Mar­leau adds com­pe­ti­tion to Leafs camp

Toronto has so many good wingers now, some­one is go­ing to be the odd man out

Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY LHornby@post­media.com

NI­A­GARA FALLS With train­ing camp held in the shadow of big casi­nos, Mike Bab­cock can gam­ble a bit with the one for­ward place­ment sure to be his most con­tentious call.

Namely, de­ploy­ment of ex­pen­sive new toy Pa­trick Mar­leau and the fall­out for other wingers.

Bab­cock, the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, has not chal­lenged the math of 10 NHL-class for­wards chas­ing nine jobs at camp, but as of this weekend, he must start mov­ing to ad­dress it.

When the scrim­mage teams were un­veiled Fri­day at the Gale Cen­tre, two lines re­mained in­tact from last year — Aus­ton Matthews be­tween Zach Hy­man and Wil­liam Ny­lan­der and Tyler Bozak cen­tring James van Riems­dyk and Mitch Marner.

That put Mar­leau, a high-scor­ing left winger who could eas­ily fit be­side top gun Matthews, with Leo Ko­marov, who switched to the right side. Nazem Kadri, held out of scrim­mage play be­cause of a mi­nor in­jury, would’ve been in the mid­dle. Fred­er­ick Gau­thier was fill­ing in Fri­day.

For an af­ter­noon, at least, that made Con­nor Brown the un­lucky 10th man. He be­gan last sea­son with the fourth line but worked his way up.

“Matthews’ line was re­ally good for us in the play­offs, Bozak’s group had a good year, Naz had a good jump in his game,” Bab­cock said. “I told Patty when he got here that (Leo) has been with (Kadri and Brown) ba­si­cally the whole time and if that can work for us, it would be re­ally good.

“We’ll talk about those things and see what’s best for the team. These guys will show us who they play best with. I’m just go­ing to watch. It’s a good prob­lem to have.”

Brown ended up with Fin­nish free agent cen­tre Miro Aal­to­nen for Fri­day’s ses­sion. Mar­leau, with his 38th birth­day co­in­cid­ing with camp start­ing, sur­prised all his new team­mates with his speed.

“Age surely has not af­fected him,” Bab­cock said. “The thing that leads you in this league is your legs. You can’t make the plays fast enough be­cause you don’t get there quick enough. (He’s) not in that sit­u­a­tion.”

Mar­leau said he wouldn’t pull dress­ing room rank and ask the coach­ing staff for a favourable line as­sign­ment

“(Shift­ing around) has hap­pened through­out my ca­reer, so I’m pretty com­fort­able do­ing it. Ev­ery coach and ev­ery team wants to get their lines set and have suc­cess that way. If things are mov­ing around, that means there are things not go­ing right some­where in the lineup or an in­jury. But there are things that hap­pen dur­ing the sea­son and things get shuf­fled around.

“(I like) guys who are hockey smart, guys who can skate and move the puck, a lot of give-and-gos and be able to sup­port each other on the ice,” Mar­leau said. “Be­fore I signed here, I looked at their team and all the great play­ers, so you know you’re go­ing to be play­ing with good play­ers, no mat­ter whom.”

Bab­cock didn’t want to over­whelm Mar­leau in his first few days on a new team af­ter al­most 20 years with the same or­ga­ni­za­tion in San Jose.

“Ba­si­cally, it’s get­ting him in here, get­ting him go­ing. We have all of Septem­ber to get that fig­ured out and be ready for Oct. 4 in Win­nipeg,” Bab­cock said.

“We have a plan we want to im­ple­ment over the few days here. Eighty per cent is the same we did last year. Some things are new (or) the nu­ances of things you were do­ing. You have a new group and you never know un­til you get your own play­ers to­gether.”

Mar­leau is do­ing his best to sop up the Leafs’ sys­tem.

“I’m def­i­nitely pay­ing a lot more at­ten­tion to things that are be­ing put up on the board,” he said. “I give it two or three looks, ask a lot of ques­tions just to see what they ex­pect from me in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions.”

Marner had a goal and as­sist in the scrim­mage game and didn’t miss a beat the past week when he, Bozak and van Riems­dyk re­united for sum­mer skates.

“We’re all ex­cited to be back and scrim­mag­ing with those two has been fun again,” Marner said. “We want to get our legs back. We’re ob­vi­ously not play­ing against other teams yet, but every­one is mak­ing a point that they want to be here. It’s com­pet­i­tive no mat­ter who you are out against.

“It’s an im­por­tant time for us to get our chem­istry back as well. Hope­fully, we’re to­gether for a long time this year.”

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Maple Leafs for­ward Pa­trick Mar­leau, left, broke away from Maple Leafs de­fence­man Calle Rosen dur­ing train­ing camp ac­tion in Ni­a­gara Falls, Ont., Fri­day, prov­ing this 38-year-old still brings plenty of speed and quick­ness to the ta­ble.

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