SPORTS

Leafs newcomers Sill, Lindstrom and Brewer were on losing end of deadline deals

03/10/2015 12:52 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Olli Jokinen felt like he took a "punch in the stomach" when he heard he'd been traded from the first-place Nashville Predators to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jokinen could say that with some relief because he's back on a contender with the St. Louis Blues.

Jokinen's trade back to a playoff-bound team came at the expense of Swedish forward Joakim Lindstrom, one of three pending unrestricted free agents the Leafs acquired before the deadline as spare parts to balance out contracts and salaries.

Lindstrom, veteran defenceman Eric Brewer and forward Zach Sill can't say they feel like they were punched in the gut, but going from winning to the lacklustre Leafs had to feel like one. The Leafs have won just seven of their last 36 games going into Wednesday's meeting with the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres.

Integrating those players this late into a season that has gone off the rails has been a major undertaking for the coaching staff.

"Of all the things we've talked about with regards to motivation, that's probably been the biggest challenge," assistant coach Steve Spott said Tuesday on a conference call. "You've got new bodies that have come into your lineup and you really have to step back and do a training-camp mode for some of these players because you have to bring them up to speed with what your team systems are."

Sill, who came from the Penguins in the deal that sent Daniel Winnik to Pittsburgh, said it has been a "change" adjusting to the Leafs.

"We had a good team in Pittsburgh, so it's always nice to play with players like that and the team was doing well and stuff like that," Sill said last week. "It's a different kind of an opportunity for me here."

The 26-year-old averaged just over eight minutes a game there and relished an opportunity to get on the ice and play consistently. In seven games for Toronto, Sill has been a fourth-liner playing less than eight minutes a game.

But he has been a noticeable player, dropping the gloves and trying to provide a spark for a team that has lacked one for some time.

The 31-year-old Lindstrom has averaged about seven minutes of ice time over four games since the Blues dealt him and a draft pick to Toronto. Lindstrom, who led the Swedish Hockey League in scoring in 2010-11, had just six points in 34 games as a part-time player in St. Louis but has no regrets.

"I think I can look myself in the mirror and say that I did everything I could in St. Louis," said Lindstrom, who returned to the NHL from Sweden in the last off-season. "Unfortunately I didn't maybe get as much ice time as I would like. That's the way it is. I just (have) to move forward and try to compete as hard as I can."

Lindstrom's motivation, on a personal level, is to prove he deserves another NHL contract. If not, he could be headed back to Sweden next season.

Brewer, who turns 36 next month, might not even have a good chance at another deal. He came to Toronto from the Anaheim Ducks along with a pick in exchange for younger defenceman Korbinian Holzer.

Part of Canada's 2002 gold-medal-winning Olympic team and approaching the 1,000 career game mark, Brewer has played in just 12 games this season. A broken foot derailed Brewer, and he was shuffled to the back of the Ducks' blue-line rotation.

"It's been very challenging," Brewer said of his season. "Certainly breaking your foot doesn't help. It kind of put me in a tough spot. Such is life. You've got to deal with it. We'll carry on and move forward."

Told of Jokinen's "punch in the stomach" comment, Brewer said that wasn't his reaction and that he was "happy to be" with the Leafs. His body language and the situation he's in at this stage of his career told a different story.

"I think you're always just trying to just play well and keep a positive frame of mind and deal with the situations at hand," Brewer said of the opportunity to play consistently with the Leafs. "There's only so much in your control. Some things have been out of my control this year, so I'll deal with it."

———

Follow @SWhyno on Twitter.

MORE:cpSports