Leafs Need Coaching Change — Again

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Feb. 7) — I can understand why the headline to this blog may seem like a cruel joke to fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There is, however, a difference between playing out the string in another lost season and perpetuating an outright debacle. Given the complete absence of response to Peter Horachek since Jan. 6 — when Horachek took over from Randy Carlyle — the Leafs cannot continue without another change behind the bench. The club still bears obligation… if not to the current players, then certainly to those that have committed season–ticket money for the remaining 15 home games. Turning a blind eye to this fiasco would be a punch to the solar–plexus of any fan that has invested cash and/or emotion in the hockey club. There may be no person alive capable of generating accountability from this coach–killing complement, but we cannot say that for sure. What we can say — unequivocally — is that the 2014–15 Leafs will not play for Horachek.

If, then, you are Brendan Shanahan, you have two choices: Remain in paralysis for the next two months with a coach that has guided your club to a 1–11–1 record in 13 games and the longest losing streak in franchise history, or try something else… anything that proves you are not — as first–year president of the team — mailing in the final 29 games of the schedule. This goes beyond the resignation of another disastrous season and the prospect of a prime selection in the Connor McDavid draft. It speaks directly to the credibility and integrity of the Maple Leafs — neither of which Shanahan has augmented by lapsing into cruise control. Another change behind the bench may seem cosmetic on the surface, but not in the realm of responsibility. In business, when it becomes undeniable that a particular direction is pointless, you must go in a different direction. The Maple Leafs are there right now with Peter Horachek. It is a disservice to the club and to an otherwise honorable man to stay the course. Shanahan must make a second coaching move.

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THE VERDICT IS IN ON PETER HORACHEK: HE CAN’T GET A THING OUT OF THE MAPLE LEAFS. PERHAPS NO ONE CAN. BUT, ANOTHER CHANGE HAS TO BE MADE.

Clearly, it would not be done to absolve anyone on this lifeless, contemptible team. We can all assume the Leafs will be dismantled — beginning, perhaps, with the Mar. 2 National Hockey League trade deadline. A move away from Horachek would establish that the franchise still has a pulse. That it continues to bear liability to the multitudes that fork over the NHL’s most expensive ticket and untold millions in team–sanctioned merchandise (jerseys, hats, jackets). Such loyalty and commitment from the fan–base is, of course, voluntary, yet clearly unconditional. It should neither be assumed nor invalidated.

As for what to do… well, there is no guaranteed solution. Nor does there have to be at this point. It could be as simple as putting Steve Spott in charge. Spott earned a promotion to the NHL with his work, last season, as coach of the American Hockey League Toronto Marlies. Maybe his voice would have some impact and preserve a smidgen of enjoyment for denizens of the Air Canada Centre. Once again, 15 home games is too many to throw away. Having the Leafs wallow in Horachek’s choking defensive “system” would be cruel and unusual punishment. There is no match whatsoever between current coach and roster. Perhaps Spott would garner more of a match. It would be nigh impossible to garner less than what Horachek has in 13 miserable games behind the bench.

This is not a call for remedy. The Maple Leafs are well beyond salvation. But, the games still have to be played. And the tickets are accounted for. Shanahan sitting idly through this mess would be criminal.

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14 comments on “Leafs Need Coaching Change — Again

  1. Why would you relieve someone who’s been made captain of a ship that’s already capsized? You’re better than this, Mr. Berger.

  2. Perhaps it is time to fire the guys that can’t seem to find the right coach for this group of players! OR fire the guys that showed faith in this “core” by handing out long term contracts!

  3. Sorry Howard, but Leaf fans with perspective understand that the only thing left to gain from this pathetic excuse for a season is a high draft position. All else is already lost. They should stay on course and trade any assets that bring a decent return of picks and prospects.

    ** I WOULD LOVE TO SEE EVERY SINGLE FAN IN ATTENDANCE AT THE ACC DRESS IN BLACK FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE SEASON. NO MORE LEAFS GARB. BAGS OVER HEADS OPTIONAL. **

  4. There is no need to make a coaching change now, and finish in 9 -14 position.Trade the core players that will bring a solid return that obviously have given up on playing in Toronto. Pick up some Draft picks for the pending UFA’s and let Horachek continue to preach structure and defense to those who remain.Start brining up some of your minor league guys to see what you’ve got in the system. You can’t right a ship that can’t float to begin with.

  5. Could not disagree more Howard. They must stay the course. If this disaster continues They would have not only as you mentioned a shot at Mcdavid, but with 2 losses to Edmonton probably a 25-30% chance at #2 pick. If anything, Id argue a trade for Evander Kane is a better route. He is on the DL, Leafs could lose even more.

    If they keep the next 29 games to 10 wins or less = Franchise changing player is being drafted. Totally worth it in my eyes.

  6. Don’t always agree with you Howard but in this case you could not be more correct. I’m a die hard fan from the days of the 60’s and right now I don’t think I have the stomach or the heart to watch another game.

  7. I agree with a change that needs to happen but not with the timing. The effort to can Horachek after firing Carlyle is pointless. Well what about the fan base who paid good money?

    The Leafs have never tanked correctly. Even when they did they had already traded away their 1st round pick for Kessel – and then some.

    Horachek guided the Panthers last year to a lottery draft pick, but in doing so got the team to play defence. The Panthers did not win many games, kinda like the Leafs, but they certainly played better limiting other teams chances. Yes a loss was a loss and most of the seasons points were pitty points (OT Loss or Shootout Loss).

    This year is a training camp for 2015-2016 now. Call it what it is. Training camp for both players and management. If there is one thing that is evident – CHANGE is coming. The fact that management had handicapped the team by the Long Term Contracts it signed to players (Dave Nonis) is a poor decision on his part to miss calculate the value of a player. Nonis has made some really good moves but the BAD ones shadow the good ones.

    Player change is coming. Along with management. YES Tank nation you WIN. This time can we do it right – just rip the bandaid off.

  8. Howard the only thing “criminal” would be T.O moving up the standings at this point,the worst thing that could happen to this franchise is to have another hollow pointless late season charge. I’m not sure why you would change the coach at this point in time only to look for another replacement in the summer. I say the best course of action would be as follows

    trade what you can for picks & prospects before the deadline

    insert players from the marlies into line up for rest of season evaluation (except Nylander)

    HOPEFULLY end season with a top 5 draft position

    relieve Nonis & coaching staff of duties

    relieve Dave Morrison & the rest of the scouting staff bafoons due to a horrific drafting record
    what are you’re thought’s Howard?

    1. This is exactly what needs to happen. To say the organization needs to play for the fans, the fans will pay to see this garbage ever game regardless

  9. May as well give Spott a crack at the interim role. Can’t see how looking for a coach from outside is going to matter given the assumption of a major overhaul is to come. The future coach needs to have input with the GM and Vp about the identity and style of play they expect. It’s evident that the team now lacks heart and clearly has no identity. A lost cause for a completely lost group.

  10. You are missing the point Howard. Peter Horachek is doing
    exactly what management wants and will stay the duration of the season and only then be mercifully fired. If the Leafs wind up with a top 5 lottery pick and draft (under the keen eye of Mark Hunter) a potential franchise player, Horachek will go down in history as the Tank Commander!! Otherwise, a Deboer/Spott tandem or a Hunter GM Hunter (Dale) Head Coach will start fresh next season.

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