One positive that should result out of the Maple Leafs' tailspin is that it's unlikely general manager John Ferguson will be in a position to make a trade to possibly help the Leafs go on a long playoff run.
At this rate, the Leafs won't have to worry about making the playoffs at all. And that should exclude the temptation to put youth in a package to get a big name on or before the March 9 NHL trade deadline.
To be reminded of such folly, look no further than Brad Boyes in Boston. In March 2003, Pat Quinn knew he was giving up a solid defensive player in Alyn McCauley when he packaged McCauley, Boyes and a first-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for Owen Nolan. Well, with a focus on rookies such as Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf and a few others, Boyes quietly is putting together a nice freshman season with the Bruins.
In other words, the Mississauga native is becoming what the Leafs hoped he would be when they selected him 24th overall in 2000. Going into yesterday, Boyes was fourth in NHL rookie scoring with 33 points in 51 games, trailing only Ovechkin, Crosby and Marek Svatos.
"I'm feeling comfortable now," Boyes said in a telephone interview. "At the beginning of the season, I was just excited and was going on a lot of energy. But it slows down and you get into a rhythm. I know I can play in this league."
Boyes buys into the argument that although the schedule in the AHL is 80 games, just two less than the 82-game schedule in the NHL, there is a big difference.
"In the minors you often had three-in-three (three games in three days) on weekends, and then have much of the week off," the 23-year-old said. "Here, there is no real down time. I've had my ups and downs, but it's still just a hockey game."
Boyes will have some leverage when it comes time to sign a new deal with the Bruins. He has managed to be productive despite averaging 13 minutes and 50 seconds of ice time a game -- which ranks 46th among rookies.
Leafs backers may find some solace in the hard times the Philadelphia Flyers have fallen upon.
The Flyers remain in first place in the Atlantic Division, but have won just three of their past 10 games.
After losing at home to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, coach Ken Hitchcock cancelled practice on Thursday and held meetings with the players that went nearly three hours.
So what happened? The Flyers responded with a horrible effort against Tampa Bay on Saturday and lost 6-0.
Said defenceman Derian Hatcher, who was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "You can talk all you want, you can talk after games. You can only talk so much. I am sure we'll have a meeting. It doesn't mean we'll go out and play well."
Yesterday, Hatcher was named captain as regular captain Keith Primeau is out indefinitely because of a concussion.
Since Jan. 5, the Flyers are 0-5 against teams above .500.
WINNING WOULD BE A BONUS
Sidney Crosby is cashing in with the Pittsburgh Penguins but he is having no fun in the process. With his 60th point on Saturday, Crosby reached another of his bonus clauses, putting $212,500 US in his pocket. Crosby can reach four bonuses of $212,500 each in Schedule A of his entry-level contract and now has done it twice.
"It's nice but I would trade that for a lot more wins," Crosby said.
The hard-line approach by coach Michel Therrien has not worked. Since Therrien was hired in place of the fired Ed Olczyk in mid-December, the Penguins are 4-13-4.
Brett Hull, another aging veteran who retired earlier this season when it was clear to him he had no business playing in the faster NHL, has been working unofficially for one of his former clubs, the Dallas Stars, in an ambassador-like role.
"They're not really sure what I am yet," Hull said.
Hull is in no hurry to join a broadcast booth, even though he would be perfect for such a job.
"I'm just not ready to do that," Hull said. "I'm just trying to figure out what I would like to do. It's a slow process."
Of Leafs regulars, defenceman Ken Klee leads the club with 31 minor penalties. Rookie Kyle Wellwood, with three, has the fewest ... In the four games he has played since being demoted to the Albany River Rats of the AHL by the parent New Jersey Devils, Alex Mogilny has one goal and one assist and is minus-3. He had missed four games before yesterday because of a bad back ... Chris Chelios, on the retiring Mario Lemieux: "There was no one better I played against."
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Devils should get a better indication of where they stand with home games against a pair of division leaders -- Ottawa on Wednesday and Carolina on Friday ... The New York Rangers would move to within a point of the division-leading Flyers if they beat them in Manhattan tonight. The Rangers and Flyers meet again in Philly on Saturday.