Fourth-year Maple Leaf Luke Schenn knows there's a key reason why his team will not be in the playoffs for the seventh season in a row.
"You have to play your division a little better," Schenn said. "We struggled all year at that, obviously playing in Boston (0-3) and didn't have the greatest success in Buffalo at times (1-4 the past two seasons)."
The Leafs' record against the Northeast this season is 8-13, 2-6 on the road against Boston, Buffalo and Ottawa. Compare that to their record against the Atlantic Division teams (9-5-5, including five of a possible eight points from the conference-leading Rangers).
"You can go down the list and say we played great against this team or we're inconsistent against that team," Schenn said. "At the end of the day, it's not good enough."
Schenn is trying not to be jaded about his playoff dream continually getting crushed.
"It's brutal talking about the past all the time, but we've shown we can be one of the hottest teams in the league. We had a pretty good stretch up until all-star break. We were sitting pretty in the standings and I don't think that was by fluke. I've had a great four years in Toronto, you'd just like to have a lot more team success. Like a lot of people, I don't have an explanation for it. But I would like to be a piece of the puzzle here."
DION ON THE SPOT
Captain Dion Phaneuf had a stare-down with a television reporter, who asked what he had to say to fans after seven years out of the playoffs.
As he has been captain for only two seasons, and with the team only a bit longer than that, Phaneuf went the diplomatic route, saying how bummed out all the Leafs are.
Then he was asked whether he had done an effective enough job in his role. "What do you think?," Phaneuf retorted as the question persisted.
Asked by someone else if he regretted not taking a firmer hand to push teammates as the team's slide worsened, Phaneuf said "as a group, we had meetings and we talked about it. We couldn't snap out of it, we couldn't turn it around."
SEAN'S A HIGH FLYER
Sean Couturier of the Flyers is enjoying his NHL rookie experience, ranked third among freshmen at plus 17 behind Carl Hagelin of the Rangers and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog.
"It's a great start with a good team," said Couturier on Wednesday as Philadelphia readies to meet the Leafs at the ACC on Thursday.
Sean is the son of former NHLer turned QMJHL exec Sylvain Couturier, born in Phoenix when his father played in the minors. Sean was a 96-point forward with Drummondville. taken with the first-round pick the Flyers received from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade.
"I had to adjust to the speed of the game and that guys are stronger," said Couturier, who has 25 points in 71 games. "But once you get in there and play, it's a lot easier."
Schenn and Phaneuf were non-commital to a stint with Team Canada at the world championship, wanting to play the Leafs' remaining five NHL games first ... Last time Leafs were in the playoffs in 2004, they had an average roster age of 31.4 and people wondered about them getting long in the tooth. Now they're 26.7, second-youngest in the league and the clamour is for more veterans ... In the course of missing the playoffs seven times, the Leafs have had four different coaches at the end of the season (Pat Quinn, Paul Maurice, Ron Wilson and Randy Carlyle). But the Elias Sports Bureau has calculated all but two of the many teams that were ousted for seven-plus seasons had four or more behind the bench.