Two cents at a time

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

If Dalton McGuinty, an alleged diehard Ottawa Senators fan, wants to offer his tips on how to right the wobbly Maple Leafs ship, the Premier of Ontario need only report to coach Paul Maurice's office at the Air Canada Centre.

"Absolutely," Maurice chuckled good-naturedly after yesterday's practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena.

Why not McGuinty? It seems everyone else is putting in their two cents worth these days when it comes to ideas for changing the Leafs' fortunes, including the increasingly popular notion of bringing in former general manager Cliff Fletcher.

Word that the Leafs officially received permission yesterday from the Phoenix Coyotes to speak with Fletcher -- who began a one-week vacation in Mexico yesterday -- should come as no surprise, especially since sources say the organization already contacted him earlier in the week.

With a handful of fans chanting "Hire Fletcher!" in the final minutes of the Leafs' 5-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, it is obvious who their choice is, at least for the interim GM's position.

'A STRONG WILL'

Earlier on Tuesday, McGuinty, who had been asked about the sad state of the Leafs, said: "We need a strong will on the part of the ownership to win."

Opinions, as they say, are like belly-buttons: Everyone has one. At least, that's the polite version.

In any event, such is the piercing spotlight that Maurice and beleaguered GM John Ferguson are under each day now, a trend that will continue tonight when the Leafs visit the Boston Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden.

"That's why being (a Leaf) is as great as it is," Maurice said. "So many people follow this team.

"At times, it is the absolute best job you could have. At other times, it's reality TV."

The latter description is especially true of Ferguson, who has been hung out to dry as the suits in the boardroom kick tires on a few fronts, most notably Fletcher's.

"I can empathize," Maurice said of Ferguson's situation. "We talk every day."

The Leafs winged their way to Boston yesterday afternoon fresh on the heels of defeating the Hurricanes, their first regulation-time victory since a 4-0 drubbing of the Atlanta Thrashers on Dec. 14.

"The alternative (to beating Carolina) would not have been exciting at all," he said. "I mean, sometimes losing can take a physical toll on you. You start getting headaches and not sleeping too well."

The flight likely was made more pleasant for Maurice after he watched forward Nik Antropov take part in the team's full practice. The big Kazakh was relieved to be back on the ice after being nailed in the ankle during the latter stages of the game against the 'Canes, forcing him to the dressing room. X-rays proved negative.

"It still feels stiff, but I knew right away it wasn't serious," Antropov said. "We have to play playoff hockey. (The Bruins) might be just six points ahead of us in the standings but every game is big for us right now."

Judging by Maurice's comments on the defence-first Bruins, tonight's tilt stands to be a real yawner.

"We have to accept it's going to be a real grinding game," he said. "You can almost feel the frustration right from the beginning of the game."


Videos

Photos