There you have it fellow Leafs fans, after much talk about anything and everything non-Leafs related, we finally have something to talk about. And boy, is it interesting. As our own Ryan Fancey reported earlier, Brian Burke, President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced today that Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin have been appointed as assistant coaches on Ron Wilsonâ€™s staff. In addition, Burke disclosed that Keith Acton and Tim Hunter will not return to the teamâ€™s coaching staff. So, where does that leave Ron Wilson, and more importantly, the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Taking into account all that was said at the press conference held earlier by our GM, a conference at which Wilson was not present, it is pretty clear that the coach simply had to accept the firing of Acton and Hunter as a change ordered from the top. Burke said outright that he alone insisted on the coaching change, but that the two newly appointed assistant coaches were a choice made exclusively by Ron Wilson. As far as Wilson is concerned, Burke also stated that his loyalty to the head coach doesnâ€™t include a contract extension if the results at the start of the upcoming season donâ€™t match his expectations. However, if the results are indeed satisfactory, contract prolongation would be the logical course of action.
Where does this leave Wilson? Well, if this decision is any indication, he is running out of time. Even the most hardcore Wilson apologists (me sometimes being a part of the not-so-hardcore apologist group) have to admit that this is a clear sign of Burke going over Wilsonâ€™s head, using his authority and position as GM for what he thinks is for the good of the team, and ignoring the wishes of his head coach in the process. Personally, I see this move as being both an old fashioned shakeup and a way of satisfying the public outcry for better special team performance. The public opinion, one I tend to agree with, seems to be that our special teams were the main contributors to the club not making the playoffs this year. Something HAD to be done, and now itâ€™s done. We’ll see if blaming Keith Acton for those shortfalls, as became the norm, was indeed justified.
Personally, I see the logic behind the change and agree with what Burke said about “stale staff.” When put in a losing situation, things can snowball quickly and one can get used to that losing environment. This is a way of putting everyone on their toes again and bringing this franchise back on track. You get the feeling the margin for error in Leafland as far as the 2011-12 playoffs go is now sitting at zero; Burke now has some moves at his disposal should he not see the improvement needed out of the gate.
Scott Gordon was born on February 6th, 1963 in Brockton, MA, USA. Heâ€™s a former professional hockey goaltender whose coaching resume includes a head coaching job with the American Hockey Leagueâ€™s Providence Bruins and the National Hockey Leagueâ€™s New York Islanders. During his tenure with the Providence Bruins Gordon was named to coach the 2008 PlanetUSA AHL All Star team on January 28, 2008 as a result of the Bruins owning the best record in the American Hockey League at the mid-season break. At seasonâ€™s end, Gordon was awarded the 2008 Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award, presented to coach of the year in the American Hockey League. In 2011, Gordon served as coach of the United States Menâ€™s National Team for the IIHF World Championship.
There is another thing to keep in mind when considering Gordon, Wilson and Burke. Itâ€™s the fact that, while it’s true that Wilson selected his new staff members, he now has a young, promising coach who has a familiarity with Burke breathing down his neck. And if Wilson gets off to a similarly slow start as last year, itâ€™s not that hard to imagine Gordon as the next head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Like Gordon, Greg Cronin, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, also has considerable head coaching experience as well as a wealth of international experience. He was an assistant coach for Team U.S.A.â€™s entries at the 1997 and 2011 World Hockey Championship. In addition, he served as an assistant coach for two U.S. National Junior Teams (1997, 1998) and earned a silver medal with Team U.S.A. at the 1997 IIHF World Junior Championship. His body of work includes six seasons as head coach of Northeastern University, where he led the team to their first consecutive seasons of posting a .500 record or better since the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. He was also the head coach of Islandersâ€™ minor league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He coached the Tigers for two seasons and had a great track record during his time there.
In the end, regardless of what you or I think of their performance as assistant coaches, all that is left is to thank Keith Acton (who spent ten years here and was on the bench for three playoff seasons prelockout) and Tim Hunter for their years of service with the team and wish them luck in the future. Welcome to the fold Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin.