Based on his first meeting with the Maple Leafs, Ron Wilson believes his team is "starving for direction".
And starting tomorrow, the new head coach intends to show them the right way up, even if he bruises a few egos.
"I won't allow the sideshow that sometimes occurs here with (players getting) different messages," Wilson said yesterday at Angus Glen Golf Club, where the team held its charity tournament before tomorrow's camp medicals.
"They read and hear a lot of things, but we (coaches) are the people in the trenches with them. This group is starving for direction. They don't want to be (failures).
"I don't want separate agendas, like: 'I'm going to get 20 goals'. If you do things right, the team wins and your personal goals will be met."
Having endured another summer of public ridicule over three consecutive non-playoff years and predictions they will be in the John Tavares derby this season, the players should find Wilson's pitch to their liking.
"It was irritating and annoying to hear right through the off-season that we were going to be terrible, without even giving us a chance," winger Boyd Devereaux said. "It's a new squad and I'm pretty confident we'll have a team system in place. Lots of clubs play good team hockey and do well, such as Boston.
PARITY IN EAST
"(Winning) will be a challenge, but with the parity in the Eastern Conference, some nights it seems like it can be anybody's game. If we get our heads on straight and buy into what coach Wilson has put in place, we'll surprise a few people."
Native Torontonian Carlo Colaiacovo heard a lot of the same ribbing as Devereaux.
"It was very frustrating, but at the same time, you're an athlete who has to deal with that in a professional manner," he said. "People in this city have a right to say whatever they want. It's just a matter of us handling it and doing what we have to do on the ice."
Wilson hung around the informal workouts at Lakeshore Lions Arena this month and met some players, while others stopped by his office at the ACC. A total of 60 will undergo medicals tomorrow at the Ricoh Coliseum and, after just two days of practice, they'll face the Buffalo Sabres in the first of nine exhibition games.
Wilson's team will be no match for the Stanley Cup-winning Red Wings on opening night next month, but he is determined the Leafs will take a page from the champs and concentrate on better play on their side of centre.
"We'll play better defensively, that's what I'm really pressing with this team," Wilson said. "No short-cuts. Pay attention to detail. That's how I've coached for 15 years."