Maple Leafs finally ready to make drastic changes?
Peter Horachek was right when he said on Wednesday that trade speculation “is a regular occurrence (in Toronto).” (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)
Peter Horachek was right when he said on Wednesday that trade speculation “is a regular occurrence here.”
It has been that way with the Maple Leafs for years considering their annual place in the standings.
This year is no different in that regard, but it’s different in the sense that there appears to be recognition in the front office that something drastic has to be done in order for the Leafs to climb the steep hill back to respectability.
Many observers figure that the Leafs team that starts next season will have undergone several major changes. Whether that happens before the March 2 NHL trade deadline remains to be seen. The scuttlebutt is that if the Leafs manage to move one or both of Dion Phaneuf or Phil Kessel, it will happen in the off-season.
For now? Well, if you are Cody Franson or Daniel Winnik or (fill in the blank) maybe don’t rent that furniture beyond the first of March. General manager David Nonis repeatedly has said he will make a deal if it helps the Leafs, which is about all he can say publicly. General managers who have interest in Leafs players reportedly have been told to get their offers in order.
How does Horachek, the interim coach, handle the uncertainty?
“We have to hold them accountable to their game,” Horachek said. “You have to stay focused on what you can control. That is my message to them. What you can control is how you show up here every day. Are you prepared to work, to get us back on (track). We are (frustrated), but we are going to continue to push as hard as we can.”
BACKING UP THE DECISION
Given a chance to second-guess himself, Horachek didn’t do it.
Horachek stuck by his decision to put Jonathan Bernier back in the game on Tuesday night in Nashville after the goalie had come out late in the second period to get 12 stitches on the back of his left leg. James Reimer had made four saves in relief of Bernier and Toronto was ahead 3-2 when Bernier re-entered the game early in the third period.
Goals by Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson on Bernier gave the Predators a 4-3 win.
“It was his game,” Horachek said of Bernier. “Reimer went in for four shots, did a good job and (Bernier) came back out ready to play. Right before (Bernier was forced out) he made big saves, and you have to respect that.”
Said defenceman Stephane Robidas: “I didn’t really know what happened but then we knew that he was cut and he wanted to come back. He’s been very good for us all year. He’s an elite goaltender and I wasn’t surprised at all to see him back in net.”
We won’t know if Reimer would have been able to steer the Leafs to a rare win, but honestly, the subject got too much play on sports talk radio in Toronto on Wednesday.
How bewildered is Horachek by the Leafs’ 1-10-1 run with him as coach? “I don’t know if shocked or surprised is the right word, but I have not really seen this before,” Horachek said. “It doesn’t mean we can’t keep going (toward improving).” ... The Toronto Marlies held a school-day game on Wednesday and lost 3-1 against the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Ricoh Coliseum. Matt Frattin, netted his 11th goal of the season in 27 games for the Marlies ... The William Nylander watch continues, and the Leafs’ first-round pick in 2014 has one goal and one assist in five games with six shots on goal and no penalty minutes ... The Leafs will be back on the ice on Thursday for practice after being given the day off on Wednesday. After playing in Nashville, the team plane did not land in Toronto until 2:30 a.m.