Turncoats or team players?
Which description best suits the likes of Matt Stajan, Clarke Wilm and Nathan Perrott, Maple Leafs player rep Bryan McCabe was asked yesterday.
With NHL players locked out of training camps this week, the veteran defenceman sits at his Long Island home while teammates such as Stajan, Wilm and Perrott work out with the St. John's Maple Leafs here in Kitchener.
NO ILL WILL
But McCabe holds no ill will toward those players. In fact, he rejects recent reports that such individuals might be perceived as traitors by the membership of the players' union.
"I'm 100% behind Matt playing hockey," McCabe said. "The young guys need the opportunity to improve. It does not help them to just sit around on their butts."
To be fair, Stajan is in a different situation than the others.
Because he did not need to clear waivers in order to be sent to St. John's, Stajan had little choice but to report. He easily has been the star of camp to this point, leading all scorers with four goals and an assist in two games.
On the other hand, Wilm and Perrott signed American Hockey League contracts on their own free will.
"I don't think (the union membership) has any hard feelings toward guys like that," McCabe said. "Our union is 700 strong and we are united. If someone has the option to go down there and improve, so be it.
"I haven't heard any (negative) comments from anyone. Everyone is on the same page. We have been encouraged to play."
McCabe has kept busy the past several weeks, including a visit to his home town of Calgary where he worked out with a number of players, including Leafs goaltending prospect Todd Ford. During his time on Long Island, he has been practising with a local junior team.
McCabe admits he has started examining the prospects of heading overseas, a path approximately 25% of NHL players, including Rick Nash and Joe Thornton, have followed during this messy labour dispute.
"I have no immediate plans, I've just started the process," he said. "(The lockout) seems like it's going to go on for a long time. (Europe) obviously is a good option."