Mats hinting at retirement?

As part of finding another 80 point-range leading scorer if Mats Sundin retires, the Leafs need a...

As part of finding another 80 point-range leading scorer if Mats Sundin retires, the Leafs need a new faceoff specialist. (Sun Media/Alex Urosevic)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:25 PM ET

Coach Ron Wilson began looking at the Maple Leafs' first line centre hole yesterday, with a big question mark where No. 13 used to be.

"When I find out for sure about Mats Sundin, then I'll worry about life with or without him," said Wilson, in town for summer meetings with general manager Cliff Fletcher.

"Cliff and I just roughed out some lines, but a lot can change between now and Sept. 19 (when training camp opens)."

Sundin remains non-commital about playing or retiring, with agent J.P. Barry saying in recent days that the captain's indecision could be a hint he's not coming back.

Refusing to get into specific candidates, Wilson said Sundin's winger Nik Antropov would be among "lots of guys" he hopes to audition at camp for the job should Sundin not play.

"Wherever I've coached, I've been blessed with having a good natural centre," Wilson said. "A centre is key, because he's also responsible for his line's defensive play.

"These days, guys are much more interchangeable, with the only confusion deciding who picks up loose pucks along the boards. But it's much easier to make centres out of wingers than wingers out of centres."

As part of finding another 80 point-range leading scorer if Sundin retires, the Leafs need a new faceoff specialist.

Though Sundin's overall contributions have been second-guessed in light of the Leafs missing the playoffs the past three seasons, last year he led the NHL in draws taken (1,713) and draws won (945), a 55.2% success rate.

The only other Leaf with more than 1,000 draws was Matt Stajan (a 47.6% rating), while Antropov was 42.1% on 271 draws.

Centre Dominic Moore was 51.4%, while other wingers Mark Bell and Alex Steen took almost 200 faceoffs, Bell at 41.3%, Steen at 33%.

HURTS SO GOOD

You could almost hear a superstitious Fletcher pounding his wooden desk as he answered a question about a quiet summer for Leaf injures.

As of now, he said no one was facing surgery, recovering from same and no training accidents or holiday mishaps had occured.

That is remarkable for a team that routinely sings a hurtin' tune in September.

Last year, lingering pain in Carlo Colaiacovo's knee, coupled with Kyle Wellwood's groin and Mark Bell's suspension disrupted plans. The year before, Colaiacovo, Antropov, Brendan Bell and Ben Ondrus were scratched at the start.

In 2005-06, Ken Klee missed the opener, followed in short order by Sundin, Jeff O'Neill and Antropov.

BRIEFLY

Ex-Leaf Jeff Reese was in discussions with the team for the vacant goaltending coach's position, but the team will look elsewhere ... Neither Fletcher nor McCabe's agent, Ian Pulver, report much progress in deciding the defencemen's fate, though they remain in contact ... As a send-off for the Spectrum, which has a date with the wrecker's ball, the Flyers will play a Sept. 27 pre-season game in their old home against Carolina.


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