Leafs feel the heat in Florida
The heat’s on the Maple Leafs, 27 degrees outside, a seven-game losing streak at the rink, Brian Burke talking changes and their own goalie calling them out.
So the Leafs tried to take motivational matters into their own hands, gathering at their hotel for a players-only meeting on Wednesday morning, delving into why a good training camp and a four-game winning streak turned into a 1-7-3 mess.
They might as well have spent the time watching the movie Score: A Hockey Musical, as they sputtered to a second straight loss, 4-1 to a less than intimidating Panthers team, save for goalie Tomas Vokoun.
The Leafs were almost blanked back-to-back in Tampa Bay and South Florida for the first time since the NHL came to the Sunshine State in 1992. In the past 11 games, they have just 16 goals, the last coming from Mikhail Grabovski with the Panthers on cruise control at 13:25 of the third.
Mayor-elect Rob Ford was in the BankAtlantic Center crowd with his mother Diane, perhaps wondering if his campaign to halt the gravy train had somehow extended to the Leafs’ frost-bitten forwards.
Wednesday’s result may or may not fast track general manager Burke’s itchy cell phone finger. With other struggling NHL clubs getting closer to the unofficial U.S. Thanksgiving player movement window, Burke is also watching a Marlies’ farm team on a five-game points’ run.
“We’re looking at lots of things, including that the Marlies are hot,” Burke said in an e-mail to the Toronto Sun.
With coach Ron Wilson running out of explanations and Jean-Sebastien Giguere ripping them in the media after the flat 4-0 loss in Tampa, the players met after waking up from Tuesday’s Tampa trauma. It was chaired by the three alternate captains, Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle and Mike Komisarek, with Dion Phaneuf back home recovering from a badly cut leg.
“Obviously one guy had to bring it up, but at the end of the day, everyone wanted to meet,” Kaberle said before last night’s game.
“You need to say stuff you want to say and not keep it to yourself. The oldest guys can speak or the youngest, but you have to get the stuff out of your system and make sure we’re on the same page. You just can’t be shy about it, you don’t want to keep it to yourself.
“The main thing is what we say off the ice we have to bring on the ice.”