February 19, 2011
Life after KaberleWilson claims work ethic better since vets depart
By BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The kids are all right!
So says Leafs head coach Ron Wilson.
“I think our work ethic has actually gotten a bit better,” Wilson said after recent trades that have seen veterans such as Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg depart.
“It hasn’t really affected our performance at all. I don’t expect the last trade to have too much of an impact other than it gives other guys the opportunity to play,” he said after the morning skate Saturday.
In the past two weeks the Leafs have gained eight points and remarkably pulled themselves back on the cusp of the playoff picture.
“It shows we have a lot more depth in our organization than people thought. The younger guys going in with something to prove and they’ve worked really hard and we’ve gotten great goaltending from James Reimer. When you get great goaltending it can level the playing field very quickly,” he told reporters before the game against Ottawa.
Miracles do happen.
And, Ben Scrivens is living his.
“Lights are a little bit brighter here that’s for sure. It feels a bit surreal,” the 24-year-old netminder said after the Leafs’ pre-game skate.
Scrivens was peering around the NHL dressing room after joining the club from the Marlies. A year ago, he was tending goal with Cornell and just a few months ago he was playing his first pro game in the East Coast Hockey League.
Neither he, nor anyone else, expected his season would culminate with suiting up in a Toronto uniform. “It’s been a roller coaster but it’s been a lot of fun. It started in the East Coast League and they played really well and helped me put up good numbers. Same thing happened with the Marlies. It made my job easy and probably helped get me to be here today,” said Scrivens, who went from No. 5 on the goalie chart in the Leafs’ system to backing up starter James Reimer against the Senators.
Even if that’s all there is to this NHL stop it’ll forever be his Kodak-moment. “My parents were up in the stands watching and (he laughs) they said it was one of the best pre-game skates they ever seen me have. I guess that’s an encouraging sign but (being here) probably hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Tomas Kaberle’s departure should give Brett Lebda more time on the power play with Dion Phaneuf.
Perhaps more profoundly it will affect Luke Schenn and Carl Gunnarsson. Schenn because he has lost his defence partner; Gunnarsson because he’s going to be given the chance to fill a lot of the minutes previously eaten up by Kaberle.
Gunnarsson was to be paired with Schenn and will also be given an opportunity on the powerplay. “Everyone wants someone to fill Kabe’s shoes but he’s got big shoes to fill,” Gunnarsson said after the morning skate. “You don’t just replace someone like that; he’s got such great vision and that’s something you don’t learn. I think it’s natural. Either you have it; or you don’t ... and he is one of kind.”
Gunnarson has averaged just 14.5 minutes a game. He had one assist in limited power-play duty. “I’m looking forward to playing some more minutes, maybe get some power-play time and hopefully contribute a little more.”
Who eventually ends up playing where — and how much — is an open-ended question. “He’ll have to,” said Wilson about Gunnarsson taking on some of Kaberle’s play-making role. “We don’t have many options right now. We’ll see how it goes.”
Schenn said Kaberle had a huge influence during their three years together. “I learned a lot from him. On the rink, the way he carries himself off the rink. He’s a true professional. There’s a lot of ups and downs here in Toronto and he stayed pretty consistent through all of it. It was a great opportunity to play alongside him.”
Clarke MacArthur thinks he knows why Toronto has played its best hockey lately.
No pressure. “With the trades, you never know, I could be gone next week. You just work hard for your teammates and what’s making things fun here now is just pushing for the playoffs.
“When you’re having fun it lightens the mood a bit. Not everyone is gripping their stick so tight.”
It’s kid’s play
The Leafs, with an average age of 26.3 now have the youngest roster in the NHL next to the Colorado Avalanche (26.0). Goaltender J-S Giguere is the only player over 30.