The Toronto Maple Leafs followed up a humiliating 6-2 loss to Buffalo on Saturday with a pathetic 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
There were calls for head coach Randy Carlyle. There were calls for general manager Dave Nonis. There were calls for captain Dion Phaneuf. We could go on.
Something’s gotta give in Toronto. A personnel move or front-office shuffle seems imminent.
It’s a city far too accustomed to embarrassment on the sporting circuit, and nobody does it quite like the Maple Leafs.
If anything, a quick tour through some of the team’s most embarrassing moments in the salary cap era serves to remind Leafs Nation that things could be worse… right?
The late-season collapse(s)
The Maple Leafs appeared poised for a return to the postseason in 2011-12, sporting a 28-19-6 record on Feb. 6, 2012.
A 5-17-3 slide into the end of the season culminated with a 7-1 beating at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers on March 30, 2012. The club went on to win two of its remaining four games, but the damage was done.
After a brush with the postseason in 2012-13 (more on that later) the Leafs returned to their late-season collapsing ways in 2013-14.
The stats crowd said it was coming. The writing was on the wall. Still, the Leafs’ fall from playoff lock to futile hockey club was something to behold.
A 2-12-0 finish to the season left the Leafs on the outside looking in.
“Let’s go Blue Jays”
A byproduct of that 2011-12 collapse, and the 7-1 loss to the Flyers in particular, was the chants of “Let’s go Blue Jays” raining down from a disgruntled crowd at Air Canada Centre.
In Toronto, be careful what you wish for.
The 2012 Blue Jays finished 73-89.
Waffles hit the ice
A 3-7-3 run through November during the 2010-11 season had Leafs fans searching for new and innovative ways to express their collective disgust with yet another disappointing start.
It all came to a head on Dec. 9, 2010, when a fan tossed waffles onto the ice following a 4-1 loss to the Flyers.
It was a trend that would continue. The Leafs were battered once again on Dec. 20 of that year, trailing the Atlanta Thrashers 5-1 midway through the third period when the waffles rained down. The Leafs eventually fell by a final score of 6-3.
Bizarre, original, dangerous, and delicious.
I went to Sweden for the Sedins and all I got was a Jonas Gustavsson
The Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, were poised to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2009.
Leafs fans’ wish-casting and the Brian Burke connection (he drafted the Sedins in Vancouver) had Toronto lined up to pay the twins and ride them to postseason glory.
Unfortunately, as Burke touched down in Sweden to begin the pursuit of some quality pieces for his hockey team, the Sedin twins had already re-upped in Vancouver.
Perhaps prized Swedish goaltending sensation Jonas Gustavsson was always meant to be the fish that Burke landed on his trip. Well, he got him.
Jeff Finger was a 27-year-old defenceman with 94 NHL games under his belt when Cliff Fletcher and the Leafs signed him to a four-year, $14-million contract on the first day of free agency in the summer of 2008.
It was a questionable move, no doubt, but Fletcher & Co. were championing Finger’s seemingly untapped shutdown ability.
With a little research, Dan Tolensky revealed it was more likely Kurt Sauer whom the Leafs intended to sign. Finger finished his relatively lucrative deal in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies.
The Tuukka Rask trade
The Leafs have a rich history of bad trades, but the one that stands out in recent memory as their most unforgivable folly was the one that sent goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask to Boston in exchange for Andrew Raycroft.
Raycroft played behind a petty good Bruins team in 2003-04, finishing the season with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in 57 games. He was awarded the Calder Trophy for his effort.
Raycroft cratered in the 2005-06 season when the NHL returned following the 2004-05 lockout. Maybe a change of scenery was all he needed. It worked for Joe Thornton when he was shipped to San Jose.
Unfortunately, the Leafs, under general manager John Ferguson Jr., believed Raycroft could return to form in the Blue and White. This would not be the case.
In 91 games with the Leafs, Raycroft registered a 3.17 GAA and .890 save percentage.
Rask has gone on to enjoy a Vezina-winning run with the Bruins.
The start of the Clarkson era
Seven years and $36.75 million was a lot of money to throw at David Clarkson in the summer of 2013. Regardless, the Leafs thought they landed a guy who could score 20 to 30 goals and evoke memories of Wendel Clark with his penchant for roughing it up and laying it all on the line.
Clarkson’s Maple Leafs tenure could not have began any worse.
The 29-year-old missed the first 10 games of the season for leaving the bench to fight during a preseason game, and he totaled just five goals and 11 points in 60 games.
With all those years left on his deal, maybe there’s still hope Clarkson proves his worth. Otherwise, it’s a long and lonely road to be compared to Clark while playing like Ken Baumgartner.
Game 7 versus Boston
“It was 4-1.”
All the late-season collapses in history have nothing on blowing a 4-1 lead in the third period.
Had the 2012-13 Maple Leafs played above their true ability in the lockout shortened season? Probably. Still, letting two months of regression play out in just over 10 minutes is a once-in-a-lifetime sight.