The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made. --Jean Giraudoux
Say what you will about Ron Wilson and Brian Burke, but we know one thing: they're honest.
If they like you, they'll say so. If not, they'll say that too. And for the most part, that's been a breath of fresh air for Leaf Nation.
The John Ferguson/Paul Maurice era was marked by a relentlessly cynical optimism. Ferguson always liked the team, no matter how bad they looked on paper. Maurice famously thought they were going to make the playoffs and compete for a Cup. And the players always claimed they were just one bad bounce away from being really good.
Burke and Wilson came in started to tell it like it is. I loved it.
But here's the thing about honesty. It's not always the ...
Crap, wait a second, I just remember my wife reads this blog sometimes, and she won't like what I'm about to say. Um, hold on.
Hi honey! Say, have you seen the highlights from the Puppy Bowl? Weren't those little guys adorable? They were so just so scrappy!
OK, now that she's gone, let me get back to my point.
Here's the thing about honesty: it's not always the best policy. Sometimes, telling the truth just for the sake of it is dumb. And Ron Wilson and Brian Burke have been treading into that territory in recent weeks.
First, a little history. From the very start, Ron Wilson has refused to sugarcoat the quality of the roster. He told us in September that the team wouldn't be very good, and he's been proven right. When guys like Matt Stajan, Jason Blake and Tomas Kaberle weren't playing at the level they needed to, Wilson didn't worry about protecting anyone's feelings. He made each guy accountable, the way a good coach should (and bad coaches don't).
When Brian Burke joined the fold, he kept the honesty flowing. He didn't try to shine up a turd.
All that honesty created an atmosphere of accountability for a team that had been missing it for years. Suddenly, a locker room that had become used to being treated with kid gloves had to deal with a stiff dose of reality. Not everyone responded, but most did. And a willingless to tell the cold hard truth meant that when a player did hear praise, they knew they'd earned it.
As recently as a few weeks ago, Wilson and Burke called out goalie Vesa Toskala for his poor practice habits. Good. Toskala's a veteran and he's paid to play at a high level. If he's not committed to doing so, he should hear about.
But recently, Wilson and Burke have gone too far. And now, they may be hurting the team.
First, there was Burke's bizarre announcement that he wasn't interested in resigning Nik Antropov. While there's no doubt Burke meant what he said, his honesty probably didn't accomplish anything beyond lowering Antropov's trade value.
Next up was Dominic Moore. A few days ago, Wilson said that fans were getting "carried away" with Moore's production, and pointed out that he wouldn't be good enough to have the same sort of offensive numbers on a better team. "Scoring points on a really bad team, that's really all it is," Wilson said.
Was Wilson wrong? Probably not. But why dismiss Moore's accomplishments right before the trade deadline? And beyond that, Moore is a long-time fourth-liner who's about to taste unrestricted free agency after a career year -- what kind of coach publicly cuts a guy down under those circumstances?
Then came today's comments from Burke about rookie goalie Justin Pogge. "He has not earned the right to be here," Burke said, going on to explain that Pogge was getting NHL starts primarily to try to motivate Toskala even though the kid didn't really belong in the big leagues.
Again, brutally honest and probably 100% correct. But Pogge is a borderline prospect having an underwhelming AHL season, forced to audition for an NHL role behind a terrible defensive team. He'd hardly be human if his confidence wasn't already shakey. What possible good can come from hearing his GM cut him down to size on the radio?
For the life of me, I can't figure out what these two are thinking with some of the recent comments. So I'll take a cue from Wilson and Burke and try a little honesty myself: They sound like two guys who have suddenly become a little too interested in the sound of their own voices, and have forgotten that they're here to win.
Winning over the media folks who love a good sound bite doesn't go very far towards building a contending team. But a little bit of well-placed B.S. just might.
Lie to me, guys. Or at least play the part of the good husband, and learn when to change the subject.