LOS ANGELES -- Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice stood in front of the team bus yesterday, steadfastly denying that some of his players are trying to throw him under it.
With his job on the line, possibly as early as tonight's game in San Jose, Maurice refuted talk the team has quit on him. Midway through his second season with the Leafs, he has another year on his contract.
"We still have dominant men in that room who are competing," a tense-looking Maurice said after the last-place Kings toyed with the Leafs 5-2 the night before, the club's 10th loss in the past 12 games. "You always have to have that fight in you and when you don't, that's when it's done."
Some insist the Leafs room can't possibly regroup after the deflating efforts in L.A. and Anaheim were heaped upon terrible goaltending, soft defence, awful power play and slumps by key forwards that have put them 14th in the conference.
"For the score to go from 2-0 to 4-0 (against the Kings) was a shock," Maurice said, agreeing that goalie Andrew Raycroft's constant meltdowns were not helping team morale when called upon to hold the fort.
Maurice cancelled a scheduled practice yesterday, the blank looks from the players in their hotel lobby supporting the decision that a break was needed. He was mum on talk of holding a team meeting once they arrived in San Jose last night.
Back in Toronto, ex-Leaf goaltender Glenn Healy told The Fan 590 that half the dressing room was against Maurice and the other half didn't care.
"Go and ask his former coach (Pat Quinn) what he thinks of him," Maurice said of Healy.
Captain Mats Sundin said any talk of the players shutting out Maurice was "speculation."
"I have no idea where that's coming from," Sundin said. "I haven't heard any players on our team put the blame on the coaches. From the start of camp, we're the ones who control the effort on the ice. There's nothing more the coaches could've done to prepare us. I think they've done a great job."
Maurice survived many near misses with a pink slip in Hartford/Carolina before finally getting fired midway through his ninth season.
"When you're losing, its doesn't feel any better, no matter what city you're in," Maurice said.
Charting the chase for the top picks and possible choices as ranked by NHL Central Scouting
1. KINGS 34 Stamkos C
2. LIGHTNING 37 Doughty D
3. LEAFS 40 Bogosian D
4. CAPITALS 41 Beach C
5. HAWKS 42 Pietrangelo D
6. SABRES 43 Filatov LW
7. PANTHERS 43 Myers D
8. OILERS 44 Schenn D