Stajan: 'Peca will be missed'

BLAIR MCCARRON - SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 3:30 AM ET

Leafs General Manager John Ferguson took the bad with the potentially good on Wednesday.

In the wake of news that Gary Bettman handed newest Leaf Mark Bell a stiff suspension, Ferguson used the chance to tout the opportunity this void would give his young players to fill holes left by Bell, and departed free-agent Mike Peca.

The one name that kept escaping Ferguson’s mouth was Matt Stajan. The 24-year-old Mississauga native has been with the big club since 2002 had 39 points last season - his most productive campaign to date.

Stajan was on hand Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre as his team unveiled their new jerseys. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound centreman did not comment on his new teammate Bell, but did talk about his team losing Peca.

“Obviously, Pecs was a household name. He’s been in this league for a long time. He’s been a captain on a couple teams, and was a leader in the room and on the ice.”

Despite Peca’s brief stay with his hometown team, the veteran did leave an impression on Stajan.

“He was only here for one season, and it was cut short by injury, but I still learned a ton from the guy-by watching him.

“He’s going to be missed for sure.”

While growing up in Southern Ontario, Stajan looked up to Peca.

“I was a Leafs fan growing up, so when he was playing for Buffalo I wasn’t rooting for him. But, I always liked the type of player he was.”

“He was great at playing both ends of the rink, and that’s something I hope I can do throughout my career.”

Tenacious competitor

Looking forward to this season, Stajan has had the opportunity to get to know the Leafs' other key off-season acquisition, Jason Blake.

“He’s a hell of a player. Skating with him the last couple of weeks, he’s really quick, and he’s got a scoring touch as good as anyone. It’s why he scored 40 goals last year.”

Blake is known around the league as a tenacious competitor, and the low maintenance winger demonstrated his work ethic in some late summer practices.

"Just in scrimmages, in little three-on-three drills, the guy is pretty feisty. If you take the puck off him, he’s right back in your face. He competes, and that’s the way we all have to be. That’s what was stressed last year to a lot of us," said Stajan.

“I think if everyone on the team could play that way, we could be a tough team to face," he added.

Earlier this week, Leafs tough guy Wade Belak aired his distaste for the new, slimmer Reebok uniforms. Stajan was sporting his new threads, and weighed in on how the sweaters may hold up in a heavy-weight fight.

“They’re tight. I think maybe for the fighters they may be a little harder to grab on to. I could see because they’re lighter, there could be more ripping,” Stajan explained while feeling the high-tech fabric between his thumb and forefinger.

Despite Belak’s statement, Stajan felt fans could rest assured that the Leafs' enforcer will still be dropping the mitts with the same consistency as last year.

“Hockey is hockey. The jersey wouldn’t be a reason for there to be less fighting."

Leaf notes: Top goalie prospect Justin Pogge stated he wasn't disappointed about the Leafs signing Vesa Toskala. "That's with the big team. I'm trying to work myself up from the bottom," he said.

Pogge spent a portion of his off-season sharpening his golf game with fellow Marlie Colin Murphy. Pogge’s low score of the summer was 85; while Murphy scores close to scratch consistently. Favourite local courses for Pogge and company? Rattlesnake and Glen Abbey.


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