John-Michael Liles has come to Toronto for a good time.
Whether he stays for a long time remains to be seen.
Liles, who turns 31 in November, is the greybeard on a blue-line that could start the season with as many as three newcomers.
Toronto as an opponent
As a member of Colorado, Liles didn't face the Leafs all that much in seven seasons, but he packed a lot of activity in those games. The defenceman tallied five goals and three assists in six contests against Toronto.
Highlight: A two-goal game early in 2006-07-, including a power-play dandy set up by future Hall of Famer Joe Sakic.
Lowlight: New teammate Mikhail Grabovski sent Liles to the sidelines for 17 days with a shoulder injury after a collision early in 2009-10 campaign, setting the tone for arguably Liles's worst NHL season.
Liles is enjoying his new environs so far.
"I like the feel of the city," said Liles. "There's a great energy, a great hockey city with the fans here. Just the whole city feel. I'm from a pretty small town in Indiana, so it's something I don't get to experience in the summer."
He also brings a unique skillset in the corps, with 55 per cent of his career points coming on the power play.
While not as hapless as the team's penalty killing until, Toronto's power-play squad in three years with Ron Wilson as coach has never finished in the top half of the 30 NHL clubs.
"I'm out there trying to move the puck, make good decisions and good reads," said Liles. "I think that's one of the things that leads to a successful power play, quick puck movement and getting to the right areas."
Liles is joining a competitive workplace, however. Dion Phaneuf is the captain and Luke Schenn joined him in September as defenders expected to be the linchpins for years to come.
Schenn signed a five-year deal, while a Phaneuf contract dating back to his Calgary days runs through 2013-14.
Keith Aulie and Jake Gardiner are young defenders who appear promising, and Cody Franson is a depth defenceman who comes with an appealing sub-million cap hit over the next two seasons for the Leafs.
Assuming all goes well — always a big if in Toronto — that could five spots spoken for next season.
For his part, Liles is in the final year of a four-year pact signed with Colorado.
Should the Leafs falter for yet another year, he could be a desirable rental for contending clubs when the trade deadline approaches.
Conversely, even if he prospers there's no guarantees when it comes to unrestricted free agents. Liles earns $4.5 million US this season.
"My job is to go out there and help the team win, whatever way I can," he said. "Hopefully I'm a puzzle piece to do that.
"The contract thing, you want to say you don't think about it, but it's in the back of your mind. The bottom line is you play well and the contracts will take care of themselves."
After a 2009-10 campaign that included a few games as a healthy scratch, Liles rebounded with six goals and a career high 40 assists in 75 games for the Avalanche last season. He was also credited as Colorado's leader in blocked shots.
The five-foot-11, 195-pound Liles credits a change in offseason preparation for the bounce-back, watching his diet while training with less of a reliance on heavy weights.
He was traded in June for a second round pick in the 2012 draft.
"When I found out I was coming here, I was pretty happy," he said. "Having played against these guys last year at the end of the year when they were having a heckuva run, you [saw] the kind of team they had and the potential."
Liles broke into the NHL on a 2003-04 Avalanche club that included Rob Blake, Adam Foote and Derek Morris.
He said this defensive group could be the deepest he's been with since, but Leafs fans know well enough to proceed with caution amid such claims.
Just two years ago, the club hailed the arrival of veteran defenders Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek. The former lasted a year-and-a-half, while the latter has struggled with the Leafs and benefits in the roster now from the fact that Aulie and Gardiner can be sent to the minors without consequence.
Liles hopes to write a different script, starting Thursday on Hockey Night in Canada when the Maple Leafs host Montreal in their season opener.