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.