Burke delivers message of hope

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Just as he isn't about to second-guess his own eye for talent with such a small sample size to evaluate, Brian Burke isn't about to give up on his players just six games into the season.

That was the message the Maple Leafs general manager had for his battered troops during a 30-minute post-practice summit in the dressing room at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

EVERYBODY LISTENS

"Whenever the big man comes in and talks to us, every body is going to listen," first-year Leafs defenceman Garnet Exelby said. "The message was loud and clear: 'We have to stay positive and do what we've done to get here.'"

With an 0-5-1 record, the Leafs didn't know what to expect at yesterday's practice, the first since their 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

But rather than a rigorous skate or working on ways to go hard to the net, the team was met with what amounted to recess on ice by coach Ron Wilson. There was a spirited "dodgeball" session with tennis balls and a breakaway drill in which players lined the boards and fired pucks at the shooter.

"We play a game and it's supposed to be fun," said Wilson, who once took his San Jose Sharks on a curling outing in Banff. "When you get a start like this it's obviously not a lot of fun. We want to make sure when the guys come to the rink they relax a little bit, hit the reset button on the computer and away we go."

Burke had his turn, making his point in the forthright manner his players have come to expect of him.

"He came in here, looked us in the eye and delivered his message," defenceman Mike Komisarek said. "It was awesome. He basically told us we have to relax, handle adversity and deal with the pressure a little better."

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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