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http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=298292

Northeast: Maple Leafs will keep Tucker at the core

James Murphy | NHL.com correspondent Mar 28, 2007, 12:00 PM EDT

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Maple Leafs' forward Darcy Tucker's all-around ability helped land him a new four-year contract with the team.

When teammate Tomas Kaberle was being carried off on a stretcher after being hit from behind by New Jersey Devils forward Cam Janssen, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker raced out of the dressing room to challenge and berate Janssen for what he deemed was a cheap shot.

Tucker wasn’t playing in that game at New Jersey, March 2. Instead he was riding a bike in the dressing room, still recovering from a broken foot. But there he was, coming to the aid of a teammate after watching the hit on the dressing room television.

This was just another example of the attributes Tucker brings to the rink and one of the main reasons Toronto General Manager John Ferguson decided to re-sign the veteran forward last month to new four-year deal worth $3 million per season, and why, if the Maple Leafs make it to the playoffs this season, Tucker will be a key factor.

“He’s the type of player that every player likes to have and needs,†Ferguson said. “He’s a competitor, he scores, he plays defensive hockey, and he’s a great teammate. He’s always there for you and ready to go to battle for you. He’s a natural leader and you see that on and off the ice. We felt that those were qualities we need here and Darcy brings those to the table night in and night out.â€

Ferguson compared Tucker to former Boston Bruins forward Terry O’Reilly.

“You could compare them in the sense that they’re a rare breed that brings toughness and scoring to the rink every night,†Ferguson said.

At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Tucker is obviously smaller than the O’Reilly, who was 6-1, 200 pounds in his playing days, but as Ferguson points out, Tucker’s game is just as big.

“O’Reilly was a lot bigger, but Darcy plays bigger than his size,†Ferguson said.

Like O’Reilly, Tucker has built a reputation up as one of the League’s greatest agitators and in the words of Ferguson, “he’s the guy everyone loves to play with or for, but hates to play against. I know 'hate' is a strong word, but that’s how strong his game his, that he brings out strong emotions from not only his teammates and fans, but also his opponents and their fans.â€

One of the attributes Ferguson respects most about Tucker is his willingness to go to places on the ice that other players can’t – or won't – visit.

“His willingness to sacrifice himself and make a play or goal happen is one of his greatest attributes," Ferguson said. "In today’s game, I still believe toughness, willingness and the ability to get to the net are rewarded.â€

With three straight 20-goal seasons, Tucker’s stats are proving his boss to be correct.

“There’s no coincidence between that willingness and his increase in scoring over the past few seasons,†Ferguson said. “Hard work is rewarded and he works hard every night.â€

That increase in scoring and consistent effort is what led to the hefty pay raise Ferguson gave Tucker last month.

“We felt that deal made sense for Tucker and his family first and foremost, as well as for the present and future of this organization,†Ferguson said. “We feel the deal recognizes his value and yet under the salary cap, allows us to build around him and other players that are the core of this team. He fits very well into the core of our group on and off the ice and is an important part of our team right now as we push for the playoffs and in the future.â€

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From the Hockey News Player Poll:

Who is the most hated player in the NHL?

1) Sean Avery (168) 66.4%

2) Jordin Tootoo (14) 5.5%

3) Darcy Tucker (9) 3.5%

4) Jarkko Ruutu (8) 3.1%

5) Marc Savard (7) 2.7%

6) Chris Neil (6) 2.3%

7) Sidney Crosby (5) 1.9%

8) Donald Brashear and Matt Cooke (4) 1.5%

9) Matthew Barnaby, Jason Blake, Zdeno Chara, Ben Eager, Steve Ott and Brendan Shanahan (2) 0.79%

10) Derek Boogaard, Dany Heatley, Ryan Hollweg, Sean Hill, Cam Janssen, Paul Kariya, Ryan Kesler, Kirk Maltby, Dominic Moore, Steve Ott, Michael Peca, Dion Phaneuf, Chris Pronger, Maxime Talbot, Raffi Torres, Ryan Whitney and Brandon Witt (1) 0.39%

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