Leafs' Liles set to face old team
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
John-Michael Liles considered himself a true mountain man after eight years of living and playing in the shadow of the Rockies.
Now the rarefied air of playoffs is where he hopes to ascend with the Maple Leafs. Monday's game against the Colorado Avalanche might be here a little too quickly after 559 of them in service of the burgundy and blue ended a few months ago. But Liles knows he has to move on eventually.
"Who are we playing tomorrow?," Liles playfully asked the media as they gathered at his stall on Sunday. "It was a great organization to play for, a fantastic city, great fans and I really enjoyed my time there. You look back on it with some pretty good memories, but that's all it is now -- memories.
"Hopefully you will play X number of years and if you can do it for one team, that's great. But it's pretty rare nowadays. I realize this is pretty much a business and the nature of that is you wind up going different places.
"Fortunately for me, I ended up here (in a draft week trade for a second-round pick). My dad saw the schedule, that we were playing (the Avs) in our fourth game. But looking too far ahead does more bad than good. My focus now is the Leafs."
From an older player on an increasingly younger team in Denver, Liles was traded to where there's an even wider generation gap. At 30 years old, he checks in as the oldest Leaf. But on a team needing some direction, offence from the blue line and a guy with some playoff experience, Liles' is a good fit. Liles and forward Philippe Dupuis (who played there just a year before signing here) planned dinner with some of their old friends on Sunday. But Liles said he sold his house in Denver and is only following the Avs on the evening sports highlights.
"A clean break," he joked. "I saw they lost opening night in Detroit. I heard a few scores and I know they won Saturday and I've seen Matt Duchene's shootout winners. They're doing well on a long road trip, but hopefully we can break that streak.
"Come tomorrow it's business as usual. It's just a team I'm a little more familiar with."