When did Leafs general manager Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson tell you that you were headed back down to the AHL?
“They told me before the morning skate yesterday. They just told me to keep working, keep plugging away. And they told me I had a bright future with this organization, and I believe I do. It’s kind of nice that they’re behind me, but obviously, right now it’s a bit of a complicated situation. Whatever happens in the near future happens, but I’m hoping to stay with this team and this organization, because that’s where I want to be.”
You’ve been up and down a bit — is it frustrating?
“It’s, I guess, a little bit frustrating at first. But you kind of learn to cope with it. One thing, before I left yesterday, Burkie and Wils told me not to be discouraged because they believe in me, and it’s not like I’m getting this demotion because I haven’t played up to expectations or up to standards. It’s just a situation where I was able to be sent down and not clear waivers. It’s as simple as that. Like I said, I don’t know what’s going to happen here with the team and the organization in the next couple of weeks, but I sure hope to be a part of it.”
You had a big hit on Penguins defenceman Paul Martin on Tuesday night. How would you grade what might be your last NHL game for at least a little while?
“I don’t really tiptoe around the ice and walk on eggshells just because I’m afraid someone’s going to come after me. So I just play the way I’ve got to play. And it was a good, clean hit. So it’s not like I left my feet or I led with my arms or my elbows. It’s part of my game. I can get under people’s skin, too, along with my skill game. I think that’s what makes me such a key component, and I also think that’s why Wils and Burkie have such high expectations and told me that I had a bright future with this club — because they enjoy the way I play and the heart I wear on my sleeve.”
How do you deal with your name coming up in trade speculation?
“I don’t really read too much into the newspapers and the magazines and the blogs. I’m not really too into that. I have, obviously heard on TV, when your name randomly comes up when you’re just sitting there watching. It’s a bit awkward, but like I said, whatever happens, happens. And this is an organization that I want to spend my whole career with, so I hope they see it the same way.”
Do you think this was one of your better stints with the Leafs?
“For sure. I think it’s been good. It’s been fun. I’ve also learned a lot. I think Wils trusts me on the ice, too, in certain situations where, before, he didn’t at all. Like you saw in the last game against Pittsburgh, I was out there against that top line quite often, with Malkin probably the most dangerous player in the league right now. Wils had the confidence in me to throw me out there and actually create and take care of my own end, too.”