ANAHEIM -- At least the people in charge of this sorry Maple Leafs squad were there to witness the embarrassment first-hand.
Ownership, hockey management and scouts were all in the Honda Center last night to watch their 14th-place-and-falling club bounce off the heavily armoured Stanley Cup champion Ducks, 5-0. In their past 11 games, the Leafs have scored more than two goals just twice and even the return of goaltender Vesa Toskala last night had little impact in yet another convincing loss.
Richard Peddie, the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., is here on an off-ice business trip, while general manager John Ferguson brought along both of his assistants, Jeff Jackson and Mike Penny, as well as the scouting staff that had been around a couple of days for midseason meetings. But what they can do at this stage to resurrect team fortunes, shy of getting a whopper of a trade offer for Mats Sundin and selling him on a move, is limited.
They saw the Ducks make a fast transition on a slow Leafs line change for their first goal, with ex-Leaf Mathieu Schneider sending Todd Bertuzzi in on a breakaway. Toskala, just back from a groin injury, didn't risk the splits.
After Toronto's new power-play point man, Alex Steen, could get clear for a shot with Chris Kunitz off for bumping Toskala, Hal Gill fell at the Ducks line leading to a 3-on-1 and Corey Perry's 23rd goal.
That was basically the game. The Leafs had six power-plays -- including a late two-man advantage -- but rarely even threatened Anaheim netminder J-S Giguere.
"It's discouraging," coach Paul Maurice said afterwards. "We have to find a way to get some of these guys going."
On the ineffective power-play, Maurice said: "We didn't put the puck on net, even though we had enough opportunities.
"That 5-on-3 to end the game answers your question."
Sundin was equally as perplexed.
"We're making it too complicated for some reason," he said. "It's been a problem all year."
Though the Leafs were still hanging around in the third, they quickly showed why they have just one win in 15 games when trailing after two periods. Bertuzzi bumped Nik Antropov off the puck leading to an early goal and Doug Weight and Kunitz added others on the power play.
The Ducks were distracted from their mission only for a few shifts in the second period trying to deliver payback to Pavel Kubina, who they thought had tried to knee Perry. That led to three consecutive Anaheim penalties, but the Leafs rarely threatened.
Toskala's return sets up three games' worth of intriguing goaltender matchups, including tonight in Los Angeles, the Leafs' best chance for any points on this three-game California trip.
By decree of a cautious Maurice, Toskala sits for medical assessment after his first action in almost three weeks and Andrew Raycroft likely gets the start. Raycroft's opponent could be ex-Leaf Jean-Sebastien Aubin, whose winning ways in relief of Ed Belfour in 2006 almost put the Leafs in the playoffs. But he couldn't overcome a lack of confidence and a clash of personalities eventually saw him depart for the coast.
Aubin is now a bit player with the Kings, but he was called upon early in a Tuesday night blowout when young Jason Labarbera stopped just four of the first seven shots in the visiting Nashville Predators' eventual 7-0 rout.
With two nights off, Toskala will presumably get the game he has waited for since the NHL schedule came off the press in July -- in San Jose against his former running mate Evgeni Nabokov.
Toskala had expected lots of traffic in his crease from the burly Anaheim forwards who took that bump-and-run route to a Cup title last spring.
"They do that, but they're also skilled," Toskala said.