Bigger better for Leafs?

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

At the rate the Maple Leafs' roster grew during the off-season, you can start calling them the Toronto Douglas Firs.

Centres Mats Sundin, Jason Allison and Eric Lindros average more than 6-foot-4 and if wingers Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Chad Kilger are in the mix as expected, they range from 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-6. On defence, the projected starting five include 6-foot-plus Wade Belak, Aki Berg, Ken Klee, Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe, with head coach Pat Quinn talking up 6-foot-3 Swede Staffan Kronwall, too.

"I like a physical team, but one that uses our bodies properly" Quinn said, noting the new rules on obstruction. "If other teams are bound by the same standards, how will they stop (Toronto's) big men from going to the net?

"At the Team Canada camp (where he also is coaching), Vince Lecavalier, Rick Nash and Joe Thornton are all guys who can go to the net and they went there. On the defensive side, that has hurt us in past playoffs, down low in coverage."

Quinn was talking about key playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, where the Leafs could not cope with the other teams' big forwards.

Sundin welcomed the Leafs' height advantage, whether it winds up on his line or not.

"We're still going to have to skate," said Sundin, who will start with Antropov and the 5-foot-10 Darcy Tucker at camp. "We're going to have to cycle the puck down low, where we should be strong, but at the same time, we have to be able to move."

Kronwall feels right at home here on the smaller North American-sized ice.

"I've always been a big player, but it just takes time to grow into your size," the younger brother of Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall said.

"The guys are bigger here, but I try not to think about it, just try to play my game. It's faster and there's more intensity. I like it better this way."

But rookie Ian White, who stands 5-foot-10, is not intimidated here.

"Since I started playing in the (Western Hockey League) and (American Hockey League), there have always been guys 6-4 and 6-5," he said. "There is a lot of weight at centre on this team, but it's something you have to overcome if you want to play in the NHL."

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MONSTERS OF THE MIDWAY

The Maple Leafs could have as many as 10 skaters in their lineup this season who are 6-foot-3 or taller:

- Nik Antropov

6-foot-6, 220 lbs.

- Mats Sundin

6-foot-5, 231 lbs.

- Wade Belak

6-foot-5, 221 lbs.

- Eric Lindros

6-foot-4, 240 lbs.

- Chad Kilger

6-foot-4, 224 lbs.

- Alexei Ponikarovsky

6-foot-4, 220 lbs.

- Brad Brown

6-foot-4, 220 lbs.

- Jason Allison

6-foot-3, 215 lbs.

- Aki Berg

6-foot-3, 213 lbs.

- Staffan Kronwall

6-foot-3, 209 lbs.


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