Wilson: Vets can learn from Schenn

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson killed two egos with one stone yesterday.

On one hand, the first-year Leafs coach did his bit to build up the confidence of rookie defenceman Luke Schenn, while, at the same time, taking a shot at two veteran blueliners, Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle.

Prior to getting on a plane for Boston, for tonight's game at the TD Banknorth Garden, Wilson praised Schenn yesterday, calling the 18-year-old the best defenceman on the team, at least in defensive-zone situations.

He also praised Schenn for his smarts in starting rushes, and clearing the zone, while criticizing his two so-called blueline stars, Kubina and Kaberle.

"Luke's making long passes and speeding up our offence when he can. And he's an example that Kuba and Kaba can learn from, in terms of advancing the puck," the coach said. "I don't like defencemen skating the puck for 150 feet and slowing the play down and then making a pass when they run out of real estate. It shortens your offence, it slows your team down."

Kaberle and Kubina both have two points in six games, and haven't exactly played spectacularly for the Leafs. Wilson believes that the effort is there, but so are the bad habits of playing a "pre-lockout" style of hockey.

Wilson said the game is much faster now than before the NHL lockout (2004-05) and that the style of play has changed, such as quicker puck movement and less lugging the puck up the ice by defencemen.

"This team has really struggled by playing a pre- lockout kind of hockey," said Wilson, who is in his first season coaching the Leafs. "The post-lockout is all puck movement and advancing the puck to the quickest guy out there and that's the process we're going through. It will possibly take until Christmastime to eradicate the bad habits and form a bunch of new ones."

Wilson said Schenn has a good understanding of how the new style of game is played, even though this is his first season in the NHL.

Wilson said Schenn was born with an innate sense of how to play the game defensively. As for whether Schenn will remain in Toronto after the first nine games of the season, or get shipped back to the junior Kelowna Rockets, the coach said "we'll address that shortly."

Schenn said yesterday that no one has told him yet as whether he will stay or go. He still is living in a hotel.


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