- Tie Domi sounded like a child waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.
Except instead of Santa, he's anticipating the return of his old pal Doug Gilmour to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup.
"He's not here yet, but it's starting to sink in,'' said Domi after the Leafs worked out at the Pengrowth Saddledome in preparation for Thursday's game against the Calgary Flames."When he's here, it's going to be a real reality. It's going to be exciting for all of us.''
Gilmour, a centre that many Leafs fans are hoping can help them to their first Stanley Cup since 1967, was traded from Montreal to Toronto on Tuesday's trade deadline day. Domi was a teammate of Gilmour's during his first go-round with the Leafs from 1992-97. He said Gilmour's return to the Leafs lineup Thursday will be emotional and different at the same time.
|Tie can't wait to skate with "Killer" into the playoffs.|
"Obviously, he makes everybody better around him,'' said Domi. "This is the guy that really turned this whole organization around, single handedly himself. Credit to him, he passed that legacy onto Mats (Sundin).''
The former captain led the Leafs to the Stanley Cup semifinals in 1993.
Now, the Leafs are hoping that Gilmour and newcomers Owen Nolan, Glen Wesley, and Phil Housley, who has yet to arrive because he's injured, will help the Leafs overcome their legacy of losing the most important playoff games.
At the peak of his career, Gilmour, 39, played more than 25 minutes per game. But Toronto general manager and head coach Pat Quinn said his playing time will be substantially reduced.
"We're looking just for him to come in and try to be the Doug he is right now,'' said Quinn. "And that's a competitive guy that understands this game pretty well. Does he skate like he used to? No, but good guys find ways to do jobs.''
The Toronto bench boss likened Gilmour to Detroit Red Wings' veteran centre Igor Larionov, 42, who helped the Wings win the Stanley Cup last spring.
"He's a beautiful brain on a small body,'' said Quinn, who coached Larionov while they were both with the Vancouver Canucks. "As his legs and his quickness started to go, he started to find those little areas where he'd go and work and better used his assets around him, and I think Doug has that sort of thing. He uses his asset around him with his smarts.''
One asset who might not be playing Thursday is winger Gary Roberts, who was a teammate of Gilmour's on Calgary's 1989 Stanley Cup championship team.
Quinn said Roberts is doubtful for Thursday's game because of a groin injury, but Roberts told reporters that he hopes to play.
Quinn said he has not yet slotted Gilmour on a regular line, but has indicated he will be assigned power play and penalty killing duties.
Gilmour will be familiar with many of his new and old teammates from his days with both the Leafs and the Flames.
"When you add guys and you tinker with the lineup in preparation, or in any case, you worry about chemistry,'' said backup goaltender Trevor Kidd, who also played with Gilmour in Calgary. "It's nice to build on a guy like that and not have to worry about any of those factors.''
Quinn hopes that the Leafs can mould quickly, like the Canadian team that Quinn coached to the 2002 Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake City.
Other players will just have to get used to the fact that the additions of Gilmour, Nolan, Wesley and Housley spell changes in playing time said Quinn.
"Guys that want to win will do things that other people don't want to do,'' said Quinn. "If you're holding everybody accountable for our overall success, if you can look across the room and trust that guy across the room, and you can help him, then that's the best way for team building. That trust has to be there.'' According to Domi, it is.
"All the pieces are together,'' said Domi. "Now, it's up to us to do it on the ice.''