Blake stays with scrubs

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

If Ron Wilson worried about stepping on toes, he would take up ballet.

As it is, the Maple Leafs head coach is determined to find a way to kick-start his struggling club (1-2-0-3). And if that means dumping players from the first line to the fourth line, or even to the press box, so be it.

Wilson explained yesterday that there is a profound sense of entitlement with many of the veterans on the team and he is determined to purge the organization of it -- by cutting ice time, or even calling out his players in the media.

"I think there's a general understanding now that there's no sense of entitlement here," Wilson said, after a practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "And if you don't get the job done, I don't care what you guys (the media) think, I will play the guys on any given night who I feel are giving their best effort, who are making a difference when they step on the ice."

One player Wilson obviously didn't feel was giving his best effort in Toronto's 3-2 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday was veteran winger Jason Blake. Mid-way through the game, Wilson took Blake off the top line with Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky and inserted Matt Stajan in his place.

At practice yesterday, Blake remained with the so-called "energy" line, which is essentially the fourth line, along with scrubs Jamal Mayers, John Mitchell and Ryan Holl- weg. There's a chance that Blake, a 40-goal scorer for the New York Islanders in 2006-07, won't even dress for tonight's game in Boston and that Hollweg will play.

"My job is to identify who's playing well at the beginning of the game and it's up to the players to be ready to play. If one guy's not ready to play, that's inexcusable from my point of view," Wilson said.

Blake admitted that he hasn't been playing well (three points in six games), but was somewhat befuddled as to what he has done wrong, other than not score.

"It is frustrating," Blake said. "I don't know the reason why ... all you can do is work hard and keep your chin up."

Blake acknowledged that he may not be winning enough one-on-one battles or getting pucks deep on the attack.

Wilson described his constant line changes and public criticisms as "short-term pain for long-term gain," adding that ice time will not be granted based on what players have done before or what the media thinks of them.

"You don't have a right to play because someone in the media likes you, or you have a fan club. That's irrelevant," Wilson said. "It's the results you produce on the ice.

"If some of these players were somewhere else other than Toronto, a lot of guys wouldn't be regarded as highly as they think they're regarded here," Wilson added. "And that's what my job is, to make sure we have a standard level of play, and I won't be influenced by what I read in the paper or see on television. That's not what I'm going to respond to. We have a coaching staff, we have management. And it's not: 'Geez, if I do this, what's the media going to say?' Because it's irrelevant."

"You bench a guy in the second game and that's Earth-shattering news around here," Wilson added, taking another not-so-subtle shot at the media. "But that might be a shot across a bow a guy needs to wake up and realize that expectations are a little different now."


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