Wilson rips Kessel, media in rant at Maple Leafs' practice Staff

1/7/2010 8:55:14 PM

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson wasn't happy about his team's lackluster 6-2 loss to the Flyers on Wednesday, and both his players and the media paid for it at practice on Thursday.

First, Wilson ripped into the team with reporters looking on, complaining about the squad's general ineffectiveness and singling out Phil Kessel in particular.

"You have one (expletive) goal in your last 10 games," Wilson said to Kessel.

The 22-year-old's struggles have been monumental in recent weeks; the goal Wilson is referring to came on December 30th against the Oilers (his only point in the last 10 games). Kessel is a minus-8 over that period.

Wilson was then asked by reporters why he had addressed Kessel personally.

"I could single out a bunch of guys but he's our best player," said Wilson. "And a lot of times that needs to be the message."

And why do it in front of the media?

"We do it here because I'm pissed off, okay?" he said. "You do need a kick in the rump once in a while. Then we'll see how people respond."

Then the coach shifted the focus of his rant.

"Actually at the end of the day, you guys shouldn't even watch us practice," Wilson said to the assembled scrum on Thursday. "This is the only sport where the media will report what you said to a player on the field of battle. You can't do it in football, baseball or basketball. How many basketball practices have you ever been to? None.

"This is our office and it should be off-limits."

Of course, Wilson does have reason to be upset with his team.

The Flyers scored four power play goals, tying a season-high mark, and Daniel Briere continued his dominance of Toronto, potting two tallies and registering the 500th point of his NHL career. The Flyers aren't exactly an Eastern Conference juggernaut at this point, sitting 10th in the Conference with 43 points.

"When someone is struggling, sometimes you need a little kick in the butt to get going and it doesn't matter what age you are, we're all on the same team," said Leafs defenceman Ian White. "Whether you're 19 or 37, you need the same message to be sent."

The Leafs are a dismal 7-12-4 on the road this season and are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games.

Wilson told the Leafs to compete harder for the puck and said that with a few more losses, they'd be in danger of undoing all their hard work. The team had put together a good series of games recently that vaulted them into near-playoff contention, but they have since slipped to 14th in the Conference with just 39 points.

"We've got to compete harder," Wilson said to reporters afterwards. "Not compete when we're down 2-0. Compete from the start. Don't get going when the score is five- or six-to-one. Compete all the time and consistently. That's what we're going to have to do if we want to be a competitive team."

The coach had expressed his disappointment in the team's effort immediately after Wednesday night's defeat, denying that a game the night before had left them too fatigued to play well.

"I'm sure they'll say that, but it's no excuse," Wilson said Wednesday. "We had a few guys who didn't compete at the level we need."

He simultaneously defended his goaltender while taking a jab at the rest of the squad.

"There's was nothing he could do on any of those goals," Wilson said on Wednesday. "He should sue for non-support."

The Leafs next play the Sabres on Friday and that will be no easy task in itself.

Buffalo is 27-11-4, good enough to lead the Northeast Division.