The media in any hockey town is there to do two things: report on the news and interpret the news. The amount of reporting and the amount of interpretation differs on the size of the market and the appetite for hockey news. Toronto, as the center of the Hockey Universe, is obviously going to have lots of reporting and interpretation going around, and right now very little of it's good.
The Maple Leafs have lost nine of their last ten, and for yet another season a year that started out so well seems to have crashed and burned. Lots of people are available for scapegoating: Brian Burke for putting this team together, or Burke for standing fairly pat at the trade deadline; James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson for goaltender meltdowns that may (Don Cherry) or may not (most Leaf fans) be the fault of the defense; Ron Wilson for coaching a fairly talented roster into the oblivion of a non-playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. You name it, but if Leafs fans want to throw waffles at a target, they have a few to choose from.
Right this moment, the most popular target is coach Ron Wilson. A "Fire Wilson" chant went up on Tuesday night during the Maple Leafs' horribly uninsipred loss to the Florida Panthers. Columnists across Toronto newspapers played desk chair GM with their own opinions about what they'd do with Wilson; most of those suggestions were not favorable at all. There was one exception, however. Cathal Kelly penned an op-ed in the Toronto Star basically saying that the fans are too gleeful in watching Wilson fall apart. Basically, he's shouting from the center of the hockey media world that is Toronto: "WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF RON WILSON?!?"
Thank you, Helen Lovejoy.
I, personally, do not like to see people fired. I take no glee in it, even if it is sports coaches who usually have a few more years left on their contracts and usually will get paid for those years regardless of if they actually coach for the team. If that individual isn't doing their job, however, there needs to be some sort of consequences. In the world of the NHL, usually when a team is in the process of imploding, the victim (to sometimes use that word loosely) is the coach. You can't fire the whole team, and sometimes good coaches just kind of run out of steam or lose the room. Bruce Boudreau being fired in Washington is an example of that. The man he replaced, former Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, is another example of such. Decent teams can lose under good coaches, and that's what's happening in Toronto.
It's not glee when fans call for Wilson to be fired. It's concern for the future of their beloved franchise. It's irritation and possibly missing the playoffs yet again. It's frustration at the apathetic play on the ice and the "me first" mentality that seems to be going on out there at times. Basically, it's a viable reaction to this season. Kelly's example of how Leafs fans are enjoying watching the smirk drain from Ron Wilson's face isn't a good one. They're not sitting at home in the darkness tapping the tips of their fingers together, laughing unsettingly. They're yelling upset at their television sets with every passing loss. There's no glee amongst Leaf fans right now, let alone enjoyment that the coach is failing.
It's ok that fans want to see him replaced with someone who could better direct the team back to the playoffs. They want their team to win. Ron Wilson isn't the poor guy in the lion's den as punishment for being Christian. He's the guy that fell into the den and folks are yelling for him to get out. Whether it's for his own good or the people's wish to not see bloodshed remains to be seen.
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