Life of Bryan good in T.O.

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

In the Monty Python cult flick Life of Brian, a slave painfully spiked to a cross suddenly begins singing to dozens of his peers who have found themselves in the same hopeless predicament.

"Always look on the bright side of life ...," he crows, attempting to find the positives in what appears to be a inescapable fate.

These days, if you listen closely, you might be able to hear Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle, Darcy Tucker, Pavel Kubina and Bryan McCabe humming the same tune.

If ever there were a cast of characters looking at their blue-and-white glasses being half full it is these five guys, each who seem to be holding true to their respective word that they will not waive their individual no-trade clauses.

No matter that this team is on the verge of missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Or that they play for an organization that is hunting for a full-time general manager while interim GM Cliff Fletcher admirably attempts to restock a farm system that desperately thirsts for an influx of young talent.

In this situation, wouldn't any championship-hungry pro athlete be scrambling to get out of town for a chance to make the playoffs and, legitimately, a shot at a Stanley Cup?

Seems like a slam-dunk decision, doesn't it?

So why have the Fearsome Fivesome stuck to their guns and stubbornly, at least to this point, refused to move, shackling Fletcher's rebuilding attempts in the process?

One interesting theory making the rounds recently suggested players don't want to bail on what many consider to be a sinking ship because of the alleged "country-club atmosphere" that some claim permeates the Maple Leafs' dressing room.

"If that's the case, I'm not joining that country club," coach Paul Maurice responded yesterday. "I don't get any sense of that. In fact, I really don't think the players like me too much when we're losing, whether it be in one of our video sessions or out on the ice.

"Ask Nik Antropov or Bryan McCabe or Andrew Raycroft what it is like around here when we are losing."

Raycroft, Antropov and McCabe all have been whipping boys of Leafs Nation for some time now. Under these circumstances, what is the appeal of being a Leaf?

"The Leafs matter," said Raycroft, who probably hears Bronx cheers at the Air Canada Centre just for making a save in warmup. "There is a buzz in the building every night. In 90% of the other cities in this league people don't care about hockey.

"The grass isn't always greener."

McCabe agrees.

"Obviously it's nice that our games are always sold out ... not that they always cheer for you," McCabe said with a chuckle. "But there is no country-club atmosphere here. We work hard on and off the ice."

He pointed at a scrum of about 15 reporters huddled around Dominic Moore.

"You think dealing with the media horde every day is fun?"

If it is so bad, then why stay?

"We get treated first-class here," he said. "I've heard some horror stories about some of these other places around the league."

No one is getting more public pressure to waive his no-trade than Sundin. Respected ESPN hockey columnist Scott Burnside has gone as far as to write that the Leafs should strip Sundin of his "C" if he does not agree to be moved because, as the team captain, he would not be looking out for the best interests of the team.

That might be a bit over the top. Such a bold move would tarnish the previous feats of a guy who managed to become the club's career scoring leader while doing it without any elite wingers, other than Alexander Mogilny or, arguably, Gary Roberts.

Having said that, Burnside makes a number of valid arguments that are shared by a growing number of Leafs fans. There is no doubt Sundin will be in line for a heavy dose of public vilification if he is still here after the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

One way to diffuse the criticism is if the captain begins talks with the Leafs about a contract extension almost immediately after the deadline. Those in the know say they would not be surprised if such a scenario plays itself out.


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