Leafs must build: Sittler

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

As a captain who toiled 11 years for the Toronto Maple Leafs without a Stanley Cup -- and 17 years more in the front office -- Darryl Sittler is as tired as any fan who longs for a Bay St. parade.

But even eternal optimists such as Sittler are predicting a rough ride for weary supporters a few more years before his team can make a run at the championship.

"It could take awhile to fix and the Toronto fans will have to buy into that," Sittler said this week at the Hockey Hall Of Fame, while promoting next month's Baycrest Pro-Am hockey tournament. "Under this (salary cap) system, you have to build around young players, get a nucleus and add to it. They've tried some other ways here. New people have come in and tried to fix it short-term ... It hasn't worked."

Sittler pointed out that clubs such as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals took their lumps before bouncing back with youth-oriented teams the past couple of years. Fletcher back again as GM, but only on an interim basis.

"You look at Montreal, too, a team that missed the playoffs last year and is now on top of the conference," Sittler said.

THE WAITING GAME

The first-place Toronto Marlies likely won't know their first-round playoff matchup until tomorrow night after they wrap up the regular season with a 4 p.m. home game against the Manitoba Moose. They have four possible opponents, the Rockford (Ill.) Icehogs, Houston Aeros, Milwaukee Admirals or San Antonio Rampage.

Coach Greg Gilbert, bolstered by the return of forwards Kris Newbury, Jiri Tlusty and defenceman Staffan Kronwall from the eliminated Maple Leafs, said this week he'd choose between Justin Pogge and Scott Clemmensen as a starting goalie based on who looked better in the club's remaining four games.


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