Liles Already Feels At Home
Tuesday, 07.19.2011 / 7:04 PM ET / News
By Matt Iaboni - Mapleleafs.com online producer
|RELATED: Leafs Acquire Liles | Video: Liles Meets The Media - July 19|
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John-Michael Liles finally set foot into his new home city early Monday after a whirlwind offseason and red-eye flight.
On Tuesday afternoon Liles made his first public appearance as a member of the Maple Leafs at Sick Kids Hospital visiting with youngsters and signing autographs.
“The biggest thing was finding a place to live but also to be a part of this, coming to Sick Kids Hospital and seeing the kids is kind of a bonus,” Liles said.
The Maple Leafs make many community appearances throughout the year and it is something that Liles feels right at home doing.
“I’ve tried to be a part of the community as much as possible,” he said. “To come here and this to be my first experience it’s definitely a special feeling and something that I’ll always remember.”
With Liles now on board, the Leafs will be looking for him to be a big influence on the power play an area where they have struggled the past few seasons.
Although he has spoken briefly with Brian Burke and Ron Wilson, he knows what his job will be once the puck drops in October.
“They kind of told me why they acquired me and that they just expect me to continue to do what I’ve been doing and not reinvent the wheel,” Liles said.
Any time a player is traded it means uprooting to a new team, new city and new teammates. Liles was able to speak with a couple of the players including Tyler Bozak who had a feeling that they would be teammates.
“We were talking earlier in the summer before I got traded he kept saying ‘you’re going to come to the Leafs’ and the first text I got after I was traded was from him telling me I was a Maple Leaf,” Liles said with a chuckle.
Captain Dion Phaneuf also welcomed Liles to the club the day he was traded. Liles also knows Tim Connolly and Mike Komisarek and he was able to meet a few more players Tuesday at the Leafs practice facility.
Liles is looking forward to joining a Maple Leafs team that finished the season on quite the run even though it saw them just fall short of the playoffs. He believes that the team is on the upswing.
“It’s a great time for me to come here and I’m really looking forward to joining the team on their way up,” he said.
He along with Connolly are the two oldest Leafs at just the young age of 30 but that doesn’t bother him and it is something he is looking forward to.
“Even if we weren’t the oldest guys on the team I think that the more that you play in this league you try and take on more leadership and responsibility,” Liles said.
While he was born in Indianapolis, Liles realizes the history and tradition that is associated with the Blue and White. It did take him a while to determine that he will be wearing number 24 this season.
“I went through and decided that would be the best fit for me and I’m not looking to come in and take over a number, that’s not my style,” said Liles who wore Nos. 26 and 4 with Colorado. “It (24) was available and it wasn’t a huge concern for me.”
Having spent his entire career in the Western Conference and being an eight-year veteran, he likes the moves that the Leafs made this summer offering a scouting report on a few of the new players.
“Tim (Connolly) has an enormous amount of talent,” Liles said. “Cody Franson, is a big guy, big shot and a young kid that has a bright future. Matthew Lombardi has the concussion issue but if healthy he is very fast and gives teams fits.”
This is a contract year for the blueliner but there is only one thing to him that matters and constitutes a successful season.
“You always go into a season looking to help a team win and that is the bottom line and if the team wins that is a good season,” he said.