- Associated Press - Monday, December 26, 2011

TORONTO (AP) - After spending a few seasons overhauling the roster, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke was finally satisfied with how his team looked at last season’s All-Star break.

The Maple Leafs have returned to respectability in the Eastern Conference since then, and Burke rewarded Ron Wilson for the turnaround, confirming Monday that the veteran coach has signed a contract extension.

“This coach has earned this extension,” Burke said. “It’s not charity, it’s not a gift.”

The Maple Leafs have not made the playoffs in three seasons under Wilson, who is 119-120-42 overall with Toronto, but the team appears to be on track to change that this season.

Entering Monday night’s games, the Leafs were sixth in the East with 40 points. Wilson has also guided the club to a 36-22-10 record since the middle of the last season.

“It’s pretty impressive, it’s certainly a healthy clip,” Burke said.

Burke confirmed the deal during the second intermission of Monday’s AHL game between the Toronto Marlies and the Hamilton Bulldogs at Air Canada Centre. He did not reveal contract details.

The 56-year-old Wilson was in the final season of a four-year deal.

“When the coach goes into the cage, he needs the chair and the whip _ not just one,” Burke said. “It’s not enough to just be the coach for the rest of the season, in my opinion.

“So I think it’s an important statement. I think there’s a respect level involved and I think it was the right thing to do.”

Wilson tweeted a day earlier that he got his wish of a new deal. He had hinted last week that he wanted a new contract from Santa Claus for Christmas.

“`He came! He came!’ Remember saying that as a little kid? Well he did: I got a new Red Ryder BB gun and a contract extension!” Wilson posted Sunday on his Twitter account.

Wilson said the quest for results remains just as high, even with the increased contract security.

“I’ve seen lots of coaches get fired this year with lots of (contract) term left, so the pressure doesn’t change,” he said after the Leafs practiced Monday. “It’s still the same. I could get fired next week for all I know. So I have a little bit of combat pay coming in other words.

“That’s kind of the way I look at it.”

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