It’s hard to argue with numbers. The Toronto Maple Leafs, heading into Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins, are the top team in the league. And while those same numbers also suggest that the Leafs are perhaps overachieving, there’s an entire city that doesn’t care. They’re just happy to be winning games.
So, does Toronto owe Ron Wilson an apology?
For years, ever since Wilson arrived in Toronto really, Leafs fans and media personalities alike have labeled him as an ornery, crotchety old man who ran terrible special teams, hung his players out to dry in hard times, and ate babies.
Now, I don’t have any proof on that last one, but I’m fairly certain someone, somewhere has suggested it to be true at some point in time.
Regardless, and as previously mentioned, the Leafs are at the top of the league under the tutelage of Ron Wilson. (Sorry. This needs to be repeated, in case you didn’t believe it the first time.)
Why? Well, certain players such as Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf have dramatically upped their game to start the season, and Ron Wilson, the man with the plan, has had the foresight to lean heavily on both to max out their on-ice contributions.
And what about that Ben Scrivens kid? A 38 save performance, even against the worst team in the league, is an impressive feat nonetheless. And as a reward, Wilson is granting Scrivens another chance to do the same against the second-worst team in the league tonight.
One player who isn’t being rewarded for his play however is Luke Schenn. Schenn, who will be a healthy scratch in favour of the relatively underwhelming and relatively controversial Cody Franson, was likely hoping to play his way out of an early season funk. Schenn won’t get that chance tonight.
While some will agree with Wilson’s decision to relegate Schenn to the press box, a large amount of people will question “How can Schenn play out of a funk if Schenn isn’t allowed to play?” It’s a fair question that doesn’t necessarily have a right answer.
Those same fans might also question the Leafs’ special teams numbers, which despite the Leafs’ solid record, haven’t dramatically improved from last season. The Leafs’ power-play percentage sits at a middling 16.4%, while their penalty kill percentage is a league-worst 71.7%.
To make matters worse, the Leafs only muster an average of 26.3 shots on goal per game (26th in the league), while they give up an average of 31.4 shots per game (23rd in the league).
When you take that all into perspective, you realize just how thin the ice really is under the Toronto Maple Leafs, and their head coach Ron Wilson. Should the offense sputter, should the goaltending situation become even more volatile, the Leafs could find themselves in a freefall down the standings much more easily than most realize.
To bring things around full-circle, it’s hard to argue with results. The Toronto Maple Leafs are winning games and winning them often; something that hasn’t been accomplished since the before the lockout.
But can the Leafs continue to win despite poor special teams and a press box with a revolving door? Is an incredibly hot, and historically inconsistent offense enough to overcome the team’s multiple deficiencies? For the sake of Ron Wilson’s future in Toronto, it has to be.