Allison facing long odds

Jason Allison says that all he wants is a fair chance to make the Leafs as a first or second line...

Jason Allison says that all he wants is a fair chance to make the Leafs as a first or second line player. (Sun Media/Ernest Doroszuk)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Jason Allison recorded an impressive 485 points in 552 career games in the NHL.

All of which adds to a hill of beans as far as Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson is concerned.

To be fair, Wilson has nothing but the utmost respect for Allison, and what the North York native accomplished during his 11-year NHL career.

But if Allison is looking for any favours in his attempt at making the Leafs, he is not going to get any from Wilson.

In typical fashion, the coach was completely forthright yesterday in outlining Allison's status on the team.

"He doesn't have a spot on the team, and he's going to have to steal somebody's job and earn it. Period," said Wilson. "If he does that, we'll make room for him. But the onus is on him. I don't have any expectations. He's not a guy, obviously, who's going to come in and play on your third or fourth line. He's got to show that he can play on the first two lines. And I'm sure that's what he wants. He doesn't look at himself as being a checker on the fourth line."

That much is true. Allison said yesterday that all he wants is a fair chance to make the club as a first or second line player.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't a realistic opportunity. I didn't beg them for a tryout. If they didn't think I might be able to help their team, I wouldn't be here."

Allison retired after the 2005-06 season when he recorded 17 goals and 43 assists in 66 games for the Leafs.

He said personal reasons were the main reason for his departure from hockey, adding that he has come back because he misses the game. Now 34, Allison said he is in better shape than he was the season he joined the Leafs following the lockout year in the NHL.

"I started skating very early," he said. "Normally, I wouldn't be skating in May and June, which I was this year because of the time I missed. I think it's really helped my timing out."

Allison said that he has been approached by other teams over the years, but said the fit seems right with the rebuilding Leafs.

"Obviously, there's room for some offensive players here," he said. "There's great depth, lots of good young, players and a lot of impressive 21- to 25-year-olds. But are they going to be point-a-game players? Nobody knows. That's why the camp is pretty open this year."

For his part, Wilson is prepared to give Allison every chance to prove himself but, again, isn't granting the veteran centre any special favours, nor is he overly optimistic that Allison will make the team.

In fact, Allison seems more optimistic than the coach.

"Again, if he earns it, he'll have a shot," said Wilson. "But he's been out of the game a long time and it's an entirely different game than the one he left -- there's no hooking and holding and stuff like that. He's not a great skater to begin with and he was able to get away with hooking and holding and grabbing and the game's different now."

Allison played between newcomers Robert Slaney and Mikhail Stefanovich yesterday.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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