RALEIGH N.C. — Gary Roberts was highly respected as the Maple Leafs fitness fanatic in his playing days, but now he wonders if poor conditioning is a reason his old team is near last place.
Speaking on former Leaf executive Bill Watters’ radio show on AM 640 Thursday, Roberts specifically cited struggling defenceman Luke Schenn as a player who didn’t train properly in the summer.
“Why is Luke struggling so much?” said Roberts, who has been doing some personal training since he retired last year for among others, top pick Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“He looks like he has been riding the bike all summer. If you ride that bike all the time, you’re going to get slow and you’re going to get hurt. It’s the worst thing Luke could’ve done, if that’s indeed what he did. I don’t know for sure, I don’t talk to the guys and it’s none of my business.”
Roberts declared his bias for former Leafs strength coach Matt Nichol, who was replaced with Anthony Belza during the summer and kept prefacing his comments as those of an observer and not a Leafs insider.
But it’s his impression the Leafs changed from an anaerobic approach under Nichol to aerobic.
“Hockey is not an aerobic sport,” Roberts said, “It’s anaerobic, about being strong, powerful and fast and you don’t get that by riding the stationary bike. (Coach) Ron Wilson said before that the one thing he’d noticed was the team looked in better shape because they rode the bike all summer. That’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard.
“We didn’t want (Stamkos) slow at all,” added Roberts, who introduced the rookie to Lorne Goldenberg, now strength coach of the Canadiens. “We made that guy do sled pulls, heavy lifting and a bunch of jumping. We made sure his frame was able to handle it first, but in the end, he did speed and power work all summer.
“If you don’t do the right training in the summer, you take steps backwards.”
Watters joked with Roberts about a number of callers who wanted him to come out of retirement, along with Mats Sundin and Brendan Shanahan to rescue the Leafs.
“That would be a pretty good line,” Roberts agreed. “Unfortunately, that time has passed. I feel sorry for the guys. They look like they’re working hard. I think they’re making some progress, but not fast enough to save this season.”