O'Neill nonplused with stat

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Jeff O'Neill has contributed nicely to the Maple Leafs' attack in his first season with Toronto but defensively, well, not so much.

Going into last night's game in Boston versus the Bruins, O'Neill was minus-11. Only four NHLers -- Mario Lemieux, Eric Brewer, Scott Hannan and Mark Recchi -- were worst at minus-12. Dany Heatley was tops in the NHL at plus-20.

"I don't put a whole lot of stock in it," O'Neill said. "I'm about minus-100 for my career, so if I worried about it I would have retired five years ago."

Not a bad ball-park figure thrown out by O'Neill. In nine seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers, he was a plus player just once, when he was plus-3 in 1998-99. The other eight years? O'Neill was a combined minus-100.

Leafs coach Pat Quinn's desire, naturally, is to have a club that collectively is a plus team.

"I have not paid a lot of attention in trying to analyze what plus-minus is going to mean going forward," Quinn said. "Later on, when we all learn how to play with our sticks down and there is no hooking and less penalties, five-on-five will take on a more important status again."

Fond memories

Former Leaf Tom Fitzgerald always will have a connection to Toronto other than the two years he played for theLeafs from 2002-04. His youngest son, Brendan, was born in Toronto.

"It will always be close to my heart," Fitzgerald, one of the NHL's good guys, said. "I felt like I was there for 10 years with the friends we made."

Captain respect

When Bruins captain Joe Thornton stressed this week that if the Bruins are going to improve he will have to do so first, it did not come as a surprise to coach Mike Sullivan.

"Joe is a stand-up guy and he assumes a lot of responsibility," Sullivan said. "He expects a lot of himself, and when things don't go the way you want them to go, a lot of times you look to the leaders and the best players. I know Joe is playing his heart out and I know he is going to be a significant reason why we are going to pull out of this bit of adversity."

The Bruins had lost three consecutive games going into last night.


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