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Roberts and the Leafs Hoping For "Killer" Christmas

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO (CP)-- Doug Gilmour, who is one week into recovery from surgery to repair a torn knee ligament, is being urged by his teammates to give the NHL one last shot.

"He's a real competitor and we'd sure like to see him come back and be part of a playoff run for us," said Maple Leafs teammate Gary Roberts.

The team has until July 1 to pick up the $3-million US option on Gilmour's contract for 2003-2004, or it could work out a new deal with the veteran centre who turns 40 on June 25.

Roberts is part owner of a new fitness centre and hopes to lure Gilmour to the downtown facility.

"I told him, `As soon as your knee gets healthy you're getting your butt down here to rehab.' He's never had to rehab anything in his life so it'll be good for him to get down here," Roberts said during a news conference Monday to promote World Asthma Day. "It wouldn't shock anybody to see him work out a deal (with the Leafs) and come back after Christmas."

Roberts is hoping to see Gilmour down at his new gym.
Graig Abel Photography
Roberts, who turns 37 on May 23, is nearing the end of the line himself.

"Depending on what happens in collective bargaining talks (next year), "It might be the last year for a lot of guys," he said. "I'm not saying it'll be my last year but I'm obviously running out of time."

"I'm really hoping that next year we have an opportunity to win. If we won the Cup, I'd probably make it my last year."

"Everybody keeps reminding us how old we are so we definitely feel the need in our room to win now and, hopefully, the organization feels the same way. If Eddie Belfour comes back as strong next year, there's no reason why we can't be a real contender."

Roberts played only 14 regular-season games this season. Recuperation from surgeries on both shoulders kept him out till February and then he suffered a groin injury in March.

"I could have been in better form in the playoffs and that's disappointing to me," he said. "I haven't been that healthy since my shoulder surgeries."

"I need to get my health to a stage I can come back and be the player I was. I felt okay condition-wise. I just felt like I didn't have the hands, I didn't have the feel for the puck I had the year before. That was a part of my game that suffered."

Roberts said he had also struggled with his confidence.

"It's amazing how it goes," he said. "You can be the most confident guy one week and the next week you can lose your confidence. I even heard Wayne Gretzky say in an interview once that he'd lost his confidence. We all kind of chuckled. How does Wayne Gretzky ever lose his confidence? But it happens to everybody at some point."

Shayne Corson quit the team during the playoffs, and there were reported personality clashes within the dressing room. It all bubbled over following first-round elimination at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers.

"Most of the guys feel bad it got to that point with Shayne and, hopefully, no matter what happens we can come back and everybody can be hungry about playing and winning a Cup together," said Roberts.

He said the level of dissension was exaggerated.

"Because it's Toronto, it gets blown out of proportion. I'd say it was probably 10 or 15 per cent true and the other 85 per cent is because you live in Toronto and the media needs something else to talk about."

Regardless, life in the NHL today is far different than it was when he broke into the league in 1986.

"When you were a younger player, you said nothing and went about your business and if you were spoken to then you spoke. That doesn't happen today. (The veterans) don't have the same influence with players."

"Years ago, you came to a city and you were one big family. The environment of Toronto alone, with players being spread out all over the place, I think that is a factor on how close your team is. We need to be a closer team but most teams generally are the same way."
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