Burke: Setting the Table?
With the recent announcement by Brian Burke that two of Keith Acton, Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler have been replaced, the astute Leaf fan must ponder how long a leash the Leaf president and general manager is keeping his college buddy USA Hockey compatriot Ron Wilson on.
Burke made it clear that he feels his coach deserves the opportunity to remain behind the bench when the puck drops on the upcoming season, due largely to the way the team applied itself in a sustained drive for the playoffs that corresponded with the promotion of unlikely starting goaltender James Reimer. As the saying goes, “show me a good goalie and I'll show you a good coach”, and Reimer pretty much single-handedly salvaged the controversial coach's employment with the team with his stellar performance after being called up due to injury.
...”I don't think anyone can question my loyalty to Ron... I don't believe that loyalty requires me to extend his contract”.
Interpret the above any way you choose, but clearly, the head coach chair Mr. Wilson currently sits on will become something of a hot-seat if the team stumbles out of the gates. Just as Burke is wont to do with his athletes, he has created a sense of urgency and (healthy) internal competition while reaffirming that there is accountability from top to bottom in the rebuilding Leaf franchise.
That Zettler was spared could suggest that he is Wilson's favourite of the bunch. But that's unlikely. What it may indicate is that Burke respects the coach's right to name his 'number one', and that courtesy will be extended to Wilson's successor.
Let's not sing the often-criticized bench bosses' swan song just yet, but the table has been set. Wilson will be given every opportunity to succeed, but he'll be given no quarter from his life-long hockey buddy should he fail to produce.
It's easy to be critical of such a move as the recent one by Brian Burke, but there is no arguing that this is a strategic maneuver engineered to hold the coach accountable, while leaving the option to replace him wide open if necessity dictates...