MONTREAL - If nothing else, the coach of the Maple Leafs and his captain are on the same page.
That was clear on Saturday night, minutes after the Leafs lost 4-1 against the Montreal Canadiens to finish a season that was long on promise but short on anything approaching success.
“There is an understanding of a higher level we have to commit to as a team and an organization,” coach Randy Carlyle said.
“These players have to commit to a higher level of intensity, conditioning and an all-out work ethic. That is not something that is going to be taken very lightly. We’re going to maintain there is more for this group to give and we’re going to ask for that and they better be prepared to bring more.
“This hockey club has to play closer to playoff-style hockey game in and game out.”
There was not much of that at the Bell Centre, as the Leafs allowed a rare three-on-five shorthanded goal to Tomas Plekanec before the game was four minutes old and never recovered. Max Pacioretty scored on the short side on Ben Scrivens early in the second period, and though Dion Phaneuf made it interesting early in the third, Erik Cole got it back and Brad Staubitz scored into an empty net.
For all those worried about what a victory would do to the Leafs’ lottery chances, never mind. The Leafs finished 26th overall, which means they have an 8.1% chance of winning the draft lottery on Tuesday night and getting the first pick overall. In other words, about as good a chance as they had of killing off a penalty this season. We’ll find out in a couple of days whether general manager Brian Burke has the luck of the Irish.
Phaneuf, the man who is captain, concurred with the coach’s assessment.
“We definitely have to play to a higher level to have success,” Phaneuf said. “We didn’t play well and did not raise our game to the level that it needed to be going down the stretch when teams really step up.
“We faded. We have to find a way to put together a full 82-game schedule.
“We believe in the group we have. I’m sure there will be changes as there is in every team going forward. You want to keep the team together, but this is a business and changes are part of that.”
Defenceman John-Michael Liles, meanwhile, said he will not play for the U.S. at the world championship next month, while Phaneuf could play for Canada.