Hunter defends Leafs coaching staff

A lot of stuff going on in Toronto these days, especially with the story on Brian Burke's son yesterday. (Greg Wyshynski and Justin Bourne have more on that today here.) Time permitting, I'll add some thoughts on that later today.

On the ice, meanwhile, the Leafs are still in the league's basement, and one of the questions I most often get asked on radio and podcast segments is: "Is Ron Wilson safe?"

I chatted with members of the team's coaching staff yesterday, asking about the constant "hot seat" talk and the transition from San Jose to Toronto and why it hasn't worked. I also wondered if, with all of those losses both this and last season, they've had to change their strategy in their new home.

Wilson's assistant coach, Tim Hunter, who's been with him since 1997-98 when they led the Capitals to the finals, said no, what we're seeing is really their philosophy with the Sharks playing out with the Leafs, as ugly as the results have been. Hunter added that, regardless of their record, the Leafs coaches know they're safe:

"This team has to get a lot better," Hunter said. "When the team gets to the point that it’s a lot better and we’re not executing, then maybe it’s the coach’s fault. But we’ve got a long way to go before it’s the coach’s fault around here."

I agree with him.

Think of it this way: Burke's been the GM of an NHL club every season since 1998, 11 years, and I'm pretty certain the only coach he has ever fired was Mike Keenan in Vancouver in 1999. He's not a reactionary type, he's known Wilson forever and the two are working together with Team USA in February.

The Leafs are 4-4-6 in their past 14 games after opening going winless in eight, so things are slowly turning around. If they can maintain that pace the rest of the year, they'll finish fifth or sixth last and likely avoid any of the angst that will come with giving away the first-overall pick in the Phil Kessel deal.

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