Brother act for the Leafs?

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

OSHAWA -- For those members of the quickly growing entity known as "Tank Nation", David Nonis has a message for you.

It's not going to happen. Not purposely, anyway.

In case you are not familiar with the concept of "Tank Nation," it is a legion of embittered Maple Leafs fans who want this year's edition to go down the toilet -- or, in the "tank," as the case may be -- in order to finish at the bottom of the standings and get, perhaps, a shot at 18-year-old wonderboy John Tavares.

"That," Nonis said last night, "is not the way to build the winning culture we want to establish."

As Nonis was uttering those words, Tavares was stepping out on to the ice for the second period of the 2009 Canadian Hockey League Prospects game at the General Motors Centre, otherwise known as The House That Tavares Built.

Little did anyone know what would be in store just one period later for the kid who led the Team Canada juniors to a gold medal less than two weeks ago.

There was slightly more than 12 minutes remaining when Tavares was splattered into the end boards by three members of Team Cherry, leaving the No. 1-ranked North American skater writhing in pain by what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

Tavares eventually came out and said he was okay, claiming any measures taken were just "precautionary."

Alas, loyal members of Tank Nation, as long as teams like the bumbling New York Islanders are around, getting a shot at Tavares might be nothing more than a pipe dream. With injuries to goaltenders Joey McDonald and Rick DiPietro, former NHL puckstopper Sean Burke, in attendance at last night's event here, said he had been asked by an Isles official if he might want to come out of retirement.

We're not sure if Burke was joking. Knowing the sad state of the Isles these days, they probably were serious.

For the other Burke making hockey headlines these days -- as in Brian, the general manager of the Leafs -- this June's NHL entry draft will be a vital stepping stone in the rebuilding process of the struggling Toronto franchise.

Adding a Tavares to the mix would be great toward that end. It also may be nothing more than a dream.

In that case, citizens of Tank Nation, how about considering the concept of "Schenn Nation," a lobby group aimed at having Luke Schenn's younger brother, Brayden, end up in a Leafs jersey, as well?

Brayden, a forward with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, is projected by most prognosticators to go between fourth and eighth picks in the draft. A power forward who likes to hit, he has 48 points in 41 games thus far.

The obvious question to him, then: Do you ever think what it would be like to play alongside Luke with the Maple Leafs?

"We've actually talked about it before," Brayden said after last night's game. "But it's a long way away until June. A lot can happen between now and then.

"I did play with him on the same team once. It was in atom. I got moved up a level."

After a slow start with the Wheat Kings, Brayden said he is rounding into form.

"After the first 10 games of the season, you realize you can't worry about the draft because it is a long way away," said Schenn, who played for the victorious Team Orr last night over Team Cherry. "So you start just concentrating on games. After that, everything falls into place."

Nonis, Burke's right-hand man who overlooks the scouting department, said the Leafs will concentrate on improving their research into the character of prospects, especially those projected to go in the first two rounds.

Keeping that in mind, he was asked about Brayden.

"It's a long way to the draft," Nonis said. "But we certainly know the strong character of (that family)."

Hear that, Schenn Nation?


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