The Leafs practiced yesterday and the story angles dropped from the skies.
Ryan Hollweg has suspended by the NHL for three days for running St. Louis Blues rookie Alex Pietrangelo on Monday. He practiced for the first time and will miss the Leafs game Friday in Manhattan, Saturday in Pittsburgh and next Tuesday against the Ducks.
Meanwhile, his place in the lineup will be assumed by Matt Stajan. The 24-year-old Stajan was dropped by coach Ron Wilson and did not face the Blues after failing to garner a shot and finishing minus-2 in the club’s first two contests.
Start with Stajan, who will be inserted back into the lineup against New York. This is precisely the kind of story that plays well in a hockey market where interest in the club’s internal politics and mechanizations are heavily scrutinized.
Matt Stajan is a young forward of some promise, certainly not a star and certainly not a staple. Over the last two seasons he was also managed aggressively by-then coach Paul Maurice. Wilson, like Maurice, has no doubt decided that he reacts more readily to the whip than the carrot. It was, the Leafs coach said after practice, a simple matter.
“Matt just got to be playing better than he has. Period.
“If he is admittedly, as he has said, struggling, I have a right and an obligation to put in the people who are playing their best.”
That said, Stajan averaged less than 10 minutes in both games. If he tripped, it wasn’t because Wilson gave him an excess of rope.
Stajan, a Toronto native, was clearly stung by the move.
“Obviously, I have something to prove to him now,” he said. “It’s too bad I haven’t shown anything earlier. I’ve got to get back in the lineup and do whatever I have to do to help the team win.”
There may be more patience for Hollweg, these days, despite his fourth boarding major and game misconduct since last January.
Hollweg, acquired by the Leafs for a fifth rounder in 2009, isn’t in trouble for doing too little. Far from it.
Wilson had no dispute with the automatic three-game suspension. It could, in fact, have been much more had Colin Campbell, the league’s master of discipline, opted to bring the hammer down after Hollweg’s similar hit on the Blues Jay McKee in the exhibition season.
“They’re suspendable offences from my point of view,” Wilson said. “If that happened to one of our players we would be talking about a suspension. It’s just something he’s got to be a lot more aware of: when he’s going to finish his checks, when someone’s in a vulnerable position.”
Hollweg said the hit on Pietrangelo was accidental.
“I was following him, pretty much shoulder to shoulder, kind of angling him towards the boards. He turned back and with that kind of speed and that kind of momentum it’s hard to change gears in a split second like that. I was going towards the boards myself. I wasn’t trying to hit him from behind, I was just trying to rub him out and angle him out.”
Hollweg said he would do his best to change his ways.
“I’m a hard-working guy. I’m always going 100 per cent full out and I’m not intending to hurt anybody. I’m a guy that goes hard into the boards and into the corners. I just have to be more careful and put the brakes on. I guess I have to change my game a little bit.”