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Maurice subtly builds Leafs confidence

Canadian Press

10/8/2006 3:52:46 PM

TORONTO (CP) - Paul Maurice believes success can be built on subtlety, so the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs is constantly looking for small ways to reward his players.

Take, for example, a defensive zone faceoff late in a tie game on Saturday night.

Maurice had young centre Matt Stajan handle the draw against Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and watched as his team survived the final 23 seconds of regulation to get to overtime.

"I know you've got to coach to win every shift, every situation, but we've got young players that have to be put in some roles," Maurice said Saturday after Toronto's 3-2 shootout loss to Montreal. "I just thought that (Stajan) was going pretty good and he deserved to feel like we had some confidence in him."

It's the sort of move that can easily get lost in the minutiae of a game, but that doesn't make it any less significant for the player involved.

Stajan was a fitting recipient of his coach's confidence. The 22-year-old came to training camp expecting to see his role increased this year, only to find himself on the fourth line during the pre-season because Maurice was concerned about his fitness level.

It was left to Stajan to step up his play and earn more ice time, which he has done with each game in the regular season. He played over 16 minutes on Saturday and scored his first goal of the year.

"Paul's been great, he let's us know (where we stand)," Stajan said. "He rewards hard work. If you're working hard and your fitness is up and you're making the right plays, you're going to play."
I've questioned some of his moves (liek any fan should), but I'm starting to like Paul Maurice already. He seems to want to help this team grow and develop players that he knows have a lot of potential.

So far, that's a :thumbsup: from me.
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