Burke won't knock Wilson

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. (QMI Agency file photo)

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. (QMI Agency file photo)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:34 AM ET

SUNRISE, FLA. - Brian Burke isn't about to slag his buddy Ron Wilson.

Indeed, Burke still considers the firing of his one-time teammate at Providence College one of the most difficult things he ever has had to do in hockey.

At the same time, the Maple Leafs general manager definitely has noticed that the Leafs have changed their style under the guidance of new coach Randy Carlyle.

Gone are the days of the run-and-gun approach that the team seemed to have under Wilson this season, one which, at the time, seem to play to the strengths of the quick-skating Leafs.

But the team's collapse in the past month certainly has shown us otherwise.

Approached at the meeting of NHL general managers that is taking place northeast of Sunrise in Boca Raton, Fla., Burke was asked if he could see a difference in the way his team is playing under Carlyle.

"Yes. We're not giving up the golden opportunities that we did," Burke told reporters.

Burke was quick to add that his comment was not meant as a criticism of Wilson.

"That's not a knock on Ronnie," Burke said. "(But) our D-zone coverage seems to be a little more solid and maybe that's why the goaltending been better, too."

UP TO SPEED

After his bout with a concussion earlier this season, Maple Leafs defenceman John-Michael Liles admits it took several weeks of action for him to get back up to speed.

Liles says that he has felt 100% comfortable on the ice only recently.

"I have said it before, it's like being stopped on the shoulder of a highway," Liles said. "When you start moving again as you try to merge into traffic, you are starting out at five kilometres per hour while everyone else is going 100.

"When you are feeling good, the game slows down for you in terms of vision. You see the ice a lot better and you anticipate things far better.

"When you come off a condition like I had, you are so happy when they finally say you are physically fine to play again. But mentally, like I said, it takes a while to get back up to speed.

"That's why it's nice to feel normal out there again. It's been a long time coming."

QUINN AND QUIPS

During a dinner on Tuesday night in which the league's general managers paid tribute to former Maple Leafs coach and GM Pat Quinn, the guest speaker was none other than Maple Leafs radio analyst Jim Ralph, one of the funniest men you'll ever meet (in a good way).

Having said that, wonder how many of Ralph's jokes Quinn already had heard on the team charter back when he was still with the Leafs.

ON WISCONSIN

It isn't very difficult to figure out who Leafs rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner is cheering for in the NCAA basketball tournament. Of course he is pulling for Wisconsin, his alma mater. In fact, during his final year at Wisconsin, Gardiner lived with one of the team's point guards.


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