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сентября 2003 года.
Is this Nik's season? - Toronto Sun
If he stays healthy, Antropov poised for breakout year
STOCKHOLM-Here is Nik Antropov's upcoming season in a nutshell: He will either have a breakout campaign or break down completely. He seems to be on the verge of either.
So there were undoubtedly a few blanched faces among team executives when the Maple Leafs forward limped off the ice midway through yesterday's workout here, disappearing into the team's dressing room in a familiar scenario.
After sacrificing so much of his early development to the recovery from two reconstructed knees, a broken foot and a wonky shoulder, too often the evaluation of Antropov's career took place on the trainer's table.
Antropov did eventually clomp back out and coach Pat Quinn dismissed his absence as "skater's back."
"He had a little spasm going on, it was just musculature, it being the first couple days of camp," said the coach later.
Added Antropov: "I have some issues."
No kidding. For the first three years of his pro career, seeing the ice for Antropov usually meant wearing it. But last season, his confidence developing with each game, he showed the promise the Leafs saw in him when they drafted him in 1998, taking a first-round gamble on the obscure teenager from Kazakhstan.
The 23-year-old had career highs in goals (16), assists (29) and points (45) and he looked mean doing it. A career-high 124 penalty minutes underlined his attitude.
If it wasn't just a tease, as many suspect, then Antropov could be the main reason to believe Toronto can compete at the top of the Eastern Conference this season. Not only because of his own unfolding talent but also because of the options a healthy Antropov affords management.
If he continues his career arc, and a 60-point season is very real possibility, then the Leafs will have tremendous depth at centre. Start with Mats Sundin, follow with either Joe Nieuwendyk or Antropov, and then pencil in either Travis Green or Robert Reichel and Toronto's has one of the most formidable group of pivots in the league. That offensive depth may ultimately afford the Leafs the capability of swinging a trade to repair a troubled defence. Tucker and Reichel seem likely candidates to be sacrificed.
While Quinn disagrees that his defence needs fixing, he understands the argument.
"Does that mean if the forwards are all set and you're sitting there with 14 real good forwards, you're looking around and saying, `What can I do here?' Sure that's logic and it's good logic," said the coach.
That is why it was so important that Antropov spent the summer in the gym, steeling himself to be better prepared for the rigors of the NHL. Antropov played at 222 pounds last season and bulked up to 235 at one point in the summer. The 6-foot-6 forward said he found that too heavy so he trimmed back to 229. He plans to play at about 230 pounds this season.
The added muscle, he says, is so he can better look after himself on the ice and ensure a healthy season. And those bigger numbers on the scale should bring bigger numbers on the stat sheet.
But Quinn said the expectation of a breakout season is not something he wants Antropov to endure.
"I don't look at in terms of, suddenly there's a blossoming," he said.
"It's like saying Diana Krall was on overnight success. Suddenly it's, `Where has she been?' Well, she's been playing piano in all kinds of honky-tonks all over the world.
"If you see that sort of progress out of a young fellow and we think we have with Nik, then there's no need to say it's your breakout year. I think he has to focus on getting himself marginally better and challenge himself that way instead of putting himself in a spot where if he's not having a breakout year, he gets worried about it."
Antropov, though, said he welcomes the expectations. And now we'll see
which way his season breaks.