LEAFS NEED TO TAKE LONG, HARD LOOK

Hey, Toronto Maple Leafs…is there anyone among you who thinks this nightly garbage you keep turning out qualifies as entertainment? Or effort? Or professionalism? Or desire? Or heart? Or is even remotely acceptable? I hope not. Can someone explain to me why people, who consider themselves knowledgeable fans, think players like Phil Kessel are playing up to their potential? Or why people defend Jonas Gustavsson as he’s demoted to the Marlies for his horsebleep play? Anyone? Any ideas?

On Saturday night in Buffalo, despite having won two in a row and coming off a much-celebrated shutout by rookie netminder James Reimer, the Leafs pulled another stink-job out of their hockey bag at HSBC Arena. Other than a gawd-awful game in Philadelphia and that pile of slobber in Madison Square Garden in late January, the game in Buffalo may have been Toronto’s most pitiful game of the season.

I have never coached in the National Hockey League, nor have I played the game professionally, but if I was a member of the Leafs, my level of embarrassment would be off the charts. How do players look at themselves in the mirror after turning out an effort like this? It’s beyond my comprehension.

As a live sports television producer, I had some bad nights. I was slow to react. I took a split-second too long to make a key decision. Sometimes I didn’t think quite far enough ahead. It made me furious. It was demeaning and it always made me vow to not make the same mistake(s) again. Would those same concepts not apply to the Toronto Maple Leafs?

You know you are about to face Ryan Miller, someone whom you’ve traditionally had a very tough time beating. Do you not turn it up a notch and come out with the desire of Secretariat? I’m beginning to think the Leafs don’t even have that level in their repertoire.

In the Hockey Night in Canada booth, in the middle of the third period, Bob Cole and Garry Galley began chuckling at the pathetic effort by the Leafs. Who can blame them? Although, by some, HNIC will be criticized for not revering the great blue and white and the men who walk on water. Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker know all about that non-deserved worship.

The Leafs did nothing to be proud of in Buffalo on Saturday night. Not a single Leafs’ player stood out has having a notable game. And, of course, Phil Kessel sported his usual frustration as, each shift, he seems to learn anew that he’s not an elite-level NHL player.

None of the Leafs were on Saturday night.