Mats Sundin didn't come out and say he is glad Pat Quinn no longer is the coach of the Maple Leafs but the team's captain is ready for a change behind the bench.
"Any time there is new blood, new ideas, new vision and a new look of the team, I think it's good," Sundin said yesterday. "I'm really excited about it. It's going to be a tough training camp (under new coach Paul Maurice) and we have to all get in line. It's nice to get a fresh start."
Sundin surprised a small gathering of observers at Lakeshore Lions Arena when he joined a group of his teammates for a morning scrimmage. Usually, the first public sighting of Sundin after the summer is at medicals on the first day of training camp. But after a vigorous skate, Sundin gave his first interview in Canada to a handful of reporters since the Leafs cleared out their lockers in April.
It's no wonder Sundin has a refreshed attitude. Many thought Quinn didn't give Sundin enough minutes, thereby limiting the latter's effectiveness. Sundin averaged 19 minutes 58 seconds last season but many of the NHL's top forwards clocked in with more than 21 minutes on average.
Maurice, hired in May, has said the 35-year-old Sundin will get a heavier workload.
"We'll see what happens," Sundin said. "We all hope for a lot of ice time. I don't think (Quinn) held me back. I have a lot of respect for Pat as a coach. But it's always nice to have a change. I am welcoming Paul Maurice."
One of Maurice's challenges will be to find wingers for Sundin. A criticism of general manager John Ferguson is that he did not acquire a potent winger to ride shotgun for Sundin. But Sundin is not worried.
"Can't get everything, huh?" Sundin said with laugh. "I think we filled a lot of the bigger problems we had defensively (with the additions of defencemen Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill and the defensive-minded Michael Peca). We scored a lot of goals last year, and our power play was second in the league. I think management has done a good job and we are a lot better team."
While that remains to be seen, there's no arguing the major facelift. Gone are Quinn, goalie Ed Belfour and forwards Tie Domi, Eric Lindros and Jason Allison.
Sundin acknowledged it's going to be bizarre to walk into the room and see someone else at Domi's locker. The two were teammates for 11 years and became close.
"There are mixed feelings," Sundin said of Domi being bought out. "It's never easy. Tie has been a longtime member of this club and no one has done more for the community. We all realize we are going to come to the end of our careers, and with the decision from management, that's the way it goes."