Maurice era begins today

New coach Paul Maurice's approach to running a team will hopefully give the Maple Leafs a better...

New coach Paul Maurice's approach to running a team will hopefully give the Maple Leafs a better shot under new NHL rules. (Toronto Sun File/Craig Robertson)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

Call it culture shock -- Paul Maurice style.

Four months after the personable, no-nonsense, Led Zeppelin-loving coach was named as the replacement for Pat Quinn, the Maurice era in Toronto officially begins today when players arrive at training camp to undergo medicals at the Ricoh Coliseum.

With the torch passed to Maurice, the former coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, here's some advice for the 2006-07 Maple Leafs.

Try to enjoy the experience of having all those doctors pricking and prodding you this morning. It will get more difficult once the on-ice workouts begin tomorrow.

No one knows that better than forward Jeff O'Neill, who has played for both men.

Quinn was a players' coach, a guy who was fiercely loyal, almost to a fault, to the guys who had gone to battle for him over the years. He expected players to be proud enough to elevate their own games without outside encouragement, often resulting in so-called soft practices and regular Sundays off.

In steps Maurice, a coach who preaches work ethic.

Have enough of it, and you'll play. Lollygag, and you'll pay.

Let the wheezing begin.

"It's going to be a lot different for some of these guys, especially the ones who were under Pat for a long time," O'Neill said last night. "Pat's coaching methods were definitely old-school while Paul has a more up-tempo style. There is a lot more attention to detail."

And if anyone screws up during a workout, he likely will hear about it.

"If you do a drill and don't do it properly, expect the whistle to blow and do it again," O'Neill said.

As for scrimmages, one of Quinn's favourite practice drills, expect them to become as obsolete as Cooperalls and wooden sticks under Maurice.

"The No. 1 priority at camp will be to develop pace where players have speed and flow through the neutral zone," Maurice said. "And if the puck is lost, you have to have the same thing defensively."

Those who played under Maurice with the Marlies last season also are well aware of how much he stresses conditioning. Little wonder many Leafs already have been on the ice for several weeks preparing for camp.

"Fitness is an area we are looking at, first and foremost," Maurice said. "We talked to all the players about their summer conditioning programs. The Maple Leafs had an unusual year for injuries (in 2005-06) and the broken bones added up. Between callups and injuries, the Marlies lost more than 500 man-games. We plan to improve on that by being a little bit fitter team."

But will it be a better team? Only time will tell.


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