Eager to rejoin Leafs
Michael Traikos, National Post
Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007
TORONTO - Alexander Suglobov was not given many career options growing up.
He could join his parents and friends at one of the many factories in his hometown of Elektrostal, Russia. Or he could try to earn a paycheque by playing hockey.
The 25-year-old chose the latter. But it has taken the Maple Leafs prospect three seasons in the minors and 34 games up in the press box to learn that applying a blue-collar work ethic may be needed for acquiring his dream job.
That means backchecking, taking the body and playing defence -- skills that once seemed foreign to Suglobov, who could shirk such responsibilities at the international level because of his Mogilny-like moves and Bure-like speed.
But such one-sided play, Suglobov recently found out, simply does not cut it in the NHL.
"Of course I?m not happy about where I'm at right no w," said Suglobov, who after dressing in just 14 games with the Leafs this season, was assigned to the minors on Saturday.
Tonight he will play in his third game with the Marlies this season when Toronto hosts the San Antonio Rampage at Air Canada Centre.
"Everybody wants to be in the NHL and play regularly, but it's not easy," said Suglobov. "There's a lot of guys there already, and I just have to work hard and wait for my chance."
His wait could be a long one. Minor league call-up Boyd Devereaux recently beat out Suglobov for a roster spot and two other Marlies -- Kris Newbury and Ben Ondrus --are ahead of him on the Leafs depth chart.
Perhaps that is why Leafs general manager John Ferguson filled out the required paperwork that could make Suglobov's two-week conditioning stint --he is coming off a minor back injury --a permanent demotion.
"He hasn't been formally assigned, so he's still on our roster," said Ferguson. "But it gives us flexibility in the next 30 days to send him down without having to clear waivers."
Staying in the minors may actually be the best thing for Suglobov, who has failed to develop into the player the Leafs had hoped for when they acquired him at the trade deadline last season.
"Let's face it," said Ferguson. "He's not there yet. He's been in 14 games only and this is a good time for him to take advantage of an opportunity to play a little bit and see if we can't kick-start this a little bit."
The offensively gifted winger was leading the Albany River Rats in scoring last season when he was dealt to Toronto for veteran defenceman Ken Klee. The trade was seen as a steal for the Leafs, who were unloading a soon-to-be free agent for a rising star. But Suglobov failed to hold up his end of the bargain.