Leafs' flaws exposed for all the world to see

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

OTTAWA -- It did not take the Ottawa Senators even a minute to initiate their latest humiliation of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Only 39 seconds into the game last night, Jason Spezza set up Daniel Alfredsson and the rout was under way.

"It shows the difference in the teams clearly," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "Right off the bat in that opening shift, their top scorer (Alfredsson), knocks our defenceman off the puck, takes it and develops a play and eventually puts it in the net.

"With a goal like that, they made a statement -- and we didn't respond."

As the evening progressed, the Senators scored on breakaways. They scored short-handed. They scored on odd-man rushes. They scored on backhands.

They scored often enough that they were able to whack the Leafs 7-0 and they didn't even have a power-play goal.

If Leafs fans want to make excuses, that is up to them. They can blame the injuries to Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker and Eric Lindros. They can blame the schedule. They can blame officiating. They can blame the malice that the Senators have built up over the years. Fans have the right to make all the excuses they want.

But the less forgiving among them will see that this is a team that has been exposed as one with serious problems.

As Quinn put it, "You saw the number of turnovers, the number of missed assignments. All of that is out of effort, but a lot of times, they'll throw that effort out there and abandon the plan.

"But if you abandon the plan, then, like that fish you take out of the tank, he can flip and work and flop all around, he's not going back in the tank. He's just flopping around and that's kind of what we did."

The way that Quinn looks at the five-game slump, it's an aberration.

"This happened so fast," he said.

"We wouldn't call ourselves great achievers, but we were okay and playing pretty well until four games ago, and now we're not.

PROBLEMS MAY BE DEEPER

"You see those guys coming out. They don't think very much of themselves right now. I'm not so sure why that happened."

But it's also possible that the problems may be deeper than Quinn wants to admit.

In a league that has placed a premium on discipline, the Leafs exhibit precious little of that commodity.

Last night's examples included a hooking penalty to Nik Antropov during a power play, and the third too-many-men penalty in the past two games.

That's by no means a complete list, just a sampling.

In a league which has placed a premium on speed, the Leafs are ponderously slow. There are tectonic plates that move faster than some of the Leafs, and when you're always chasing, you're going to have to take penalties.

And there doesn't seem to be any retribution for players who screw up. On the Leafs, if you take stupid penalties, you rarely see any decrease in ice time.

Quinn benched Jeff O'Neill for such an indiscretion earlier this week, but there are plenty of other Leafs who deserve a similar fate and do not get it.

More importantly, as Quinn admits, the Leafs seem confused. They're constantly out of position and when you're playing a team such as the Ottawa Senators, you're going to pay a price.

For that matter, you're even going to pay a price against the likes of the Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes, as the Leafs can attest.

Last night, all the Senators, even the less skilled ones, pushed the limits of their creativity. On the other side, no one pushed back.

If Leafs fans want to blame that on injuries or other similar excuses, they're deluding themselves.


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