Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson stands behind the bench during third period against the Florida Panthers in NHL hockey action in Sunrise, Florida

Brian Burke says Ron Wilson will be back to coach Maple Leafs next year


Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM Brian Burke has always been loyal to the coaches he hires. Whether in Vancouver, Anaheim, or Toronto, Burke has never fired a coach he hired for the organization. He publically gave Mike Keenan the boot in Vancouver and installed Marc Crawford to guide the Canucks, but Keenan was already there when Burke arrived on the scene. Since then, he’s always kept his coaches around. He’s only had to replace one since—when Mike Babcock bolted from Anaheim to lead the Detroit Red Wings. Other than that, he’s always stood behind the men who stand behind the bench.

Despite the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs are desperately fighting for their playoff lives (and are likely to finish on the outside looking in), it looks like Ron Wilson’s job is safe for at least another summer. James Mirtle from The Globe and Mail had the scoop:

“I said back in the fall, we would not consider a change, even when all the hounds were baying,” Burke said. “I feel the same way now. Ron is coaching this team next year.”

(Re: Wilson’s contract that is up expires at the end of the season):

“I’m not worried about anything like that now,” the coach said. “I’m sure it will [take care of itself]. I’ve got a contract for next year, so beyond that doesn’t bother me.”

Given Burke’s track-record, this isn’t exactly the most surprising news. Yet hearing a coach is safe even though he’s missed the playoffs for three straight seasons under the heavy scrutiny that only the Toronto media can provide still comes as a bit of a surprise. Apparently fans in Canada will have to wait until October to start the “Fire Wilson” rumors back up again.

Now technically, Ron Wilson was not hired by Brian Burke. Wilson arrived in Toronto a few months before Burke arrived on the scene—but it’s long been speculated that the Wilson/Burke relationship would help bring the GM to the Maple Leafs. If you are inclined to believe that kind of conspiracy theory, then this is simply another case of Burke taking care of his own.

Regardless, when looking at all the two have been through together, there’s no questioning that Ron Wilson is Brian Burke’s man. He’s had ample opportunity to run Wilson out of town when the Leafs were at the bottom of the standings and when fans/media were crying for his head. Despite the pressure, Burke has always remained firm and stood confidently behind his coach.

For a guy who creates so much controversy, these kind of conservative takes on his coaches is down-right boring. After all, this isn’t how John Ferguson, Jr. would do it.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky
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Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?