Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ron Wilson is awesome no wait I changed my mind...

I was going to write a post about how much I'm enjoying the Ron Wilson era, after the TSN crew told a story of a recent Leafs practice.

Apparently Wilson told the players that everyone was going to skate as hard as they could until he blew the whistle. Then he let him them skate themselves into the ground for 2:34 -- which is a very long time to go all out, no matter what kind of shape you're in.

At the end of the drill, he gathered the team and asked them if they wanted to know why they'd just skated for 2:34. The answer: Because that's how long Jason Blake had stayed on the ice during a shift in a recent game. "Keep your shifts short." End of lesson.


So I was going to write a nice post about Wilson and call it a night. But now I can't, because I think he really screwed up by putting Joseph in for the shootout.

This isn't 20/20 hindsight on a call that didn't work out. After all, winning and losing doesn't really matter this year. But Wilson has just turned Toskala from a goalie who has struggled in shootouts into The Guy Who Is Terrible In Shootouts.

Everyone in the league now knows that Wilson doesn't think Toskala can win in a shootout. Hey Vesa, enjoy trying to win the next one with a piano on your back.

And of course, the media will quickly figure that if Toskala can't be trusted in shootouts, what about overtime? Tied third period? Important games? Let's ask him about 500 times and see what happens!

Or it may not go that far. But Wilson has just risked turning one of his top players into a running joke, and he did it to slightly increas the team's chance at winning a single (mostly meaningless) point.

Embarassing your players is a tricky game. Blake deserved it. Toskala didn't.


  1. Don't know that I agree. I have no problem with a coach playing the percentages to see if he can find an edge for his club.

    I'd like to think these guys are professional and can handle the pressure, like switching closers in the 9th. And like switching closers, there may be something to matching shooters v. goalies.

  2. First half = good.
    Second half = bad.

    At least, I think that what you predict will happen is correct but I don't think that Wilson did it with the intention of embarrassing Vesa. I think he, as he has with every other situation/position, is experimenting.

    Much like Julie the Cat going in for Goldberg it could work out in the end. Not tonight but some night.

  3. Wilson, great coach or greatest coach?
    I really don't think pulling Vesa meant anything and I bet that scenario could of been talked about with the goalies before hand as a big maybe.
    I don't think Vesa will have anything bad to say and I look forward to reading something funny about this move.

  4. Awesome drill. I am sure the lesson was learned by Mr Blake and the rest of the team, including some added peer pressure for Mr Blake. Old Army tactic, make the squad do the mistake so they are in it together but maybe just maybe they will keep their squadmate in line.

    Will they be organizing something to hold jason down in his bed while they all anonymously hit him with soap wrapped in a towel?

    Does Wilson call Blake Private Pyle?

  5. The reality is that he was not playing the percentages.
    The goaltenders shootout winnning percentages have one large caveat: The goaltender is warmed up having played the previous three periods. Telling CUJO to go down the hall and do some stretches does not count. He went in cold and looked it.
    What a dumb move.
    Maybe next we'll find out that Vesa has some sick moves and he'll be taking a shot in the next shootout.
    Now that I'd like to see, pads and all.

  6. I had a similar reaction. Loved the Blake stunt, hated the Toskala stunt. That game was Toskala's to win - or lose. Solid team effort up to that point.

  7. @ jimmy p - couldn't agree more! i'm not too concerned with the psychological impact of the move, but with the physical. you take a 40 year old guy off the bench after he'd been sitting there since warm-ups and take out the guy who hadn't allowed a goal since 1/2way through the first?!? percentages or not - he outsmarted himself on this one. i doubt it'll have any lasting impact on vesa. not like he can get worse in the shootout.

  8. I'm torn on the move. If it worked, Wilson's a genius, if it didn't, he's a dud and Toskala's confidence is shattered.

    As long as the matter was discussed with Toskala first, and he gave it the go ahead - by all accounts he's a team player and he did give it the go ahead - then I'm cool with it. If it's cool with Vesa, it's cool with me.

    Nice goal by Selanne, eh? What a filthy sniper he is.

  9. As long as the matter was discussed with Toskala first, and he gave it the go ahead - by all accounts he's a team player and he did give it the go ahead - then I'm cool with it. If it's cool with Vesa, it's cool with me.

    It was discussed with both goalies. But really, what's Toskala supposed to say? It's not like he can really tell Wilson it's a bad idea. He has to play good soldier on this one.

    I thought Giguere's comments after the game about how he'd feel if it happened to him ("I would be so pissed off") were pretty revealing.

  10. I hate the shoot-out, it's stupid, pointless and annoying in the regular season.

    If a team can't separate themselves after sixty minutes then give them a point each and go home.

    I think it (pulling vesa for cujo) was actually a good idea, and it would have been lamented as one had it come off.

    The Blake move was inspired though. We actually have a coach in charge this year. No more country club bollocks.

  11. I didn't mean lamented. Sorry.

    I meant applauded.
    My Brain doesn't appear to be working today.

