September 16, 2011
Leafs have a first line ... for now
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - With former Buffalo Sabre centre Tim Connolly ready to make his debut between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, the Leafs appear to have the making of a first line.
But that doesn’t mean they will be No. 1 forever for coach Ron Wilson, who is loathe to rank his forward units.
There are likely to be nights, in other words, when the Clarke MacArthur-Mikhail Grabovski-Nik Kulemin trio will get top billing.
“There’s always going to be a debate as to who the No. 1 line is,” Wilson said on Friday. “I think we have two lines that will be competing for primary duties on the power play and that competition can only be healthy for a long group like us.”
Given that the opening day of training camp is for fitness evaluation and the dreaded VO2 testing, most players are relieved when it’s over.
Not that they are about to get any sympathy from their coach.
“I don’t really think it’s physical cruelty, to be honest with you,” Wilson said. “These guys, all of our players, have worked really hard in the summer.
“The nauseating feeling only lasts for 10 or 15 seconds. If you haven’t prepared, then it’s a bit of torture.”
Though more than one Leafs player got rid of their breakfast after the tests, captain Dion Phaneuf said the big relief was that it was over.
“It’s good when it’s done,” Phaneuf said. “It’s never fun.
Leafs forward Colby Armstrong isn’t too worried about the league’s new social media policies, even though he’s a regular twitter participant.
Most notably, he’s joined with a hand full of Blue Jays players in a group they call “Team Unit.”
“We got to meet (catcher J.P. Arencibia) and Brett Lawrie and a few other players and they are all great guys,” Armstrong said. “We just tweet back and forth and have some fun.”
One young Leafs hopeful who already sees Luke Schenn as a good example is defenceman Jesse Blacker.
Blacker is headed for a season with the Toronto Marlies, but he will take a Schenn-related lesson with him.
Blacker is not quite 18 months younger than Schenn.
“You see what he has gone through the past few years, having such a good start, and, as he would say, not such a good year the second year, and he picked it up again in the third,” Blacker said on Friday. “It goes to show that if you work hard, you can get that big picture you deserve. It’s a process. It’s not something that happens right away. Definitely, it’s motivation.”
— with files from Terry Koshan