Wilson: Shape up or ship out

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Not shaping up will expedite the process of shipping out for Maple Leafs hoping to be part of team's future.

Coach Ron Wilson and his staff have provided players with an edict that they come to training camp in top physical condition -- or else.

"If it gets back to my desk that somebody is not following the process, you've got one foot on a banana peel," Wilson said his week. "If it goes beyond me to (general manager Brian Burke), you've got two feet on the banana peel."

In other words, the team will monitor players' progress during the summer, specifically their "VO2 max" readings which focus on cardiovascular fitness. Wilson said there were "red flags" at his first training camp here but that it's impossible to raise VO2 levels during the season.

"Our players are very aware (it's necessary) to make us a better team," Wilson said. "Assuming we didn't make any (personnel) changes in the summer time, that's one area we can control."

Specifically, Wilson said fitness is a necessity for the type of up-tempo style he favours.

"Being in that kind of shape allows you to work harder in practice, to last longer in games and it allows us to play a more aggressive style I like to play, which is being on the attack."

Tracking Tavares

There were no offers made and no serious talk, but Burke has taken his first steps toward moving up in the June draft.

Burke told Sun Media yesterday that he already has been in touch with both New York Islanders manager Garth Snow and Tampa Bay Lightning counterpart Brian Lawton. The goal, of course, is to get in position to draft London Knights' scoring sensation, John Tavares.

"Intro-type calls," Burke said before flying to Winnipeg to watch the AHL Marlies open their playoff series against the Manitoba Moose. "No biggies."

There will be "biggies" sooner than later though. And you can be sure Lawton and Snow will listen intently, though neither will play their hands so openly.

"The way (Burke) does his business is polar opposite to me," Snow told radio station AM640. "I'm not going to get on a soap box."

Captain up in the air

Both Wilson and Burke said there is no rush to name a captain and if that means going a second consecutive season with a revolving group of alternates, so be it.

"When we have good captain material, we will name a captain," Wilson said.

The void in the Leafs captaincy is not without precedent. Between Rick Vaive (1981-82 to 1985-86) and Rob Ramage (1989-90 to 1990-91) there was no permanent "C" in Toronto.

Since Ramage, three Leafs have been captain -- Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour and Mats Sundin.

Marlies mania

Not that the city ever will embrace the AHL the way people do in say, Winnipeg, but the Marlies are in the playoffs.

Of note though, 13 players on the Marlies potential roster made at least one appearance in a Leafs uniform from regulars such as Nikolai Kulemin (73 games) and Jonas Frogren (41) to Kris Newbury (one) and Tim Stapleton (three). In total, players on the eligible roster played 268 NHL games. The series shifts to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 Sunday at 4 p.m. and Thursday at 7 p.m.

Worlds await

Wilson talked about having to "beat the bushes" to field a U.S. team for the world championship in Switzerland, so he and Burke looked close to home for another warm body. Despite a disappointing season here, forward Lee Stempniak was named to the squad yesterday and will join Leafs teammate Jason Blake for the tourney, which begins April 24.


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