Pending charges no worry for Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- The Maple Leafs feel they have done due diligence when it comes to the legal woes of newly acquired Mark Bell.

Bell, 26, is scheduled to appear in a San Jose-area court on Monday after being arrested during the Labour Day weekend of 2006.

Police at the time said the young forward was intoxicated when he left the scene of an injury accident. Bell subsequently pleaded not guilty to felony hit-and-run charges.

"With all the research we've done, we feel he's in good hands," general manager John Ferguson said last night.

Bell understandably wants the issue to be resolved as soon as possible.

"It's taken a little longer than I thought to take its course, but I'm sure it will take care of itself," Bell said.

NO EXCUSES

Bell finished the season with a career-low 21 points, but never used off-ice issues as an excuse for his struggles. Sharks coach Ron Wilson, however, felt the incident might have affected Bell's play.

"That's a heavy burden," Wilson told the San Jose Mercury News during the season.

Having been dealt last summer to San Jose by the Chicago Blackhawks -- following back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons -- Bell scored in his first regular-season game as a Shark. But he suffered groin and wrist injuries later that week and could never get back on track.

Bell has a huge backer in the Maple Leafs organization in Doug Gilmour, who endorsed the young forward to Ferguson. Bell and Gilmour were one-time teammates during a Blackhawks training camp.

"Look, we all make mistakes," Gilmour said. "Don't judge him. He's a great kid, a good friend and a quality person.

"And he's a great addition to our team."


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