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Wilson rockin' the status quo in TO

by Phil Coffey

"There is no sense of entitlement here on what you did in the past. I don't care who has fan clubs or what the media say, it's the results you produce on the ice that I care about. I'm looking for short-term pain for long-term gain."
-- Ron Wilson

Anyone who has looked at Ron Wilson's resume realizes he isn't behind an NHL bench to make friends.

He's there to win, and if some noses get put out of joint, so be it.

That has been the case in Toronto this season, Wilson's first as Maple Leafs coach, as he looks to end the treadmill to oblivion that has been the Leafs for quite some time. Heck, get this team on the track and Wilson will have more friends than he can count. But until things turn around at Air Canada Centre, there will be bruised feelings to go along with the bumps and bruises generally associated with hockey.

"I've got to break some bad habits with guys (whose) habits formed by being dominant players in the League before the lockout," Wilson said. "Post-lockout this team has really struggled playing pre-lockout kind of hockey. Post-lockout is all puck movement, advancing the puck to the quickest guy out there -- that's the process we're going through.

"It's why I keep saying, it will take possibly until Christmas time to eradicate all the bad habits and form a bunch of new ones. You can't do it in a week, you can't do it in a month. It takes time."

If it were a case of Xs and Os, the task would be easier for a veteran coach like Wilson. But this is all about changing minds, a tougher task.

"There is no sense of entitlement here on what you did in the past," Wilson said. "I don't care who has fan clubs or what the media say, it's the results you produce on the ice that I care about.

"I'm looking for short-term pain for long-term gain."

Several prominent Leafs players have felt the pain already, either through reduced ice time or being planted in the press box instead of the lineup.

Goalie Vesa Toskala, arguably the team's best player, got it the other night when Wilson pulled him in favor of Curtis Joseph from an eventual 3-2 loss to Anaheim for the shootout. The reason? Joseph was 5-3 all-time in shootouts, allowing just 8 goals on 32 shots. Toskala was 2-9 and had surrendered 18 goals on 35 shots.

Toskala got the message.

"For sure I have to get better," he said. "I just have to find a way to give the team a better chance to win those."

Already this season players like defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, and forwards Matt Stajan and Jason Blake have been healthy scratches. Winger Alexei Ponikarovsky has discovered what life on the fourth line is like, and defenseman Ian White hasn't seen the ice yet.

Wilson has no apologies for bruising any feelings.

"There's a general understanding now that there's no sense of entitlement here," Wilson said. "To be honest with you, we have a lot of guys who aren't worried about the W's, they're worried about their ice time. Once they get through that, is where we'll be fine. That's the mentality I'm trying to break."

"I will play the guys on any given night who I feel are giving the best effort, who can make a difference when they step out on the ice," Wilson continued. "If a guy isn't ready to play, that's inexcusable from my point of view, so you don't get to play much after that."

Tell us how you really feel -- Hall of Famer Bob Clarke has never been one to mince words, so it shouldn't be too surprising to hear Clarke isn't a big fan of Dallas Stars forward Sean Avery.

Clarke appeared on TSN's Off The Record with Michael Landsberg on Wednesday and sounded the clarion call.

"There's always been players who are characters in this game," Clarke said on the show. "You may not like them, but they're character guys and character players and they bring something to the game. Avery takes from the game."

"He (Avery) is making a fool of the game," Clarke continued. "He crosses the line all the time. ... And if the referees see him giving it to (Martin) Brodeur like he did in the playoffs -- yapping, yapping, yapping -- it's pre-meditated. Give him a penalty. You'll end it right away. If not, I think one of the Devils should come to Brodeur's aid. Drill him, punch him, make him fight. If he wants to be a yapper, make him fight.

"He can play and I think he can be an agitator. But he goes way too far. It's up to (Stars co-GMs) Brett Hull and Les Jackson to stop him because it's an embarrassment to hockey."

Super busy Saturday -- With all 30 NHL teams in action Saturday, there are plenty of cool facts about what goes into having such a huge hockey night. Here are a few.

