TORONTO - Brian Burke and Ron Wilson must keep 70 players happy — as well as thousands of paying customers — when sorting out their exhibition game lineups this week.
The general manager and coach are torn between wanting to give some deserving youngsters a fair chance in a NHL setting and having to ice a competitive team for the fans.
Before Monday’s pre-season schedule opener at the Air Canada Centre against Ottawa, GM and coach will have to adhere to special league rules on game-night rosters.
Clubs must dress a minimum of eight veterans, defined as forwards or defencemen who played in at least 30 NHL games during the previous season. They must also use a goaltender who either played in 30 games or dressed as a back-up in 50.
The Leafs must also utilize a first-round draft choice from 2011, or replace him with a player who has appeared in 100 or more career NHL games. Toronto’s first-round pick, Tyler Biggs, is not at camp as he starts Miami (Ohio) University’s season this month. Defenceman Stuart Percy, their other first-rounder, missed the opening day of camp on Saturday with an injury from the Leafs’ rookie tournament, as did forward David Broll.
It gets trickier as the week goes on with back-to-back games against the Flyers on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wilson wants to be down to 40 players in the next few days and then 26 or 27 when the Leafs and Sabres play a pair starting Friday.
“In the back of your mind, you know where people are on the depth chart and who deserves some games,” Wilson said. “Whenever we make the (cut-down) decisions, there are still exhibition games to be played and with someone practicing with the Marlies, there could be a call-up.”
FIGHTING FOR FOURTH
Three projected lines looked sharp at the first day of practice on Saturday and perhaps the beginnings of a fourth. Colton Orr came out flying a day after saying his severe concussion from last season would not hinder his style, looking good on the right side with free agent Phillipe Dupuis on the left.
All the Leafs’ big men, Orr, Jay Rosehill and Cody Franson hit with authority on Saturday. A few forwards also held nothing back when driving the net, with goals in the dirty areas being too infrequent last season.
Burke has given the unfilled player personnel director title to newcomer Rick Dudley. Dave Nonis remains senior v-p of hockey operations, Dave Poulin v-p of hockey operations, Claude Loiselle assistant GM and Cliff Fletcher senior advisor ... Many Leafs stayed around after workouts to watch former team member Bryan Berard practice his figure skating routines for upcoming episodes of CBC’s Battle of The Blades ... As reported in the Sun, the Leafs have confirmed Dan Dunleavy will be replacing Dennis Beyak as the Leafs’ radio voice on mid-week games when Joe Bowen works television. Jon Abbott is the new Marlies’ voice.