Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Maple Leafs interim head coach Peter Horachek is seeing the same things we are, and he isn’t happy about it.
“It was like a pro-team playing a non-pro team,” Horachek said following Thursday nights latest ugly effort, a lopsided 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Read on past the jump.
Horachek ripped into the Maple Leafs’ top players for a lack of fight, even criticizing the “courage and character” of his club on Thursday.
“It’s not good… We can’t get a work ethic that’s acceptable,” Horachek said, stating the obvious.
“It was outclassed, outworked, out skated,” Horachek continued. “I’m not sure outhit, they didn’t have to, they had the puck the whole time. It wasn’t good.”
While the Maple Leafs are a limited group at the moment, what with Trevor Smith filling in as a top-six centreman on Thursday night, their top players have been struggling enormously of late.
Whether it’s Phil Kessel, who has one goal and three assists in his past 10 games, of Joffrey Lupul, who hasn’t recorded a point since way back on February 3, 16 games ago, the Maple Leafs have been flat for weeks.
James Mirtle summarized the struggles of the Maple Leafs’ top offensive players at length on Thursday:
During the past 40 games, the Leafs have fallen off by about a goal a game, dropping to a Buffalo-like 1.9 goals per 60 minutes. Statistically speaking, they haven’t been shooting less or getting fewer scoring chances; they’ve simply received very little offence from their top players.
In the 113 games from the start of 2013-14 to the beginning of the collapse, Toronto’s top line of Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored a combined 128 goals, or 1.13 a game.
In the 40 games since, that line has only 0.62 goals a game, which means that trio has accounted for half of the Leafs lost offence despite continuing to get top unit power-play duty.
Kessel alone has fallen from a 39-goal pace to a 14-goal one, a crippling drop-off, much of which has been at even strength.
For fans and presumably for Horachek, it’s more than the team’s brutal results, it’s the apparent lack of effort that’s really galling.
Even goaltender Jonathan Bernier took notice.
Back in January following the firing of head coach Randy Carlyle, Shanahan met with and then publicly challenged the Maple Leafs dressing room.
“I wanted to remind them that we’re watching,” Shanahan said at the time. “How they’re going to be defined is really up to them at this point. I also wanted to make it very clear to them that we’re watching and we’re on it.”
Later during his impromptu midseason state of the union, Shanahan suggested that the Maple Leafs’ players would eventually reveal their character and nature.
“We’ve seen the good and we’ve seen the bad and at a certain point (our players are) going to tell us who you are,” Shanahan said.
These Maple Leafs have shown Shanahan and the world who they are. It isn’t pretty.