Leafs open training camp

Pavel Kubina did some speed testing as part of the medical exams at the opening of training camp....

Pavel Kubina did some speed testing as part of the medical exams at the opening of training camp. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 4:02 PM ET

With a gallery of new faces and missing a very familiar one, the Maple Leafs opened their 2008-'09 training camp this morning at Ricoh Coliseum.

"This is definitely different," centre Matt Stajan said, looking around and not seeing captain and top scorer Mats Sundin's mug at team medicals for the first time since 1994.

"You miss guys, but at the same time, you have to move forward. You have to believe that we can do a lot better than people are giving us credit for, (such as) score by committee this year."

A total of 60 players were run through tests with on-ice workouts starting Saturday. New coach Ron Wilson will have the camp split into Blue and White teams, go through two days of practice and start their nine-game NHL exhibition schedule Monday against the Buffalo Sabres.

General manager Cliff Fletcher overturned the roster during the summer, adding free agents Jeff Finger, Niklas Hagman and Curtis Joseph and trading for Jamal Mayers, Ryan Hollweg and Mike Van Ryn.

Luke Schenn and Nikolai Kulemin lead a group of rookies hoping to crack the roster.

Gone are Sundin and many Leaf mainstays such as Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe and Andrew Raycroft.

"I wouldn't say it's weird not having them here, but they were guys who took me under their wing," said third-year winger Alex Steen.

Hollweg was not bothered by dire predictions of a fourth straight spring without playoffs in Toronto.

"My first year with the Rangers, everyone predicted we'd be last and we had a pretty good year," Hollweg said.

Van Ryn, who played through some tough times with the woeful Florida Panthers and a wrist injury, thinks he and the team are destined for better things.

"You have to believe the sun will come out," he said, his left arm bandaged from a blood test. All the Leafs were anxious to see what sort of workload Saturday's opening session with Wilson would bring.

"He likes to crack jokes, but but we'll see what happens on the ice," Stajan said.

Van Ryn heard lots of Wilson tales from London-area boyhood friends Joe Thornton and Brian Campbell, who played for Wilson's San Jose Sharks.

"He's a demanding coach and he'll want us to buy in," Van Ryn said.


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