  12. Just for the record, I'd be calling this a bad idea even if the Leafs had won.

    I'm all for coaches getting creative -- I think coaches in all sports probably go against the percentages all the time (using closers only in the ninth inning, not going for it on fourth-and-short, etc) because they know they won't be criticized if they stick with the conventional wisdom. I'm OK with thinking different. But there's a time and a place and this wasn't it.

    Even if we assume that an ice-cold 41-year-old goalie is better than Toskala in a shootout (huge "if"), it's still not worth the slightly increased odds of winning to embarass your star player. Where does Wilson go from here? Is this a permanent decision, or does Toskala stick around next time? Why don't either of those options sound good right now?

  13. Like I posted on PPP, I was expecting CuJo to get hurt, but then realized he'd actually have to move for that to happen. Worst Shootout performance since Clemmonson against the Isles.

    And this from that genius Tolensky: "Great stat from James Duthie – no goalie who has ever come in for another goalie prior to the shootout has ever made a save (it’s happened three times, resulting in 6 goals on 6 shots)."

  14. Worst Shootout performance since Clemmonson against the Isles.

    Nice... I was going to call Cujo's standstill performance "Clemenson-esque" but thought that might have been too obscure.

    Neat stat from Duthie, but again, even if the Leafs win I still don't like the move.

  15. I agree with you in disagreeing with Wilson's move. Out of curiousity, do you disagree against the move no matter what? Or is the fact that it's 41 year old Joseph coming in that plays a part in it? If Pogge was on the bench, would that change things? What about if CuJo started the game and got pulled (on the one hand he wouldn't be coming in cold, on the other he would be extremely tight and stiff probably). I think in all cases, it's a blatant no. Stick with what gotcha there I guess.

  16. @ down goes brown - I'm sorry, but Giguere's opinion on the subject has nothing to do with the situation. Just because he would be upset in that situation, doesn't mean Toskala is.

    I don't know that I necessarily love this move, but I'm prepared to not lose my mind over it either way. We aren't going anywhere this year, so the extra point isn't really the issue. And if either goalie is so fragile that this will break them (Toskala by being pulled; Cujo by sucking) then it is better to know it now.

    Also? I kinda want to like the move, just to piss off all the media types who are claiming they know Toskala is pissed off (Nick Kypreos, I’m looking at you here). Not one of us knows that. If he says he's fine, I'm gonna take him at his word.

    - Mabel

  17. @ anonymous - @ down goes brown - I'm sorry, but Giguere's opinion on the subject has nothing to do with the situation.

    of course it does. no way toskala goes out into the toronto media scrum, throws his new coach under the bus and tells 'em how he really feels about getting yanked during a pretty stellar performance. Giggy's comments give us insight into exactly how Vesa probably feels today.

  18. Also Wilson is being true to what he has said in that its gonna be a process and what better way to illustrate that by including the goalie as part of that process.
    The real thing that would of sucked is that if Cujo won, Vesa would not of earned his 100th win and after shutting out the Ducks after the first half of the 1st would of been sad.

  19. I thought the swap had been making the rounds in leaf land....the fact that it has been tried means we can now ignore it.

    Kulemin looked like he had Giggy beat but the puck got away from him....oh well.

    I am sure it wont happen again and Toskala can work on shootout and breakaway moves. Seems the league has his number right now.

    Of course the point is to win the game so you dont have to go to a shootout in the first place.

  20. Out of curiousity, do you disagree against the move no matter what?

    Pretty much. I think it would be better (but still not good) if it went the other way -- pulling the backup and putting in the starter. At least that way you're only risking the backup's ego.

    The other exception would be in a must-win game. If it's the last day of the season and you need two points for a playoff spot, then you go ahead and do anything that you think gives you a slight edge and worry about apologizing later.

  21. Perhaps you want to address why VT is not very strong on shootouts.

    Whether you agree with Wilson's move or not this is a significant issue for VT and the leafs. Odd, a goalie who plays well otherwise, if it was Raycroft the stats wouldnt surprise anyone, but VT is very good goaltender, so whats up?

  22. I think its because he is a small goalie and backs up too quickly hence giving shooters way too much to shoot at. He is small but very quick but if you give away too much net its always too much.

  23. What do you mean... "After all, winning and losing doesn't really matter this year?"

    Come on, WTF? You're give up so early? This team is decent enough to make the playoffs. Look at it. They've played top teams like Det, Mtl, Pit, Ducks, and the Rangers. 3 of the teams were in the finals the last two years, and one was the East champ last year. They've been in every game except the Mtl game. Winning does matter? If it doesn't then somebody's got to hang up those skates.

  24. Perhaps you want to address why VT is not very strong on shootouts.

    I wish I knew. It's definitely possible that Toskala has some sort of technical flaw that hurts him on breakaways (puckbuddy mentions a possibility above).

    But there are at least two other explanations:

    - Random chance
    - He has some sort of psychological block going

    I think the first is very possible (we're still dealing with some pretty small sample sizes here). And if it's the second, Wilson just made it a whole lot worse.