Peca has plenty of work to do

Michael Peca, skating at a promotional function a couple weeks ago, wants to take a leadership role...

Michael Peca, skating at a promotional function a couple weeks ago, wants to take a leadership role with his new team but knows he's going to have to prove himself first. (Toronto Sun File/Craig Robertson)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Michael Peca has worn a Maple Leafs practice sweater for just one informal workout with some of his new teammates.

But the 32-year-old Toronto native knows what kind of success he envisions for the team and his role in it.

"I'm looking to come in and help set the tone from a leadership perspective," Peca said yesterday after his first skate at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "But I don't expect an opportunity to be given to me. I expect to earn it just like everyone else."

Peca should not have a problem with that. A big reason for the Leafs' interest in him is his work ethic.

Peca is aware that expectations of the Leafs in 2006-07 put them in the area of seventh to 12th in the Eastern Conference. Though the Leafs are an improved club from last season, there are plenty of question marks. But Peca figured he has a handle on what has to transpire for the Leafs to return to the post-season. Coach Paul Maurice and the players are in it together.

"Eventually it comes down to players, and we've got to execute, but every team needs a general, and the general usually is the coach," Peca said. "The coach is a guy you want to feed off, his persona, his energy, and that filters down to the players.

"You need your younger players to emerge, need older players to lead and be consistent and overall you need to be strong in all areas of the game."

Since becoming an NHL regular with the Vancouver Canucks in 1995, Peca has missed the playoffs once. After the Olympic break last season, but especially during a Stanley Cup run with the Edmonton Oilers in the spring, Peca re-discovered his game.

Whether it was straying too far from his defensive capabilities or getting adjusted to playing in the West, Peca was miserable for his initial months in Alberta.

"There were parts earlier in the season when I just did not feel like I wanted to play hockey anymore," Peca said. "It was that frustrating. The Olympic break gave me time to miss the game a bit and come back and get my game going."

Peca will get the majority of assignments against the opposition's top players, a role he did not always get in Edmonton but one he relishes. Though he is not going to score in bushels -- he had nine goals in 71 games last season -- he won't have much choice, considering the Leafs' depth shortage up front.

"I'm excited to play with a lot of the guys here," Peca said. "The playoffs gave me a lot of confidence and enthusiasm and I am looking to take advantage of that."


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