TORONTO (CP) - Pat Quinn stopped practice and unleashed a five-minute tirade at his millionaire players, apparently still seething from the night before.
"Three missed assignments off faceoffs. Come on!" Quinn yelled.
Who could have ever imagined such a dramatic turnaround in the mood of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had reeled off 11 wins in 13 games and looked unbeatable.
|Trevor Kidd gets the start against his old team.|
Graig Abel Photography
Yes, the players said all the right things Friday, that Thursday night's 7-2 spanking at the hands of the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings was just "one game out of 82" and so on and so on.
But there was a clearly a hangover effect, from an ornery Quinn to a few players cursing after failed drills in practice. Bryan McCabe, for one, pushing the net off its mooring and launching a few four-letter words after getting beat on a 2-on-1 drill.
Just like that, in one game, the swagger was gone.
"Sure it's disappointing to lose the way we did," said star winger Alex Mogilny, who always says it like it is. "It exposed our weaknesses. But that happens. Detroit makes a lot of teams look silly. It's not the end of the world.
"We just didn't show up."
The Leafs failed to show up in a game they themselves had billed as an important measuring stick in their quest to be taken as serious Cup contenders. After all, they did look impressive in beating Ottawa 2-1 on Feb. 15.
But for reasons certainly unknown to Quinn himself, his team came out and played perhaps its worst game of the season with so much on the line, including facing former goalie Curtis Joseph for the first time.
"Hopefully we learned a big lesson from last night," said centre Mats Sundin, one of Toronto's worst performers with a minus-5 rating.
But the Leafs captain drew the line at suggestions the loss could have serious consequences on the team's confidence.
"It's not going to make or break our season," Sundin said. "It's one game out of 82. But hopefully we will learn from it."
What irked many Leaf fans who called in to radio talk shows Friday was the fact that Sundin and Toronto teammates Tie Domi and Gary Roberts had dinner at Joseph's house the night before the game.
"I don't think it's a big deal," Quinn said. "You have friends in the business these days. Heck, it's a love-in now.
"In my day we'd have a fight with the other team on the train. But players today change teams so many times ... I mean, they kiss each other in the warm-up."
What Detroit did expose on Thursday was what every one who follows the team already knew, that the Leafs need to acquire at least one if not two capable defencemen before the March 11 deadline.
Quinn, however, says the Detroit game alone doesn't trigger a trade.
"It doesn't change because of one loss," Quinn said. "We have good players here.
"Yes, that wasn't very good last night but I'm not going to break my legs jumping off the wagon right now. If we can get somebody to help us, we'll do that."
The Leafs have a glorious chance of returning to their winnings way Saturday when they host the woeful Carolina Hurricanes. Leafs backup Trevor Kidd will get the start.
It also appears veteran forward Shayne Corson may finally be re-inserted into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for six straight games.
"You have to start thinking about someone coming out," Quinn said. "But how do you choose after last night? Our better guys are the ones you should pull out but not everyone is treated the same in this business."
Corson's brother-in-law Darcy Tucker could be a candidate not to play after he had his thumb slashed by Jason Woolley in Thursday's game. But Tucker skated Friday and said afterwards that the thumb "isn't broken."
That Belfour is getting the night off has nothing to do with the goalie surrendering 14 goals in his last three starts, Quinn says.
"I read in one paper that Eddie was shaky (versus Detroit)," Quinn said. "Eddie wasn't shaky, it was the team in front of him that was outright awful."
Belfour says no one can escape blame for Thursday night.
"It was just one of those nights when the whole team was off, from me to the front guy, and that doesn't happen very often," said Belfour.
The bottom line, Quinn said, is that the Leafs can't forget where they came from this season, struggling out of the gates before finding their groove.
"It should be a reminder that you're never as good as you really think you are and you're never as bad as you think you are," Quinn said. "We've been cruising along pretty well, we had one bad game out of 12, and then last night we threw that stinker out there."