Ron Wilson left Toronto three years ago with a million-dollar paycheck in his jeans and disappeared into the wilds of North Carolina. There were no exit interviews, no farewell press conferences. He simply vanished from the hockey world.
Then, after his contract with Toronto had expired and his old team began to crash and burn, Wilson popped his head up this season and started slamming his old team in a rare display of brutal honesty from an ex-coach.
Last week, Wilson said he has a “big-time grudge” against the Leafs, and admitted he likes to watch them lose.
He was at it again on Friday night, piling on the Leafs’ Nazem Kadri during a TSN panel discussion ahead of Toronto’s tilt against Calgary.
Wilson was Kadri’s first NHL coach, and in his opinion, the Leafs weren’t tough enough on the former seventh overall pick, who served the third game of a team-imposed suspension on Friday.
“I never felt that Nazem ever listened to me,” Wilson told the panel. His major gripe, he said, was Kadri didn’t backcheck when he was asked to.
“If we had drawn a hard line with him and sent him down to the minors and made an example of him early on in his career, he might not be doing these things now,” Wilson said. “He might have been reformed.”
Wilson admitted that Kadri’s fitness has improved, but “he’s still making the mistakes he made as a rookie.”
Why don’t you tell us all how you really feel, Ron?
Kadri has been arguably the Leafs' best center this year, with 16 goals and 36 points to go with a minus-5 rating. He's also one of the better possession players on the team.
That said, there’s something refreshing about watching Wilson go off on his old team and burn every bridge he has in the hockey world. You’ll recall he also implied one of his former GMs encouraged him to tank during another TSN discussion at the trade deadline.
This is not a coach picking up a TV paycheck in between coaching gigs. This is not a man afraid to offend a potential future employer.
This is a bitter NHL lifer with nothing to lose – a man with an axe to grind who is only too happy to do it in the league’s biggest media market.
You'd never hear Marc Crawford or John Tortorella talk like that on a TV panel.
But then, maybe that's a good thing.
Wilson has always had an edge to his personality, and he appears to have completely given up on playing nice with his old bosses. He's calling it like it is. Or at least, he's calling it like he sees it.
Does he have a point with Kadri?