TORONTO – When the NHL schedule finally allowed the Toronto Maple Leafs some time for reflection, coach Ron Wilson admitted to being “terrified.”
However, his concern had nothing to do with his team’s worst loss of the season—they were blown out 7-0 by Boston on Saturday night—but a book about another impending economic crisis.
“I went to a movie, I rented a movie and I did some reading,” Wilson said in recounting how he spent a free Sunday. “Other than that, I tried to not think too much about the game. …
“Unfortunately I’m reading ‘Aftershock’ so now I’m terrified about my money,” he added. “They’re the same authors (David Wiedemer, Robert A. Wiedemer and Cindy S. Spitzer) who predicted the last recession and all the bubbles popping and there’s two big bubbles that are yet to pop—if anybody’s read it—I would suggest you don’t because you’ll be depressed before the depression hits.”
Back at work Monday, the coach was met with more cause for concern. Top centre Tim Connolly missed practice and is expected to be out 10 to 14 days with an undisclosed upper-body injury—one Wilson said is unrelated to the ailment that kept him out of eight games to start the year. No. 1 goaltender James Reimer also remains unavailable with concussion-like symptoms.
Coupled with the blowout loss to the Bruins, that left an uncertain feeling heading into Tuesday’s home game against Florida.
The Leafs are dealing with a number of issues despite a strong 9-4-1 record out of the gate. Chief among them is a struggling penalty kill ranked 30th in the NHL and a 28th-best average of 3.29 goals allowed per game.
“We’ve got to do a better job in front of (the goalies),” said Wilson. “We’ve had a couple guys struggle a little bit. We’ve found ways to win games, that’s important. As we get going and more teams are focused when they play us, we’ve got to make sure we’re better defensively.”
The Panthers are the only NHL franchise with a longer playoff drought than Toronto—they last qualified in 2000—but are off to their best 13-game start since that season at 6-4-3.
Wilson plans to start Jonas Gustavsson in goal against Florida and ice a blue-line that includes Luke Schenn. The 22-year-old defenceman was a healthy scratch on Saturday night and has struggled since signing an US$18-million, five-year contract extension on the eve of training camp.
“I’m not going to take (being scratched) in a negative way or dwell on it too much,” said Schenn. “Obviously, it’s a coach’s decision. I guess they want to help me and I want to do the best to help the team win.
“Sitting out obviously is something I never want to do, but at the same time it could help me going forward.”
Up front, Tyler Bozak was expected to assume Connolly’s place on the top line between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. He should have plenty of familiarity in the position after skating with that unit during Connolly’s previous injury absence.
The Leafs have yet to drop consecutive games this season and are extremely wary of falling into a losing slide. The team endured eight winless streaks of three games or more last year and was unable to recover from them.
Wilson expressed concern over the Leafs play during a 4-1 win over Columbus last Thursday and they followed that up with the 7-0 loss to Boston. Games this week against Florida, at St. Louis (Thursday) and home to Ottawa (Saturday) offer the chance to stem the tide.
“You can’t dwell on the past with the way the schedule is,” said captain Dion Phaneuf. “You’re playing every couple days and it’s how you react to it and respond. Whether it’s a win or a loss, you’ve got to move forward quickly.”
There is seldom much time for reflection or outside interests—and as Wilson discovered Sunday, it’s not always welcome when it arrives.
The veteran coach has long been interested in finance and is actually enjoying the book “Aftershock: Protect Yourself and Profit in the Next Global Financial Meltdown” despite its bleak outlook.
“It’s an interesting read,” said Wilson. “I was an economics major (at Providence College during the 1970’s). It’s not like I remember much of the stuff, but it’s interesting to me anyway—the indicators and why things go the way they go.”