Leafs players like new boss

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Darcy Tucker has become one of the Maple Leafs' savvy veterans yet he couldn't help but feel a shot of youthful exuberance when the club named Paul Maurice coach yesterday.

"All the guys are excited about something new," Tucker said. "I can't wait to sit down and talk to him. It's going to be great to have a good start to training camp and it will be a learning experience for everybody."

When the Leafs arrive for camp in about four months, there will be a different atmosphere than the one that used to exist under Pat Quinn. The Leafs are ready to embrace Maurice, a man who loves to get to know his players and one who does not eschew youth in favour of experience.

FAIR CHANCE

"Paul will be different," said Matt Stajan, who blossomed down the stretch with an increase in ice time and a switch back to his natural position of centre. "I think he is going to give everybody a chance and be fair. Pat liked the vets more. Pat did a good job, but when there is a different perspective it's exciting."

What's going to be noticeable immediately when the season begins is the manner in which Maurice runs his practices. Under Quinn, there was mostly a relaxed atmosphere during on-ice workouts and many drills didn't exactly draws buckets of sweat. Not so with Maurice, whose practices usually are short and fast-paced.

"I'm sure there will be no grey area," Tucker said. "You will always know what is expected, and it's soothing to a player to know what lies ahead."

OPEN DOOR

Though Maurice has a reputation as a coach who employs an open-door policy, those who have played for him say there's more to it than that.

"It wasn't even that the door was open because he was just so active with you," said defenceman Brendan Bell, who spent the majority of the past season under Maurice with the Toronto Marlies. "He knew when something was bothering you and wanted to talk about it. Paul's biggest thing was he told us from the get-go what he expected from us. It was always about the big picture."

And during games, Maurice always is in control.

"He was not overbearingly loud on the bench," said defenceman Jay Harrison, who, like Bell, will have a good shot at cracking the Leafs roster in the fall. "He was very responsive and made quick decisions. He didn't show any weaknesses."

Of course, at least one full-time Leaf has a better insight into Maurice than any other. Jeff O'Neill played for Maurice for more than eight seasons in Carolina.

"I'm not going to sit here and pump up the guy's tires," O'Neill told the Sun's Mike Zeisberger.

"But he's a fair coach who is honest with his players. And one thing about Paul, he knows how to get the best out of me."


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