If Toronto Maple Leafs fans fed up with the team’s 0-5-1 start are about to make suggestions that Ron Wilson and his coaching staff should take the blame for the team’s early season woes – think again.
On Wednesday Toronto GM Brian Burke told the media that the reasoning behind the Leaf’s poor start lies with the players themselves and not the coaches.
“I can tell you this – there will be numerous, multiple player changes before the coaching staff would be even be looked at, let alone considered,” he said.
“The players are at fault here. We’re not getting it done. It’s not the coaching staff. It’s the players not executing.”
In fact, these players have been bad in every facet of the game since the start of the regular season.
“There’s plenty of blame to go around,” Burke said. “If we’re going to start pointing fingers, you have to point at every facet of our game right now. Our goaltending hasn’t been good enough, our defencemen are not playing aggressively enough in our own end, and they’re making bonehead plays and getting beat one-on-one. Our forwards are not sustaining a forecheck nor scoring goals, and our special teams have struggled.”
Coming off its 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night, Toronto has allowed a league-worst 28 goals in six games.
The team’s penalty-killing has been horrible at just 58.3 per cent, good for second-worst in the NHL, just ahead of the lowly Dallas Stars.
Burke is optimistic, however, that the team he assembled over the summer can find their way out of this conundrum.
“I believe in the group,” he said. “If I didn’t think this group could get the job done, I’d be more concerned.”
Firing Ron Wilson has not crossed the GM’s mind in the slightest, and he is surprised this topic has entered media conversation.
“Well, I think it’s absurd,” Burke said. “This guy has coached over 1,000 games in the NHL. [He did not] suddenly forget how to coach.”
If the Leafs fail to improve, fingers will point at Burke with regards to the trade he made to acquire Boston’s Phil Kessel. In return, Boston received a major haul in the form of draft picks, getting the Leaf’s first and second-rounders in 2010, and a first-round selection in 2011.
However, the outspoken Irishman still believes that he still holds the upper-hand in that deal.
“Well, if I had known we’d be 0-6, I still would have done that trade,” he said. “I can’t draft a player who is going have that kind of impact this year in this draft. This is about being better this year. But I’m not annoyed at any reaction from the fans. When you’re 0-6, you should be grateful they’re still coming to the games.”
It didn’t long Burke to turn from GM to spin-doctor. I thought the Kessel trade was about building a better team, not just being better this year. He is right about it the players not getting it done, but it’s the coaches job to get them to buy into his system and so far the is no system to speak of. Most would agree benching 40 percent of your offense to send a message was a strange move for a guy who’s coached over 1000 NHL games as well.