Nazem Kadri looked surprised for just a moment, but by now he's used to getting prodded in public by the Leafs' hierarchy.
Kadri is battling to hang on to his third-line role against younger players and doing well. But general manager Brian Burke couldn't resist when asked Saturday how he thinks Kadri is progressing.
"He's been better with the puck, no question about it, sometimes for the wrong team," Burke said with some levity. "We're still seeing too many turnovers high in the attacking zone, but he's definitely improved and he's done some good things."
Burke and coach Ron Wilson have been more critical of Kadri than any other prospect the past two years, either to push him or temper some of Kadri's acknowledged cocky attitude. But by now Kadri isn't fazed by such comments, which might rattle other youngsters.
"There is a drastic difference between my first couple of camps and this one," he said. "I feel a lot stronger and a lot more mature as a hockey player. I'm just 20 years old and guys in this league are still learning at 30 and 31. But I think the best way to learn the basics is to keep playing (in the NHL). We have a lot of talent.
"Obviously some things need to be worked on, but for the majority of it, I think I've had it under control. There are times when I do get a little out of control and a little too fancy. But that's something I think I can easily fix. I think I've been able to show my chip-and-chase game a little bit and once I get that in my head, it's going to stay.
"This team is going to be pretty solid in the next few years, especially with the prospects we have."
A real head scratcher
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf was not disciplined by the league after Friday's hit on Michael Ryan of the Sabres, judged a head-shot minor under the new rules. But that didn't ease Burke's mind about adjustment problems with the league's direction on body contact.
"I think we're all unclear on what's a penalty and what's not. You're going to make contact with a player's head on some body checks. As long as the check is otherwise legal (Phaneuf maintained Ryan turned his head into his shoulder), we think that's a clean check."
Burke did concede "It's tougher for the referees. They're working through it, our players have to work through it.
"I have no objection to the penalties, but I think a non-suspension (in Phaneuf's case) was clearly the right call."
Wilson also sympathized with the officials.
"I imagine it's probably harder to make these adjustments when you've called it a certain way for a number of years.
You'll have situations where there are penalties when there shouldn't be.
They probably get coached by (head of officiating) Terry Gregson and a few others to err on the side of caution in the exhibition season than to not react at all. They're sorting it out like we are."
Third man in
Once again, a third goalie has enlivened training camp. This time it's Ben Scrivens who has played as good or better than Jonas Gustavsson, while No. 1 James Reimer, last year's upstart, is 0-2. Is Scrivens (2-0, with one goal against in 63 minutes) threatening Gustavsson's back-up role?
"We haven't had that discussion," Burke said Saturday. "(Scrivens) has played well (but) I think he needs more time. (Goalie coach) Francois Allaire) will weigh in on that. Certainly we're happy with the play of James (in a 2-1 loss Friday) and the Monster has been good tonight. But we'll see."
Gustavsson gave up three power play goals against the Sabres.
"There wasn't much he could do on any of the goals," Wilson said. "He lost his balance on the first goal on kind of a freaky play, the second goal he was screened and the third we got out of position and it was a tap in. He made some big saves for us, too."
Forward Matthew Lombardi, who only played two games with the Nashville Predators last season as a result of a concussion suffered during the pre-season, has been cleared for full practice, as has Mike Brown, who has missed the pre-season because of a groin injury. Third-line centre Tyler Bozak is also ready to resume practice.