From bad to worst for Maple Leafs

It has taken 98 years of celebration and heartache, of angst, agony and jubilation, to reach this place in Maple Leaf history.

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Rock bottom.

Rock bottom from ownership, management, players — this has been a collective collapse of monumental hockey proportions. The sorriest season in 10 decades of Toronto hockey. The most embarrassing. The most ridiculous. The most immature. The hardest to explain or even comprehend.

In many ways, this is worse than the worst Leafs year in history, the 48-point season in 1984-85 that led to the drafting of Wendel Clark.

Bob McGill played defence for that troubled team.

“But it didn’t seem as gloomy as it does today,” said McGill, the Leafs TV commentator, who wasn’t aware that was the weakest Leaf season in history.

“I never knew that until you pointed it out, thanks — 48 points, that’s pretty disgraceful.”

The Leafs, since firing Randy Carlyle, have five wins in 27 games.

Five wins. Nineteen losses. Three of those extra points. Thirteen points in 27 games. That’s a 39-point pace.

That’s worse than any Leafs season since the 70-game season morphed over time into 82 games.


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McGill called the 48-point season pretty disgraceful. If that’s what that is, what has this season, under Peter Horachek, with the Leafs’ declining roster, with the lack of effort, with the explosions all around — the latest being the Nazem Kadri nonsense — been?

The Leafs are shutting down early. They played on Monday night with a defence of tryout players — Tim Erixon, the basically finished Eric Brewer and the callup Petter Granberg. They gave up 40 shots against. Again. They blew a 2-0 lead and a 3-1 lead at home. And they shrug, because, what else can they do at this point?

They look dispirited, play dispirited, and have all but thrown their coach of diminishing reputation under the bus.

This is a Leafs team full of blame. It is the media’s fault. It is the fans’ fault for throwing jerseys on the ice. It is everybody’s fault who discredits them. It is management’s fault — they didn’t build this team.

But it is never their fault.

Brendan Shanahan challenged them when Carlyle was fired and their response has been laughable. Dave Nonis challenged them after the trade deadline and this is what you get in return. Horachek has tried and failed to make them more responsible — and he tries to sell his brutal record as making progress.

Most of these Leafs will be in the NHL next season, playing somewhere, their contracts guaranteed.

But the coach — who will hire him? Who will want him after this? If the Leafs players truly want to be embarrassed about something, be embarrassed about the manner in which they have injured their coach in the process.

Just for being there, he deserved better. He deserved something and has basically gotten nothing for his trouble but the kind of record that you can’t sell anywhere.

Thirty-nine-point pace.

Missing the playoffs is nothing new for the Leafs. This will be their ninth straight 82-game season without qualifying for the post-season. But consider the difference of other years compared to this one.

They missed the playoffs garnering 90 points, 91, 83, 81, 74, 85, 80 and 84. Right now: A 71-point pace for the season that included Randy Carlyle. The movie gets worse as time goes on. The hope goes missing. The thought of playing — for yourself, for your fans, because it’s your profession — has gone missing in time.

When the Leafs had the worst record in team history, they had Tim Bernhardt as their first-string goalie, kids such as Ken Wregget and Allan Bester just starting out, Rick St. Croix also in the mix. They didn’t have Jonathan Bernier keeping them close, the way he kept it last night. They didn’t have anything like that at all.

“But we did have some hope,” said McGill. “We were in the old Norris Division in those days. Every team but one made the playoffs in the division. So even when it looked like we were out of it, we weren’t really that far out of it.

“It’s not the same now. There’s not a lot of hope around here right now.”

There’s not a lot of hope, emotion, belief. This team is unaware enough to get mad at the outsiders, but not themselves.

This is what happens when you hit rock bottom. You become numb. You become emotional. You lose your will. And you stop playing for a coach who has no future.

The word “disgraceful” works here. For everyone involved.



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