A look at Florida Panthers coaching candidate Ron Wilson

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

We continue to take a look at the six men who could be the next head coach of the Florida Panthers. Next in line, Ron Wilson.

According to reports, the Florida Panthers next head coach will be one of the these six men: There's Bill PetersGerard GallantDan Bylsma and Marc Crawford, who we've already taken a look at (click on their names if you missed the articles), Tom Renney, and finally Ron Wilson, the subject of today's piece.

Ron Wilson was born in Canada and moved to Rhode Island at the age of twelve. A high-scoring defenseman, Wilson had a very successful NCAA stint at Providence College and also played on the U.S. National Team in 1976, but didn't make the Olympic roster. He was drafted by both the WHA's Houston Aeros, in 1974, and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1975. After leaving Providence, he spent the next three seasons shuttling back and forth between Toronto and their minor-league affiliates in Dallas and New Brunswick. After failing to become an NHL regular, the blue-liner spent the next three years in Switzerland before he returned in 1984 to finish out his playing career with the Minnesota North Stars, suiting up for 113 games over the next four seasons.

In 1988-89, Wilson joined the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals as an assistant to head coach Ron Lapointe. The next season he moved up to the NHL after he was hired by the Vancouver Canucks as an assistant to bench boss Bob McCammon. After Pat Quinn replaced McCammon, Wilson stayed on for two more seasons learning from the Canucks' new head man.

Just four seasons removed from his playing career, Wilson was tabbed as the first coach of the expansion Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He led the team to a respectable 33-46-5 record during their inaugural campaign. The Ducks slipped a bit in their second season, but showed improvement in year three, winning 35 games. In 1996-97 Anaheim posted their first winning season and upset the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs before they were swept in the second round by the mightier Detroit Red Wings. Wilson and the Mighty Ducks parted ways after the season, and he was quickly hired by the Washington Capitals. Wilson led the team all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 1997-98, but they were soundly beaten in a sweep by the Red Wings. The Capitals struggled the next season, going 31-45-6 and missing the playoffs. Wilson and the Caps rebounded to win two-straight Southeastern Division titles, but suffered back-to-back first round losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Windsor, ON spent one more season with the Caps, but another postseason miss brought his tenure in Washington to an end. Wilson wasn't out of work for long, the San Jose Sharks came calling when they fired coach Darryl Sutter 25 games into the 2002-03 season.  The Sharks finished up the campaign 19-31-0-7 after the coaching change. Their full season under the former Friar was a resounding success. San Jose rang up a 43-21-12-6 record and advanced to the Western Conference Final, where they were beaten by the Calgary Flames in six games. Wilson and the Sharks racked up 144 wins over the next three years, but the loaded team was knocked out in the second round of the playoffs each season, failing to deliver the Stanley Cup that Bay Area fans so badly wanted. The failure to meet expectations cost Wilson his job when GM Doug Wilson let him go on May 8, 2008. One month later, he accepted a four-year deal to coach his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of the highlights of Wilson's stint in Toronto was picking up his 600th NHL coaching win early in 2011. Unfortunately, the marriage between the two sides was an unsuccessful one as the storied club failed to make the postseason in the three full seasons he coached them, and then 64 games into the 2011-12 campaign Wilson was fired, despite having the team sitting just above the .500 mark in points.

Over the course of his coaching career, Ron Wilson has accumulated an impressive 648 NHL wins, which has him currently tied for seventh all-time with Ken Hitchcock. In addition to his one Stanley Cup Final appearance, Wilson coached the U.S. team to a win at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996. He led the Olympic Team to a disappointing sixth place finish in 1998, but rebounded to guide the Americans to a Silver Medal in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Wilson has been out of coaching since his dismissal from Toronto, but with 18 years of NHL duty on his résumé, he should have no problem jumping back into the fray. His steady, experienced hand would be a welcome addition behind the Panthers' bench if they choose to make him the hire.

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