outs of coaching because he lived them his whole life, long before he coached his 1,000th NHL game. When he was born in Windsor in 1955, Dad was 24 years old and fresh off a 63-game season with Chicago in the NHL, but he'd play just two more games above the AHL level after that point.
By the time of his disastrous turn behind the Red Wings bench, his son Ron was a scoring sensation in the NCAA at Providence under a young coach named Lou Lamoriello. Born Canadian, he became an all-American, setting college records as a defencemen than still stand more than 30 years later by scoring 26 goals and 87 points in 27 games as a sophomore.
That was then and this is now, and the local experts all agree Wilson's outlived his usefulness in the eyes of San Jose management. After a fourth consecutive loss in the postseason without winning a conference title, he's probably destined for a new address yet again.
Wilson's currently second among active coaches in games coached, behind only Mike Keenan, and has been a coach in the NHL since 1990, when he took an assistant's job in Vancouver. He's been a head coach without pause since taking the Anaheim gig in that franchise's first season, 1993-94, and hopped to Washington, then San Jose when his time ran out.
It's rare that a bench boss goes without unemployment stints between jobs, but he always found work after being let go. And far from a dinosaur or an old-school taskmaster, Wilson's gained a reputation as someone who's used technology to give his teams an advantage on the ice.
A lot of the time, it's worked.
I imagine he'll soon become the leading candidate in Atlanta, Florida and wherever else is begging for a turnaround.