SAN JOSE - Some leftover thoughts about Ron Wilson's 600th career win, on an early morning, following the Maple Leafs' unexpected 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, which featured a four-goal third-period rally against his former club:
Wilson has been, for the most part, acerbic with the press all season, especially as things went south for the Leafs. But last night, fuelled in equal parts by sentiment and the glow that comes from a four-game win streak, he was playing nice, remembering all the assistant coaches who helped him along the way; remembering his father Larry, who is about to be inducted in the American Hockey League Hall Of Fame, and generally remembering to enjoy the moment.
In fact, Wilson told a funny anecdote about a meeting with Jumbo Joe Thornton at about 4:30 p.m. yesterday, long before puck drop. The Leafs skipped the morning skate - all but a handful of spares and the assistants - so Thornton wandered down the corridor at the HP Pavilion and was probably in a better mood than he would have been post-game, after the Sharks lost for the fifth time in a row and seventh in nine since Christmas (major crisis developing here).
Thornton is a fun-loving sort, usually has a big smile on his face, and played for Wilson when he first arrived in the deal from the Boston Bruins. On game day, Thornton quipped that if Wilson was on the verge of 600 wins, he must be a pretty old guy.
"I loved Joe," said Wilson. "We were kidding about a few things. He's pretty proud to be a dad now. I mentioned to him that Tim Hunter got his 1,000th game (as an assistant coach) last night (against the Los Angeles Kings), so he was congratulating Timmy. He said, 'Are they all with Wils?' and Tim said 'yes.' So Joe said, 'Geez, it must feel like 4,000.'"
Wilson went on to say that in the second period, when it looked as if the Sharks might squeeze out a 1-0 victory because neither team could get anything going offensively, he started working the linesmen (veterans Lonnie Cameron and Jay Sharrers).
"I was giving it to the linesmen (in the second period) because I know how much Joe cheats on faceoffs," said Wilson. "I said, 'give our centremen a chance here - and they took my advice to heart. They realized it was a special game for me and helped out a little."
It marked the first time in three tries that the Leafs defeated the Sharks with Wilson behind the bench. Two years ago, the Leafs were routed in their last visit to San Jose; Wilson suggested they "ran into a buzz saw" that night.
"Last year, we should have beaten them. Then the game tonight, I guess we took advantage of a team that's squeezing its sticks a little bit."
So now, it's off to Phoenix this morning, for a 2 p.m. practice and then a game Thursday night to wrap up the road trip. The Leafs stayed over in San Jose so the players could get a better night's sleep. They're travelling later this morning. The Coyotes played in Columbus last night and had scheduled a day off for their players and staff.