If this is the best the Leafs have, it’s time to tear it down

Ken Campbell
Phil Kessel . (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

So let’s take inventory from the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night. Four – four! – Leaf sweaters tossed to the ice, plus a waffle. Two fights, one win for each team. And, we’re told by Leafs coach Peter Horachek, that the Leafs outchanced the Hurricanes 29-19. One goal, for only the second time in five games and a fifth straight loss.

When asked about seeing sweaters tossed to the ice, Phil Kessel was as eloquent as he’s been since he joined the Maple Leafs. By Kessel’s standards, it was right there with Phil Esposito admonishing the fans of Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.

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Here’s video proof Eric Staal isn’t especially fond of Dion Phaneuf

Adam Proteau
Eric Staal Dion Phaneuf

Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal had already showed his lack of affection for Maple Leafs counterpart Dion Phaneuf Monday night when the two players fought early in the third period at Air Canada Centre. And when Staal had the puck and an empty net to shoot at in the dying moments of the Canes’ 4-1 win, he underscored his distaste for Toronto’s captain with a merciless slap shot directly at him.

Staal just as easily could’ve scored an empty-netter with a wrist shot, but with Phaneuf standing directly in front of the Leafs’ cage, his decision to unload with all his might spoke volumes of his lack of concern for Phaneuf’s safety: Read more

Toronto Maple Leafs trade candidate power rankings

Matt Larkin
Jake Gardiner's talent, contract term and reasonable cap hit make him an appealing trade target. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

You know things are really bad when you’re so bad, you’re bad at being bad.

That’s where the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves as they return from a four-game road trip through California and Missouri bruised, sunburned and winless. As James Mirtle points out, the Leafs essentially prolonged their playoff-bubble misery by signing a bunch of spare parts in the off-season. They were destined all along to scratch and claw to, say, a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference. At the same time, by signing the likes of Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli to highly tradable one-year deals, GM Dave Nonis and president Brendan Shanahan covered their bottoms in case the bottom felt out. If they lacked confidence in the team then, was it worth the slap-dash solution? Why not let the whole thing collapse and guarantee a high pick in a phenomenal draft class?

Either way, each loss puts the Leafs closer to full seller mode, with the March 2 trade deadline visible on the distant horizon. Leaf Nation will start to buzz over who should stay and who should go. Here are 10 candidates to consider, starting with the least likely.

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Rumor Roundup: Lowly Maple Leafs getting closer to trades

Lyle Richardson
Toronto Maple Leafs v Los Angeles Kings

The Toronto Maple Leafs limped home after dropping four straight road games, shut out in three and scoring only once in another. They enter this week with only one win in six games under interim coach Peter Horachek, falling seven points out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

That woeful performance served to add fodder to the Leafs rumor mill. Several Toronto-based pundits speculated over possible moves leading up to the March 2 trade deadline. Read more

What if Joffrey Lupul stayed healthy as a Toronto Maple Leaf?

Josh Elliott
Toronto Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul

Back injury. Blood infection. Separated shoulder. Head injury. Arm injury. Lower body injury.

It’s never one thing with Joffrey Lupul – it’s everything. He’s not a banging, crashing, fighting kind of player, yet the 31-year-old Maple Leaf gets injured like he has glass for bones.

That’s not to knock Lupul’s dedication, fitness or work ethic. The guy tries hard. He’s got to hate being injured so often. He’s been a Masterton Trophy finalist, and at the rate he’s going, you could pencil him in as the Leafs’ nominee for the award every year.

But he’s also been one of the more effective points-per-game producers on the Toronto Maple Leafs since he was acquired by the team in 2011, and that begs the question: what could the former seventh overall pick be if he wasn’t always hurt?
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Punchless Maple Leafs can’t even score their way out of trouble now

Josh Elliott
Toronto Maple Leafs Nazem Kadri

Forget the process, the promise of progress and the pleas for patience. How many more games will it take for Toronto Maple Leafs management to realize their squad is broken?

The offensively powerful Maple Leafs have wilted since Peter Horachek took over as coach, averaging just 1.33 goals per game in a season during which they’ve been much closer to scoring three a night.

They were shut out for the third time in four games on Saturday in a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. James van Riemsdyk led the team with a minus-3, while linemates Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak were each minus-2. Morgan Rielly was the only defender who didn’t get tagged with a minus.

The streaky Leafs are streaking in the wrong direction, repeating their annual tradition of driving the 18-wheeler off a cliff to ruin all hope of a playoff berth.

Saturday was the end of a nightmare road trip that saw the Leafs score just one goal in games against the Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. Their lone goal came against the Sharks, by the way, who are the weakest of the four killer Western Conference teams.

But quality of competition is an excuse, not a reason for the Leafs’ failures.

The truth is they’ve been losing to everybody, from the lowly Carolina Hurricanes to the mighty Chicago Blackhawks, to teams who are fighting them for positioning like Florida and Washington.

The Leafs have now lost four straight, 12 of their last 15 and five of six games under new coach Peter Horachek.

Much has been made about the Leafs reducing the number of shots against per game, but they bounced back to their season average on Saturday in surrendering 33 to the Blues. And it doesn’t matter how many shots they prevent if they can’t put one past the opposing netminder.

They’re not getting better. They’re getting worse.

It’s a sign that the Leafs just don’t have the psychological fortitude to pull themselves out of these slumps. They can ride the roller coaster to the top of the hill, but all they do is throw their arms up and let it go crashing down on the other side each time.

And rumours of a Ryan O’Reilly trade won’t do anything to fix the Leafs this season. The guy’s a 23-year-old two-way forward with leadership ability, but he can’t be expected to fix this deeply flawed team on his own.

Horachek must be feeling the awful temptation to let go of his defensive demands with the hope that his players will score their way back to mediocrity again. Doing so could cost him control of the locker room, and put him in the same position as predecessor Randy Carlyle: shouting orders at the classroom while the kids continue to blow spit balls at each other.

Horachek loses either way, and in the long term, so does the franchise.

Something’s got to give here, and it won’t be the coach again.

The Leafs’ colossal skid started with a loss to Carolina last December, and they’ll get a chance at redemption against the Canes when they return to Toronto for a game on Monday.

Maybe they’ll find redemption. Or maybe they’ll see how far down this abyss goes.

Coaching insanity led Maple Leafs to NHL’s most miraculous comeback

Syl Apps (HHOF Images)

It never happened before, nor has it happened since. And it very likely never will happen again.

Coached by Clarence ‘Hap’ Day, the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs remain the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final. They accomplished that feat because Day went totally against the coaching grain, and then some. Read more

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Brad Ross suspended 20 games for violating performance enhancing substance policy

Jared Clinton
(David Cooper/Getty Images)

The AHL announced today that Toronto Maple Leafs prospect and Toronto Marlies winger Brad Ross has been suspended for 20 games for violating the AHL/PHPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.

“I truly want to apologize to the entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization, my teammates, friends, family, and fans for violating the terms of the AHL/PHPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program,” Ross said in a statement released through the PHPA. Read more