BOSTON -- He may be a former 40-goal scorer and armed with a fat five-year, $20-million US contract, but all that bought Jason Blake last night was a spot in the press box at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson continued to back up his verbal pounding of his underachieving veterans by benching one of the highest-paid and highest-profile ones on the team.
"I'm not going to compromise how I coach the team for the wrong reasons," Wilson said when asked about sitting out a player who had spent much of the season on the first line. "(Blake's) not scoring, he's not back checking, he's not doing this or not doing that (so) are we going to keep him in the lineup until he catches a lucky break? That's not how I coach.
"Everyone on the team has to understand that if you are not performing up to your ability, if you are not doing certain things that we as coaches expect everybody to do, you run the risk of not being in the lineup."
Blake was replaced last night by Ryan Hollweg, who returned to the lineup after serving a three-game suspension.
Wilson also sat defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo for the second consecutive game and third time in seven contests.
Clearly peeved at the benching, Blake sounded miffed as to why it was happening.
"I thought I played good, maybe not in the last game, but what do you do?" said Blake, who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career and last year was in the lineup for all 82 Leafs games. "There's not much you can do other than work hard and stay positive."
Given his play of late, Wilson said benching Blake was "a fairly simple decision" and that it was important from an integrity standpoint to show the rest of the Leafs that no one on the team is immune to being held accountable.
"He hasn't scored recently," Wilson said of Blake's reputation as one of the few goal scorers on the team even though he counted just 15 last season. "He scored one goal on a power play when the score was 4-0. We've got to get him going and we have to get everybody to buy into a set of principles."
Wilson hasn't been shy about benching other veterans and in at least one case, that of Matt Stajan, it has paid off.
"Look how hard (Stajan) has played the last few games and you see that a fire is lit under his rear end," Wilson said. "Unfortunately that is what my job is as a coach -- to keep guys motivated but do it in an honest, equitable fashion."