Three Leafs D in line for C

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

HUNTSVILLE -- With a team that was destined to be a sinking ship anyway, there probably was no point in naming a Maple Leafs captain a year ago.

That's all about to change as a new season sets sail tonight at the Air Canada Centre.

On the day the last man to wear a "C" for the Leafs retired, coach Ron Wilson said yesterday that he expects Mats Sundin's successor to come from a trio of defencemen.

Wilson said Mike Komisarek, Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin will begin the season as alternates. And if all goes according to plan, one will emerge as worthy to being promoted to captain early in the season.

"Hopefully by the first of November or so, after I get to know (Komisarek and Beauchemin) better, we will have a decision on who the captain is," Wilson said of the two D-man general manager Brian Burke signed in the off-season.

"I think out of those three candidates, they all are worthy. We would like to choose from one of them."

Wilson's comments marked a departure from the stance he and Burke have shared. Both have held to the belief that there is no rush to name a captain given the weight the position tends to carry in a hockey-mad market such as Toronto.

But Wilson has been impressed with the leadership from many of the newcomers as the attitude shifts in the Leafs dressing room.

The team went with a revolving group of alternates in the 2008-09 season knowing there would be vast changes in the off-season.

Kaberle's inclusion in the group is drastic change from talk during much of last season that he would be traded. Komisarek, who many feel might be the frontrunner for the captaincy, agrees that such an appointment shouldn't be taken lightly.

"When you play for a storied franchise like the Toronto Maple Leafs with such a rich history, you don't just throw that 'C' on anyone," Komisarek said yesterday. "I think the new guys come in and try to earn the respect of your teammates.

"You have to earn that crest on the front of your jersey. It's not something you plaster on someone with no meaning. Time will tell. I think leaders sort of rise up and evolve."

Komisarek, meanwhile, was on the ice for yesterday's two-hour practice after missing a day to nurse a sore hamstring.

"It felt great, I'm ready to go," said Komisarek, who will be paired with Kaberle tonight.

The Leafs also made their expected roster moves yesterday to get down to the league-mandated 23 players, plus those on injury reserve.

Forwards Tyler Bozak, Nikolai Kulemin and Jiri Tlusty, plus defenceman Carl Gunnarsson and goaltender Joey MacDonald, all were assigned to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL at the 3 p.m. deadline.

The team will begin the season with 13 forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders.

Forward Phil Kessel (shoulder) and Mike Van Ryn (knee) are not included in that group as they recover from their respective injuries.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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