The Maple Leafs rebuilding process took a peculiar twist yesterday with the acquisition of 37-year-old winger Brad May from the Anaheim Ducks.
On the surface, it might seem a little short-sighted for a club looking toward building a Stanley Cup contender to secure an aging tough guy for a for a conditional 2010 sixth-round draft pick.
But what May brings to the Leafs, even more than toughness, is leadership. And not just for the remaining 40 games of this season. Basically, bringing May into the fold is a move designed to show Toronto's young veterans -- Matt Stajan, Nik Antropov and even Tomas Kaberle -- what it takes to be a leader. Which May is.
So while May's tenure with the team likely won't extend beyond a season or two, the move was made with an eye on the future. Coach Ron Wilson has been losing patience with the lack of leadership in his dressing room -- which was the case again in a uninspiring 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
"We're in the beginning of the whole process," Wilson said yesterday of the rebuilding process. "And it's just baby steps right now as we try to address certain issues and try to teach people the right way to do things."
Wilson has been quick to defend the younger players on the team, and just as quick to criticize, or sit, the so-called older players, such as Jason Blake.
"In a game we went through (Tuesday) night, I'd like somebody to stand up and express a little anger," Wilson said. "Whether it would be with his own play or his teammate's play. I'm not sure if Brad May is that kind of guy. But we do need some more (outspokenness) in our locker room. It can't be as quiet as it is sometimes."
May was a member of the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Ducks under Leafs GM Brian Burke, and also played for his new GM in Vancouver. This season the Toronto native has played in 20 games for Anaheim collecting five assists with 28 penalty minutes and has a plus-5 rating.
In 963 career NHL games with Buffalo, Vancouver, Phoenix, Colorado and Anaheim, May has recorded 285 points on 126 goals and 159 assists, along with 2,121 penalty minutes.
Wilson planned to put May into the lineup tonight, meaning that he'll probably sit Ryan Hollweg.
Earlier yesterday, the Leafs demoted rookie forward Nikolai Kulemin to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
"He hasn't played very well," Wilson said of Kulemin. "I don't know if it's confidence. But you go down to the minors and you get to play in different situations and hopefully he'll earn his minutes down there and improve his play and we can call him back."
Kulemin's demotion opened up a spot for the returning Matt Stajan, who will dress against the Habs tonight after missing five games with an eye injury.
Stajan is anxious to get into the lineup but acknowledged that the Leafs have to find some consistency.
"Sometimes we win a game and then feel too good about ourselves and then we come out flat (the next game). And the opposite happens -- when we don't play well we come out with an edge. But we always have to play with that edge. Hopefully we've learned our lesson. There were enough times this year when we've laid an egg on home ice and that's cost us in the standings," Stajan said.