January 22, 2006
(OTTAWA) -- If you read the Toronto fish-wraps Sunday morning, you already know that the sky is falling and most likely landing directly on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Apparently everybody knows this, but the Maple Leafs themselves.
Coming off a humbling 7-0 defeat at the hands of the offensively gifted Ottawa Senators, all the media questions after practice Sunday at the building formerly known as the Corel Centre revolved around the five-game slide the Leafs are on right now, whether a coaching change would cure everything that ails them and if the make-up of this team can compete in the "new" NHL.
The phrase of the day was that old one that says, "the coach has lost the room". How the theory goes is that eventually all players will tune out any coach after they think they've heard all he has to say.
"I don't think that has anything to do with it," said Jason Allison after the Leafs skated Sunday. "We have to be accountable in (the locker room) and every one of us has got to be better. That's the bottom line."
To a man, those Maple Leafs when asked whether they thought Pat Quinn is still the right man to lead them into battle all gave similar answers. If you're looking for a better hockey coach than Quinn, well he just might not exist.
We all know that sports is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, but let's not forget that two weeks ago, this team was on a six-game win streak and being praised for its depth and character.
But now in the words of one media member, the team is in "crisis mode".
"What that (criticism) does is have to spur you on to get some answers," said Quinn. "The real crisis has nothing to do with five-straight losses. Our team suddenly, after four games, the world is falling down and I have (the media) asking questions like this.
"It's, in my opinion ridiculous, but the fact is we have to find some ways to win some games and that's the nature of this business and we're all about trying to do that."
General manager John Ferguson also made the trip to Ottawa this weekend and is clearly not buying into the reactionary thinking that this kind of mini-slump tends to cultivate.
| LEAFS PRACTICE LINES |
| PONIKAROVSKY || ALLISON || ANTROPOV |
| KILGER || SUNDIN || STEEN |
| STAJAN || O'NEILL || WELLWOOD |
| DOMI || WILM || BELAK |
| DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS |
| BERG | KHAVANOV |
| COLAIACOVO | KABERLE |
| KRONWALL | KLEE |
"We're coming off six-straight wins, followed by five-straight losses and this is a results-based business. We're looking for ways to turn this club around right now on the ice. We've got a strong leadership group here, but we've got a couple of guys banged up."
In terms of the struggles versus the Senators, it's not a secret that they're a powerful club and it seems like a cruel punishment that the Leafs have to come out and play them in their house again. But coming up with a scrappy win Monday night is just the kind of victory that can reverse a club's fortune and send them in the opposite direction up the conference standings as a loss in Edmonton in 2003 led to the Leafs 16-game unbeaten streak.
The doom-and-gloom predictions will remain however, until the Leafs show it on the ice.
"Obviously, playing in Toronto, that's the way it is," opined Allison. "When you're winning, you're the best team ever. If you lose four, five games in a row, you're the worst team in the league and you're never going to make the playoffs.
"Don't get me wrong, it's unacceptable and we have to get this turned around. Everyone has to just pick their game up a notch and hopefully we can start on a winning streak right here."