Horachek blasts Maple Leafs’ top players: ‘It was like a pro-team playing a non-pro team’

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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.

“It’s like a junior team facing a pro team out there,” Bernier said. “I felt like they were in our zone pretty much the whole game.”

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.

  • TGT23

    Now I’m not going to be a very well liked man for saying this. But if the Leafs get Connor McDavid, you know what I think they should do?… Trade him, you could get like 5 guys back I mean somebody has to play next year.

    • Poluza

      I tend to agree that 99% of leaf fans would be totally opposed to it. But maybe Joe’s last name is Lindros and he is recalling what the Nordiques got in exchange for Lindros not having to play in la belle province. Just a thought.

    • Meathead25

      You guys do realize this comment is a reference to the steve dangle podcast right. It was a joke, he’s not being serious….

      And just for the record peter horachek is 100% correct. And I’m loving it, because the worse it gets, the more changes shanahan will make. #embracethetank

  • Poluza

    Man, Shanahan has his work cut out for him this summer. If he’s shipping out the players who don’t look like they care, like he implied, then there will be a lot of new faces next year

  • Poluza

    I just hope Bernier included himself as a junior in his statement. Bottom line is that this is what we are going to get for the rest of the year. You don’t think Ottawa with the meat patty guy won’t be fired up on Saturday.

    It is not inconceivable that Arizona which has two games left with Buffalo could be catchable. Perhaps the final game of the year against the Habs will have some meaning for the leafs.

    The leafs haven’t done much right this year so hopefully they will continue to master the tank,

    As far as next year goes, I’ve got no problem drafting in the top three again if it will FINALLY LEAD THIS TEAM OUT OF THE WILDERNESS OF 48 LONG, LONG, LONG , YEARS.

    • Poluza

      his game vs the oilers was beer league. 3 goals on 4 shots. his 2015 year has been horrendous not to mention his below 900 save percentage in these last couple of starts excluding tonight (899 in the last month to be exact) so he should include himself in that criticism from his play for the majority of the season.

    • Meathead25

      “I just hope Bernier included himself as a junior in his statement.”

      Bernier was 38 for 42 last night, or a save percentage of 0.905. If that’s your definition of a Jr. goalie, then so be it, but man, seriously, the goalies get NO support from this team. They shouldn’t have to be superheroes EVERY night.

  • Or like an AHL team playing an NHL team because that’s basically what it was with the tank-licious line-up they have now. It’s known that in a group, the lowest members set the tone, so it’s not a surprise that the top guys have played down.

    • I think that in a mob you may be correct but in an organized – I use the term loosely – group like a hockey team, the leaders may be able to raise the group up rather than be dragged down.

      But to follow your premise, Booth, Kozun, Panik and Komorov are setting a hell of a tone lately – maybe the larger lights will start to take note.