Tuesday, May 06, 2008

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.

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."
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.

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.

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At 3:35 a.m., May 06, 2008, Blogger Duke Phillips said...

I suspect he'll have some difficulty finding another job - the Sharks have been pegged as legitimate contenders for the past few years now, and they've failed pretty spectacularly each time (blowing series leads in 06 and 07, barely squeaking out of the first round this season). Given the talent on that team, it reflects pretty poorly on the coach.

Guys like Wilson are anachronisms in today's NHL. This isn't the 1950's. There's only so much abuse and intimidation a team can take before they begin to tune out and give up (ie the Tortorella/Keenan effect). So what if he knows how to use a computer - he's still a dinosaur.

At 4:08 a.m., May 06, 2008, Blogger Daniel said...

Maybe he should take a play out of the Tom Coughlin playbook. Apparently he was prick too, then he leveled off and won a Super Bowl. If your teammates are being bullied and the players are bitching to management, what should really happen is the captain should step up to the coach and tell him to fuck off, then have the entire team behind him, that would have won them some series.

At 4:54 a.m., May 06, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

If your teammates are being bullied and the players are bitching to management, what should really happen is the captain should step up to the coach and tell him to fuck off, then have the entire team behind him, that would have won them some series.

Ah, the Tony Hrkac approach. The 1986-87 North Dakota Fighting Sioux, one of the three best NCAA teams I've ever seen (1992-93 Maine and 1996-97 Michigan are the others) ignored coach Gino Gasparini all year long. The Hrkac Circus coached itself, a lot more effectively the Gino did at any point in his last 15 years in Grand Forks.

It's tough to imagine anyone more old school than Red Berenson, but that doesn't mean you need to try to motivate people by belittling and humiliating them.

At 9:18 a.m., May 06, 2008, Anonymous Rachael said...

So the Sharks make it to the 2nd round and almost come back from a 3-0 deficit and Wilson gets fired.

Tampa hasn't made the post season since they won the Cup and were last in the conference (I think), and Fonzie still has a job??

At 10:11 a.m., May 06, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Fonzie isn't out of the woods yet. The Lighning ownership is in flux. Also IF 'Fonzie' hadn't won a Cup 4 years ago he'd probably been let go by now. On the flip side IF Wilson had won a Cup he'd probably not lose his job now.

At 10:45 a.m., May 06, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Fonzie did about as good as any coach could've done with that team this year. Someone else needs to go before he does.

Wilson should've been canned a year or two ago. And I'd hope no one else hired him immediately, but you're right James, he probably would be hired quickly. Hopefully for the Leafs.

He's the ultimate recycle job.

What's more improtant, though, is who do you get to replace him? Management tends to over-react by replacing these neanderthals with a hippy player's friend.

One thing's for sure, if this were the late 80's or early 90's, Bowman would be drooling at this gig.

At 11:48 a.m., May 06, 2008, Blogger Sean said...

A little ironic that Wilson's such a hard-ass when he bitches about TSN and the Canadian media always being negative.

At 12:20 p.m., May 06, 2008, Blogger Timothy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:25 p.m., May 06, 2008, Blogger Timothy said...

I agree that he will quickly find work. I suspect his record with the Sharks rivals any other coach in the league in the same time span. Surely it's among the elite rank. Even Ken Hitchcock, another coach who I'd consider in the top echelon, survived the fallout of the Flyers.

Pundits are citing Wilson as the reason why the Sharks failed to advance in the playoffs. Which is funny considering how just last week they were citing Marleau and Thornton as disappearing acts again. Both coach and players were probably part and parcel of the Sharks' problems, but it doesn't help Wilson that two of his key players are regarded as playoff no-shows.

I wouldn't rule out Vancouver as a possible destination either. The sit-down Mike Gillis was going to have with Alain Vigneault has been going on for a few weeks now without as much as a breath spoken about it. I'm not sure that Vancouver's coaching is set yet.


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