TORONTO- To start last season on the Toronto Maple Leafs opening night roster, only to be sent down to the Marlies after three weeks could have been enough of a reason for Mike Zigomanis to sign somewhere else this off season. Instead, he resigned with the Leafs organization for another year and has his reasons.
“I had a good time last year with the organization. Although most was spent in the minors, I was treated very well by the coaching staff there and the management. Obviously I would have liked to play more games at the top but now that I’ve been with the organization for a year, I’m a little more familiar with them and maybe that’ll help with producing more games up top.”
Eight games were all the Scarborough, Ontario native managed to squeeze in last season with the Leafs, but with him in the line-up they were a respectable 5-2-1. After his demotion, they lost their next seven straight. The difference in records, added to the terrible penalty killing the Leafs produced much of last season, led to many Zigomanis supporters who wanted him back in the Leafs line up. Problem was that his supporters weren’t the people who mattered.
“It’s great when you hear different people, whether Don Cherry or Pierre Mcguire; he was in my corner a lot,” said Zigomanis about the respect he was given on national television. “But what it really comes down to is management and if they don’t think I can play then it’s really their opinion that counts in the end.”
If it wasn’t for the emergence of Tim Brent, Zigomanis likely would have stuck around much longer with the big club but because of how his contract worked, once he was demoted, coming back up never seemed to be an option.
This year, the additions of Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi and Phillippe Dupuis to go along with Darryl Boyce will make it even more difficult for the 10 year veteran to crack the Leafs but he isn’t worried about the new found competition within the dressing room.
“I know what I can do. I just have to show them. They’re (management) more familiar with me now and they know what I can do with a fourth line role and a leadership role with the big club. Winning draws killing penalties. I see myself with the big club. All the guys should be thinking that. It’s the only way to make the team better.”
With his focus on impacting this year’s pre-season, Zigomanis took time over the summer to prepare for the battle for the fourth line role.
“I trained hard, did a lot of yoga and palates this year, trying to get my body healthy. I really looked after my nutrition and hopefully it works out this year.”
If Zigomanis doesn’t make the Leafs, another season with the Marlies will be where he lands. Financially, the Leafs have rewarded him with a well deserved two-way contract that will make him the second highest paid player in the American Hockey League. Playing at the Ricoh Coliseum may not be the ideal situation for the journey man hockey player but what he offers the prospects in experience makes him feel he has a value to the Leafs organization no matter the level.
“I’m happy to be in the AHL helping the younger guys out as well. I don’t mind doing that as an older guy. It’s a win-win regardless of where I am.”
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