Ron Wilson and Brian Burke won't 'dumb down' games by resorting to a neutral zone trap

wilsonphaneufburke.jpgIf there are three constants of the Ron Wilson-Brian Burke Era, they would be chaos, defeat and a mind numbing amount of goals allowed. Some might lay all the blame at the feet of beleaguered former goalie Vesa Toskala, but chances are that we’ll look back at the Finnish netminder as a scapegoat who received far too much blame over the years. (Not to say that he wasn’t a big part of the failure, though … it doesn’t take an “expert” to recognize that he allowed plenty of awful goals in his time in net.)

Hockey people can debate the importance of high-end defense vs. elite offense or goaltending, but few would doubt that an abysmal defense will make otherwise talented teams come apart at the seams. I’m not sure if I would describe the Toronto Maple Leafs as “otherwise talented” – they aren’t exactly pretty in any area on the ice – but there seems to be a lack of commitment to defense despite the many salary cap dollars invested in the position.

Some Maple Leafs fans may yearn for the ugly wins that often come from playing the neutral zone trap, but both Wilson and Burke will not resort to that entertainment-destroying strategy. Here’s what they told Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun.

“Philosophically, it goes against us,” Wilson said.

“We’re not going to do that. We just have to play better defensively … I don’t know if (trapping) is going to get us where we need to go. Playing the neutral-zone trap and squeezing the life out of every game, that goes against what Brian and I believe in.”

And that goes against what Neilson and Burns believed in.

“It’s not entertaining,” harumphed Burke, a trap hater.

“You can dumb this game down and make it successful. We could have five guys stand in front of our net. But we’re in the entertainment business. I believe that our goals against can come down with improved goaltending and better defensive play.

“And yes, I care deeply about our (Leafs) history. But those two, Burns and Neilson, were defensive-oriented coaches. Both of those guys, I admire. Both guys I have or have had good relationships with. It’s just not my cup of tea (trapping).

So, take heart Leafs fans. Your team may or may not be a contender anytime soon, but as long as Burke and Wilson are running the show in Toronto, they shouldn’t be yawn-inducing. They’re aware of their place as entertainers, even if the team might resemble a circus act rather than an ensemble of gifted actors.

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    Crouse brings the ‘total package’ of size, skill and speed to Coyotes

    FT. LAUDERDALE, FL - JUNE 25: Lawson Crouse attends the Top Prospects Media Opportunity at the Westin Ft. Lauderdale Beach Resort on June 25, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Lawson Crouse has joined a talented group of young forwards in Arizona, after the Coyotes acquired the 2015 first-round pick from the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

    The Coyotes had to take on the contract of injured forward Dave Bolland, but in their minds, it was worth it to get a player like Crouse, who certainly brings size up front at six-foot-four-inches tall and 212 pounds. He had 23 goals and 62 points in 49 games this season with Kingston in the OHL.

    “He’s a unique guy because usually when you add a guy with the type of size he has you usually give up a little bit in skating or you give up a little bit in skill,” said general manager John Chayka, as per the Coyotes website.

    “He’s a guy that you add the size and he actually enhances that for your entire group. In our opinion, it was a guy that’s rare to find, difficult to obtain. Certainly, once they become established in the league, those players are locked up well into their 30s and then you end up trying to maybe overpay for a player that has these attributes that’s not in the prime of his career.”

    Crouse, who turned 19 years old in June, now joins the likes of Max Domi, Dylan Strome and Anthony Duclair as part of Arizona’s group of up-and-coming young forwards. He has familiarity with all three from playing in the OHL or for Team Canada at the world juniors.

    “He can fly. He’s fast and he hits and he scores goals. You kinda get the total package,” Strome told Sportsnet.

    The Las Vegas Desert Knights? Maybe . . .

    LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  New Las Vegas NHL franchise owner Bill Foley addresses the media during the Board Of Governors Press Conference prior to the 2016 NHL Awards at Encore Las Vegas on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The NHL's board of governors approved expanding to Las Vegas, making the franchise the 31st team in the league. The team will start play during the 2017-18 season and play at the newly built T-Mobile Arena.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    There’s been another possible development in the search for a team name for the Las Vegas NHL franchise.

    The Las Vegas ‘Desert Knights’ could perhaps be a thing.

    Maybe.

    From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

    Last week domain names were registered that might be an indicator that the NHL team scheduled to begin play in 2017 could be called the Las Vegas Desert Knights.

    Last week the domains lasvegasdesertknights.com, vegasdesertknights.com and desertknightshockey.com were privately registered to Moniker Privacy Services, which is the same company that procured the domain name to NHL.com.

    DetroitHockey.net first reported the new domain name Thursday morning.

    Foley said via text message he had no comment regarding the process when reached by the Review-Journal.

    As the Las Vegas franchise continues to hire key members for its hockey operations department, there is growing intrigue when it comes to the search for a new name.

    What will this new franchise be called?

    The wait continues, and there has been a lot of space dedicated to speculating and discussing the possibilities.

    It’s been reported that the expansion franchise could use one of at least three ‘Hawks’-orientated names. Owner Bill Foley also said this summer that Las Vegas can’t use a ‘Knights’ nickname is Canada, because London’s OHL franchise was also named the Knights.

    Stay tuned . . .

    Las Vegas hires former Panthers director of player personnel Scott Luce

    ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24:  Director of scouting Scott Luce of the Florida Panthers smiles before day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Scott Luce has gone from the Florida Panthers to the Las Vegas expansion franchise.

    The new NHL organization — still searching for a team name — announced Thursday that it has hired Luce as its new director of amateur scouting.

    Luce spent the last 14 years in Florida, as a scout and as director of player personnel.

    Luce was let go earlier in the offseason, as the Panthers underwent massive change within their front office, with the promotion of Dale Tallon to president of hockey operations and Tom Rowe to GM, and more attention to analytics.

    Report: Avalanche bring Rene Bourque in for a PTO

    NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 27: Rene Bourque #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 27, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    After announcing the hiring of Jared Bednar as their next head coach, the Colorado Avalanche have brought in forward Rene Bourque on a professional tryout, according to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

    Bourque became an unrestricted free agent at the beginning of July, after his six-year contract worth a total value of $20 million expired. The annual cap hit on his previous deal was $3.333 million.

    He spent last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring three goals and eight points in 49 games. He was placed on waivers at the end of February.

    During the 2014-15 campaign, he spent time with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and the Blue Jackets, before a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of that season.