"The story, in its premises that this is a matter of League discussion, is absolutely incorrect. We're not looking to relocate, and we're not looking to expand. Anybody suggesting that we are doing any of those two things is kind of making it up as they go along." -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, on rumors of a second team in Toronto

* It will require approximately 800 people, 300 cameras, 150 miles of cable and 150 replay sources to produce the 26 different broadcasts -- including 16 telecasts in HD -- that will comprise the more than 50 hours of game content and programming. In addition, 600 photographers will aim to capture every second of the nine hours of hockey in pictures.

* Fans attending Saturday's games are expected to consume more than 95,000 soft drinks, 37,000 hot dogs, 33,000 slices of pizza and 23,000 orders of nachos. In addition, they can be expected to purchase approximately 7,500 T-shirts, 3,300 jerseys and 3,000 pucks in the 15 NHL arenas open for business.

Put me down for some nachos!

* More than 20 nations will be represented as players born in countries from Brazil (Robyn Regehr) to Denmark (Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen and Frans Nielsen) and Poland (Wojtek Wolski) to Slovenia (Anze Kopitar) compete.

* 48 trophy winners will be represented on the active rosters for the 2008-09 season, with 16 multiple winners and 13 of the last 15 Calder Trophy winners (and almost certainly the next one) in action.

* The coaches will bring a total of over 180 seasons of NHL head coaching experience to the 30 benches. Calgary's Mike Keenan, in his 20th season, leads the way. Minnesota's Jacques Lemaire and Toronto's Ron Wilson are each in their 15th NHL seasons. At the other end of the experience spectrum, John Anderson, Peter DeBoer, Scott Gordon, and Todd McLellan are first-year head coaches.

"Sometimes in the middle of the summer, when you're working hard and you're not sure of your destination, you wonder if it's worth your while. It is. It really is. It's the best job in the world for a hockey player, playing in this League, and it's definitely an honor every night."
-- Senators defenseman Luke Richardson

* Among the players, Gary Roberts (42 years, five months, two days old) is the oldest player and Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian (18 years, three months, 10 days old) is the youngest.

Hard knocks -- Patrick Kane was very upset when Denis Savard was fired as the Chicago Blackhawks' coach. Understandable, since Kane had a terrific season under Savard in 2007-08.

The team showed sensitivity to Kane's feelings and new coach Joel Quenneville and General Manager Dale Tallon spoke with Kane.

"When Joel talked to me it was more about just trying not to worry about Savvy because there's nothing you can really do," Kane said. "With Dale it was, 'Just go out there and relax.'

"It's tough what happened to (Savard), but if the organization thinks it's better, hopefully it is. Joel has been good so far. All the guys seem to like him. He really seems to know what he's talking about."

Babcock thinking ahead -- Mike Babcock already coaches a pretty talented bunch in Detroit, but he would like to branch out and add the 2010 Canadian Olympic team to his resume. 

No coaching decisions have been made by Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman, who as a Vice President with the Red Wings knows Babcock's desire.

"This summer, I said to Steve, 'Should I phone Wayne (former executive director Wayne Gretzky)? Should I phone (Hockey Canada President and CEO) Bob Nicholson?'" Babcock told the Detroit News. "He said, 'Mike, I think they know you want the job.'

"I think Steve knows I want the job. But there're lots of guys coaching in Canada that want the job," Babcock said. "Kenny Holland and I, I think, work real well together. I think that's imperative with any guy who's hiring a coach. You've got to have a good relationship, you've got to be able to work (together)."
"When you score 6 goals, it should be enough to win. In a lot of games, we've scored enough to win. It's no secret; if you keep your goals-against down, you're going to win hockey games. Our goalies can play better, our defense can play better. We can all play better." -- Flyers coach John Stevens
Some good from tragedy -- The Continental Hockey League will impose new regulations to safeguard players' health after the death of Alexei Cherepanov, the 19-year-old who collapsed with heart problems during a game last week.

The league's board of directors Tuesday called for two fully equipped ambulances to be posted at each game and for teams to ensure that doctors, including cardiologists and ophthalmologists, be at league games to treat players and spectators.

Cherepanov, a 2007 first-round draft pick of the Rangers, collapsed while on the bench during a game Oct. 16 between his club, Avangard Omsk, and Vityaz Chekhov. His death is under investigation.

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