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Leafs Crumbling

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Phil Kessel made a statement today. A big one. It’s now put Brian Burke between a rock and a hard place. A decision must be made and it looks as though the Leafs (arguably) best sniper has put that responsibility on Brian Burke and only Brian Burke.

“It’s not working out here,” said a frustrated Kessel after being demoted to the third line during practice on Sunday. He’s now sitting on the right wing of one Darryl Boyce and one Joey Crabb. “Maybe there needs to be a change.”

Phil Kessel has sounded an alarm today, and all Leafs fans should be listening.

It’s perhaps the understatement of the year, but looking at how streaky Kessel and the Leafs have been this year, there’s no question frustration has seeped through to each and every one of the members of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That said, Kessel’s next comment is what can make the All-Star poll for “worst coach” earth-shattering for Leafs fans.

“Me and Ron don’t really talk.”

Yeah. You trade away two first round picks to bring in a young player with the potential of breaking the 40 goal plateau, and while the Leafs have struggled this season you have a head coach that doesn’t even make an attempt to keep their (should be) best player in a positive frame of mind to aid him through difficulties?

Which leads me to my next question.

Why the hell hasn’t Ron Wilson been fired yet?

“He’s so focused on scoring goals, he’s forgetting about the other part of the game,” said Ron Wilson after practice. “If you’re struggling to score, don’t be scored against.”

Yeah, that’s nice. Ron Wilson seems to be forgetting another part of being the head coach – motivation. Yet every loss the Leafs earn themselves he tends to throw a player under the bus. Maybe it’s just me, but in any business, if you are struggling you tend to lift spirits, not crush them until you get what you want… unless what you want is failure or to find a new job, and perhaps that’s what Ron Wilson is looking for.

I’m no head coach, but it eventually gets to a point in which personalities will conflict and after reports over the summer that Tomas Kaberle does not get along with Ron Wilson, the All-Star break question putting Ron Wilson in a 25% voting of “coach I don’t want to play for” and now Kessel stating that they don’t even talk and a change is needed… something is up.

Meanwhile, Ron Wilson’s Team America counterpart, Brian Burke, remains silent in the shadows. I’d expect him to come out and say “we had a chat with Kessel and it’s been resolved.” But in all honesty, at this point, how can that be believed? Brian Burke must have an amazing PR because he’s been able to silence just about every crack that starts to leak from the Leafs damn.

I, personally, agree with Kessel. A change is needed, and maybe it needs to start at the top and work its way down. After all, we can all be frustrated with the Leafs lack of scoring ability this season, but Kessel and others are still on pace for 30 goals. The fact that Brian Burke is unable to get any deal done with pretty much any team not named the Boston Bruins to aid the franchise now is becoming a glaring difficulty. Add to that a coach who is unwilling to compromise his own strategies and you have a recipe for disaster.

Maybe Paul Maurice and John Ferguson Jr. weren’t so bad after all.

The Checking Line
Micheal A. Aldred