March 18, 2012

Fischler Report: Wilson out, but Leafs still in freefall

By Stan Fischler

The firing of Ron Wilson (Riverside, R.I.) on March 2 has created a buzz within the Canadian media. Howard Berger reports on the Leafs current status in his blog, “Berger Bytes”: 

Ron Wilson wouldn’t be the type to enjoy the blundering of his former team, would he?

The sorrow he felt upon losing his job a week ago Friday has been surpassed by only the heartache of the Leafs 1-3-1 record under is successor, Randy Carlyle.

Brian Burke (Providence, R.I.) is in Boca Raton, Florida to attend the NHL general managers’ meeting this week, comfortably aware that only a couple of minor issues have gone sour with the Leafs: his coaches and players.

Where does this man turn – and what, pray-tell, does he do – in the fast-approaching summer?

Just more than a week removed from telling reporters – in Montreal – he was completely at a loss to understand why his playoff-bound club became a run-away 18-wheeler in the Grand Canyon.

Burke has to put Humpty Dumpty together again before next season.

This, of course, isn’t to throw in the towel on the Carlyle regime.

The mere fact the Leafs have suffered a hockey version of cardiac arrest most certainly complicates the task of restoring a pulse to the long-suffering franchise.

If Burke had tinkered with a handful of players he inherited from Cliff Fletcher nearly three and a half years ago, the g.m. might say to himself, “alright Brian, enough screwing around. It’s time to gut this factory and renovate.”

Given, however, that he’s responsible for 21 components of the club’s 23-man roster, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he’ll fix the team with polish or dynamite.

Shutout losses to the Flyers and Capitals last weekend dropped the Leafs to a grisly 2-12-2 in 16 games since February 6.

Carlyle is said to enjoy a challenge. But, even he seems at a loss – already – to comprehend the latest disaster in Leaf Land.

Perhaps Carlyle should check with his family one more time about that decision to leave Southern California.

OBSERVATIONS:

* BRIAN BURKE AND DON (GRAPES) CHERRY have gone to war. That means it hasn’t been a mere skirmish but all guns have blazed. On the one hand, it’s as compelling a story as the old Burke vs. Kevin Lowe over the crazy-mad Dustin Penner signing by Edmonton. According to Pal Brian, that one almost came to literal blows. The challenge facing Burke when he takes on Grapes is twofold: 1. Don remains the most visible – if not popular – face in Canada; and 2. Media guys inevitably have the last word or, in this case, verbal punch.

* JIMMY DEVELLANO suggested to Shootout critics a few years ago that he had an alternative if neither team scored in a four-on-four overtime. Plan B – according to Jim – was a second five-minute OT playing three skaters on three. Now Ken Holland has taken his Senior V.P.’s idea with him to the general manager’s meetings underway in Boca Raton. If approved, it won’t mean the complete end to Shootouts because should neither team score in the three-on-three then the game would be ended by what some call “The Skills Competition.” We happen to like the Shootout but the Devellano-Holland idea sounds like the best of all OT worlds.

MORE GOSSIP:

What does a coach (Claude Julien) do and say after a game when one of his players (Johnny Boychuk) is the victim of a dirty hit from Evgeni Malkin? Julien started by trying to avoid saying something that would get him fined. Then, he offered this: “The league will have to look at it because it was a hit from behind. The NHL makes those decisions. We don’t like those hits. My job is tough enough as it is. I don’t do his (Brendan Shanahan) job because it’s pretty tough as well.” By contrast, Bruce Boudreau was adamant to the media about Stars Stephane Robidas’ hit on Corey Perry was dirty. “The funny thing is if I say anything, it costs you $10,000,” says Boudreau. “And if you don’t say anything, nothing gets done. It’s really a double-edge sword.” … As for his sluggish Bruins, Julien puts it simply and bluntly: “We have to pick up the mental pace.”