Leafs' frustration boils over at practice

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Jamal Mayers wants out, Colton Orr dropped his gloves with the intention of punching out Luke Schenn and by the end of practice on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs were sucking a lot more than usual.

And so it goes for the local hockey heroes, just a few months removed from another spring when surely they will scatter as 16 other National Hockey League teams compete in the Stanley Cup tournament.

With four consecutive losses dragging his team further into the depths of the NHL standings, coach Ron Wilson stood at one end of the rink at MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke, doing his best drill sergeant bit as his players endured a 20-minute bag skate, finally collapsing at centre ice as they gasped to re-fill their lungs.

Wilson said it simply was the matter of two days off from games that allowed him to give the Leafs a conditioning skate. Right.

“I think we got the message,” forward Lee Stempniak said. “We needed to get a little kick in the butt. It was warranted and we will be better for it on Friday (in New Jersey against the Devils).”

Mayers, 35, thinks he has a lot to offer, and wants to win. That won’t be happening in Toronto, so his agent, Pat Brisson, has been given the green light by general manager Brian Burke to find a trade partner.

“I can play a specific role and it is no secret that teams look for certain things like more depth for a playoff run,” Mayers said. “I have not had a chance to win yet so I would certainly like to have that.”

Burke wasn’t thrilled that Mayers’ request became public.

“We would prefer to handle situations like this internally,” Burke said. “The agent asked for a trade and I have no idea why the agent leaked this. We’ve let teams know he is available.”

In 42 games, Mayers has a goal and four assists and 76 penalty minutes, supposedly bringing the kind of truculence Burke wants.

Unhappy with the lack of intensity in recent games, Wilson instituted several physical drills on Wednesday, kicking off the workout with one-on-one battles in the corner. Orr and Schenn had a disagreement, and when Orr’s primal instincts kicked in, the two were separated before they could fight. Both later shrugged off the incident, but Wilson liked it.

“Certainly,” Wilson said. “You hope that when you get pushing each other in drills, it carries over to the games. That’s what we need to do in games, not so much against each other. If you don’t practise it, you’re not going to be good at it.”

As for Mayers and the trade talk, it’s going to be a small part of speculation infiltrating the club until the Olympic break, and then until the NHL deadline passes on March 3 at 3 p.m. EST.

Forwards Niklas Hagman, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan and Stempniak, among others, will attract varying degrees of interest.

“It is tough on the family, but it is a business,” Ponikarovsky said.


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