Leafs regroup after blowout

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

With the stench of Tuesday's 8-0 humiliation still wafting through the hallways of the Air Canada Centre, interim general manager Cliff Fletcher and Richard Peddie, president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., took some time to chew the fat yesterday morning.

And while neither man was willing to publicly acknowledge the details of their conversation, it's a good bet they were agreeing that a rebuilding job is needed now, more than ever.

"People pay good money to watch hockey entertainment and they obviously didn't get it," Peddie said of the Leafs' lopsided defeat to the Florida Panthers on home ice. "It was one of our worst losses of the year. We obviously have not realized our objectives. John (Ferguson) was replaced by Cliff, who is very engaged in the process of setting the table for the incoming president/ general manager.

"Cliff is clear on what he has to do."

Any lingering fantasies concerning a potential Leafs playoff berth should have been crushed by the blowout. And their week does not get any easier with games against the high-flying Montreal Canadiens tonight at the Bell Centre followed by a matchup against the mighty Detroit Red Wings at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday afternoon.

Placing defenceman Andy Wozniewski on waivers yesterday likely is just the first of Fletcher's moves in the coming weeks. Should Wozniewski not be claimed by noon today, the Leafs can designate him for assignment.

"I said at my (opening) press conference that the objective was to make the Maple Leafs competitive with those teams that compete for the Stanley Cup, and that has not changed," Fletcher said.

If Fletcher needed any further motivation, it came from sarcastic Leafs supporters who cheered loudly when Florida scored its eighth goal.

"The fans are frustrated," Fletcher said. "They've been frustrated for years here, with the team just barely missing the playoffs a couple of times. I understand that and I understand the need to improve the team.

"Those games are never fun. It was a bad game with a depleted lineup. But in our five previous games, we had five points.

"It will be important to see how much pride our guys take into Montreal."

The Leafs are just four points out of the NHL basement, which translates into a high pick in the June entry draft. With the Steve Stamkos sweepstakes heating up, Fletcher points to the Phoenix Coyotes as a team now showing the fruits of good drafting.

"That's an example of how good scouting pays off," said Fletcher, a former Coyotes employee, adding that Leafs scouts already are on the road "systematically covering every (NHL) team."


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