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Ron Wilson wishes Leafs went younger, sooner

Two months ago I was a bit bullish on Brian Burke. I wasn’t too enthused with his selections for the USA hockey team for the Olympics, and his team wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire up in Toronto. He had been hailed as the savior for the Leafs and I, along with others, weren’t exactly patient with him realizing his plan. Well, he was right about Team USA and at the end of the season his Leafs looked to be turning the corner.

Burke’s coach, Ron Wilson, wasn’t too happy with their decisions either, and wishes they had done differently as well:

“If I could do anything over again, I would have gone with all the young guys I thought had made our team at training camp (and) had outplayed a lot of veterans,” Wilson said Monday.

After the trade deadline, when the Leafs unloaded most of their team unto the Calgary Flames, most wandered just how successful a glorified AHL team could be turn. Turns out, they became one of the hottest teams in the NHL through March and April.

Wilson cites his lack of confidence in Vesa Toskala and the team’s reliance on pricey veterans as a reason for the team’s early failures. It was only after the young players stepped up, gained confidence and had a solid goaltender behind them that the team started to gel.

Of course, it was too late at that point.

Unfortunately, the Leafs gave up their first and second rounders this year in exchange for Phil Kessel (and next year’s first), so having some instant help for this season’s foibles isn’t possible. But Nazem Kadri is on his way, and the Leafs should embrace a younger approach to rebuilding than trying to win now and rebuild all at the same time.