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.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.