|Former Leafs great Doug Gilmour joins coach Ron Wilson on the ice during Toronto Maple Leafs training camp. (Alex Urosevic/QMI Agency)
Once unsure of where he stood in a post-Maple Leafs world, Doug Gilmour has found a home behind the bench.
Two awkward goodbyes as a player -- one by trade and one an aborted one-day comeback -- then trial runs as Marlies assistant coach and Leafs hockey office exec, didn't pan out for the former captain, who was used to being in the eye of the storm in six mostly successful years in Toronto.
He's now starting his second full season as coach of the Kingston Frontenacs, has helped shape at least one first round NHLer and is talking of staying another four years to see if sons Jake and Tyson might be able to join the OHL team.
So a surprise on-ice appearance Sunday morning at Leafs' training camp had no ulterior motive, just a chance to take notes on how Ron Wilson operated, wear the familiar blue and white and kibitz with some kids and old teammates, Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler.
"I've really enjoyed coaching and then some, from my first day until now," the 47-year-old said. "I'm still pretty young at it. I'll make some mistakes along the way and I understand that. But I think we'll have a pretty good club if I get everyone back. We have six kids in NHL camps and we start (regular season) Friday."
Frontenacs defenceman Erik Gudbranson was chosen third overall by the Florida Panthers in June.
"I hope he does well for himself, but selfishly, I want him back," Gilmour said. "We have a couple of kids that will go pretty high (in 2011). It's a learning curve for everyone. The 16-year-olds we had last year are now 17 and ready to go."
Coaching in the NHL remains an intriguing possibility.
"I just signed four more years after this one, so I really haven't decided," Gilmour said. "If here is an opportunity I will look at it. But two years from now, I can draft my son (Jake), two years after that (Tyson) is coming up."
The Leafs coaches were in on Gilmour's visit, an invitation from general manager Brian Burke when both were at ex-GM Cliff Fletcher's recent birthday party and Burke was figuring out who to bring in as a guest coach.
"It was so cool to be on the same ice with him," Leafs forward Dale Mitchell said. "I grew up in Mississauga watching him. I wanted to ask him to teach me that wraparound playoff goal he scored against St. Louis."
Fletcher was also in the stands at the MasterCard Centre, but both men wished the third member of the team's Holy Trinity from the '90s could be there. Gilmour has recently spoken to ailing coach Pat Burns, who has terminal cancer, but was as confused as anyone when reports of his death filled the airwaves on Friday.
"A radio station asked me to comment, but I didn't want to," Gilmour said. "A friend back home was speaking with Burnsie the night before. He was at the hospital getting some medication, but he snuck out to get some sushi.
"We're praying and hoping for the best. He is just a superb man. You see the character he has and the fight he still has.
"If you read the book Tuesdays With Morrie, he has an opportunity to be around his family and his friends. We really don't like talking about it, but everyone would like the chance to say goodbye. We all love him."
Gilmour had a great recollection of Burns' first day on the job at Maple Leaf Gardens.
"The media asked him about the club and he said, 'We have 'Darryl' Gilmour here,'"" he laughed. "It was 'Thanks, that's a good start'. But we had a great friendship. He's an intimidating man, he just looked at me and I was scared. He got the most out of all of us as players."
Something Gilmour hopes to learn in his own time.