A noticeably frustrated Peter Horachek spoke to reporters after the Leafs’ 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, their 8th in the past 10 games, blasting the team for persisting issues of character, attitude and work ethic.
It was the type of critique we got used to hearing from Randy Carlyle for what seemed like an eternity. And though Pete didn’t use the infamous “mind-boggling” term that Randy favoured, the tune was nearly identical.
Many resented Carlyle for saying things like this, preferring to pin the Leafs struggles on more “tangible” issues like systems, usage, and line combinations. And yet here we are, another respected coach looking at the Leafs’ play and coming to the same conclusion: that this team’s core lacks the character, work ethic and attitude necessary to compete on a nightly basis in this league. It’s not a popular opinion, but it’s something that we’ve been saying here at the Hub for the entirety of the season (and guys like Phook back further). And now it seems that even Peter Horachek agrees.
I wanted to take the time to write out these words because I think when you see this in writing, you’ll get the full effect of what I would consider a damning indictment of the Leafs’ leadership core, straight from the man who is in closest proximity to the tire fire that is our beloved Maple Leafs.
I’m hopeful that better days are ahead for this hockey club, but right now, it’s pretty ugly.
Reporter: “What does it say about the future of this team when the leaders continue to play a lack of inspired hockey?”
PH: “Not good. It’s not good. I mean, you gotta be driven by your best players. We can’t get a start, and we can’t get a work ethic that is acceptable. And so, it was like a pro team playing a non-pro team. [We were] out-classed, out-worked, out-skated, out-hit…I’m not sure out-hit, they didn’t have to, they had the puck the whole time. It wasn’t good.”
Reporter: [Question about Bernier]
PH: “You know Bernie, just…you know, he does his thing. He stays in there and keeps us in the game. He’s a pro. There’s certain guys that you say, you know, they’re doing their thing the way they’re supposed to. There’s too many guys…they may start for part of the game, and then they fall off. It’s just not the way it has to be. We need an effort, we need everybody pushing and not sitting back and pulling on the chain. We need to be pushing. We need to be going after it. We need to have that kind of attitude, and it’s not there. It’s just like we’re…sitting back.”
Reporter: “This may be a tough thing to answer, but can you put your finger on why that message isn’t getting through to these guys about the start?”
PH: “You know…I can’t tell you that. I don’t have an answer for that.“
Reporter: “Bernier echoed your sentiment about a pro team vs a non-pro team, was that your message to the group after the game, was it a fiery message post-game here?”
PH: “Not after the game. After the 1st. I mean, it’s just…you go through this situation and you talk about it. We talk about the way we want to play, how we know that 10 out of our last 15 games we’ve been behind after the 1st period and we chase the game. And if you don’t have the courage or the character to be able to understand that that’s the most important thing, and be ready to play and be pushing, then there’s a problem.”
Reporter: “The process this has been, Peter, does it provide the organization with an indication of who wants to be here moving forward?”
PH: “You know, I think that every single time we step on the ice, we’re showing ourselves. You’re showing yourself to the fans, to the management, what we do…so, you know, character has got to be important, and we’ve got to rally around it, and we’ve got to rally around where we want to be. We understand that we’re not in the playoffs. We understand that, but it doesn’t change your work ethic. One thing you have is an attitude, all the time. One thing you can give to your teammates and the fans is your attitude, and your approach to the game. Your work ethic, that doesn’t ever have to change. I see Sammy Carrick working hard, I see Zach Sill working hard and trying to do what he can as a 4th line player. If you can’t bring a good attitude and a work ethic and a little bit of an attitude to drive this team while we’re short and while things are hard, that’s when you should get revved up. And so, that’s not good enough for me.”