Experience is Big Brad's edge

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

No one talks about Brad Brown when the discussion turns to the topic of open spots on the Maple Leafs blue line.

But the 30-year-old veteran is not about to just sit back and watch a bunch of kids grab the available jobs.

"I just worry about myself," Brown said after practice yesterday. "I know to make this club I have to bring something that other guys can't. I have to be physical and play with a mean streak every shift. If I don't, I won't make it."

All that matters to the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Brown -- who did not play against the Montreal Canadiens last night at the Air Canada Centre -- is that he has been neither overlooked nor forgotten by coach Paul Maurice.

"I've got time for Brad," Maurice said. "I like his competitiveness. It's a tough crop (with the level of competition for a couple of jobs), but he is certainly not an afterthought."

Brown brings an intangible which the likes of Staffan Kronwall, Jay Harrison, Ian White, Brendan Bell, Andy Wozniewski and Carlo Colaiacovo do not -- experience. Before spending 2005-06 with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, Brown had not played a game in the minors since 1997-98.

Brown has 330 NHL games on his resume and for parts of two seasons was the captain of the Minnesota Wild. In Maurice's mind, Brown could well have been a part of the Leafs last season.

'EXCEPTIONALLY WELL'

"In December, he was the next defenceman (to be called up) ahead of some of the other young players," said Maurice, who was coaching the Marlies then. "I thought he was playing exceptionally well. We had broken down our penalties we had taken in the first two months and he had taken (only) four (obstruction) penalties. But then he broke a rib in Cleveland."

Brown had four points and 93 penalty minutes in 38 games for the Marlies in an injury-shortened campaign he wants to put behind him.

"It was a nightmare," Brown said.

"This year, I came into camp with a fresh mind and a fresh body. If I don't make it now, I am going to work my butt off and try to get up here at some point this season."


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