Geared for T.O. jeers

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Hal Gill skates at Leaf practice on Wednesday. Gill had a tough...

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Hal Gill skates at Leaf practice on Wednesday. Gill had a tough night against the Florida Panthers the night before. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Larry Murphy yesterday offered up some advice for 6-foot-7 scapegoat Hal Gill, the newest whipping boy of the Leafs Nation.

Should Gill invest in some earplugs, perhaps?

"Nah. I would just tell him not to let (the jeers) be a distraction," Murphy, now an NHL broadcaster, said during a phone interview from Detroit last night.

Murphy is sympathetic to the plight of Gill, who was booed whenever he touched the puck by the fans in the final two periods of the Maple Leafs' 7-3 loss to the Florida Panthers Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre.

After all, Murphy knows all too well what it is like to absorb the wrath of the fickle Leafs supporters

Murphy, who patrolled the blue line for the Leafs from 1995-97, was consistently jeered at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was stupid to heap all the blame for those talent-challenged Leafs teams on a guy who one day would be in the Hall of Fame, but that, in fact, was the case.

The Leafs finally opted to ship Murphy to the Detroit Red Wings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Now the target of the fans wrath, at least for one night, turned to Gill. With Aki Berg in Finland, the former Boston Bruin became the focus of the blame game.

"In the scheme of things it doesn't matter what they think," Murphy said. "That's not a slight against the fans.They pay to watch. They pay your salary. They have the right to express themselves. But the bottom line is, you are accountable to your teammates and the Toronto organization, and that's it."

Gill admittedly made a couple of costly defensive blunders and finished minus-three but there were plenty of other Leafs who stunk against the Panthers. That's why, according to teammate Darcy Tucker, it was unfair for Gill to take the majority of the heat.

"Hal Gill's probably been one of our best players all year," Tucker said. "For them to hang something like that on him, I find, is quite ludicrous. For anyone that knows the game of hockey and watches video and can understand what he brings to our hockey club, they know he's added something we haven't had here in a number of years. And that's someone who can kill penalties and play a solid all around game almost every night.

"He was probably our best player in (the 9-2 win Saturday) against New York. He was plus-four. He killed penalties. He played against (Jaromir) Jagr all night. Three nights later everyone's on the bandwagon the other way.

"He's played so well for us, all of us in this room appreciate what he's done for our hockey team."

Often criticized for his plodding gait and $2-million US salary, Gill still leads the Leafs in plus-minus at plus-five. That should show he can play the game a bit.

"I had two bad plays and it cost the team," Gill said. "Of course you are going to point the finger at me.

"It's not something that I can't bounce back from right away. I established myself in the league, hit a bump in the road and now I keep going."

Right into Chicago for a date with the Blackhawks tomorrow night.


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