Good grief.

Your game in ten:

1.  There have been some bad efforts out of the Leafs among their 13 losses this season, but my God — that kind of display in front of a debuting rookie goaltender is on another level, and naturally engenders questions about what exactly is going on with the character and leadership of the team. A Leafs loss hasn’t felt this unpalatable since the blowout on the Island in John Tavares’ return, and before that, you’d need to go back years — maybe as far as the Carlyle/Horachek season. They rolled over and didn’t play for each other or even for the new guy between the pipes who’s been dreaming of this night his whole life. “Pathetic” doesn’t do it justice.

2.  Five losses with one OT point is the worst stretch of Leafs hockey since March of the 2015-16 tank season. Let that sink in.

3I’ll grant it’s a foreign situation for him getting no PP1 reps, but what exactly is going on here with Tyson Barrie? You can’t pin all or even most of this on coaching. Barrie can’t even deliver a flat pass on the tape half the time —see the turnover prior to the 5-0 goal — and he may as well have not been on the ice surface with how he defended the 2v1 against on the power play for the 6-1. He’s defending the cycle with little desire. He’s getting pushed around, hardly moving his feet, and is barely gapping up defensively.

Where is the competitive fire here? Is there no pride to maybe help the debuting rookie goaltender at least keep it at five? It’s the least you could do. Friedman reported at the intermission there is a “sense this can’t keep up for much longer” within Barrie’s camp, intimating that a trade might be needed if this keeps up. Honestly, the Leafs should feel the same way if this doesn’t turn around soon because the effort is reaching pathetic proportions.

4.  Part of me says, “How can you reward that kind of effort with a power-play promotion over Rielly?,” but the other half of me says Rielly’s own effort and execution hasn’t exactly been sterling, and the power-play is a mess to the point where it’s really the only option. The Leafs can’t replace Barrie on the right side of their defense right now and fit this new player into his $2.75 million cap slot. Even if a trade is the final outcome, the situation dictates they’ve got to do everything they can to help the player turn this around — even if he’s not really helping himself at the moment. Kyle Dubas gave up Nazem Kadri — clearly, it seems, a pretty big piece of this club’s heartbeat and an excellent 2C on a great contract — in large part for a year of this player.

5.  The injury and back-to-back excuses fall way short, and it’s honestly a good thing the Penguins were also in b2b situation while missing Crosby, Letang, and Hornqvist to injury — there is nowhere to hide for the Leafs here. It’s two notable injuries at forward and a full defense corps right now. Half the league is dealing with this type of adversity.

6.  The two combined for the one Leaf goal — and also helped give that back on the power play for the 6-1 — but it’s probably worthwhile pointing out that 2/3rds of the Leafs third line at the moment has either passed through waivers (Nic Petan) or likely would (Jason Spezza). The cap situation this past offseason meant the depth of this team suffered, and besides Tyler Ennis last year, I am not seeing a ton of signs so far that Kyle Dubas has mined the type of value out of his cheap depth adds that the team is going to need in order to keep this core supplemented well enough in the case of injury, particularly up front and in net. He’s also been rendered handcuffed by his cap situation as far as making meaningful additions unless it’s somehow done on a dollar-in, dollar-out basis.

7.  Nick Shore is a solid faceoff guy, but he also hasn’t really shown much in a long time now besides a propensity for taking costly penalties. It’s been a while since Dmytro Timashov has shown us much. There are some bodies on the Marlies that still deserve a look — like a Kenny Agostino (eight goals, 14 points in 12 GP), who showed some jam and a little offensive touch in preseason, and maybe Pierre Engvall, who is up to six goals and 14 points. Garrett Wilson has taken competent shifts in the league before as an L4 energy guy, and there is also preseason standout Egor Korshkov, who has seven goals in 14 games. Pontus Aberg is tearing up the AHL, but he had a miserable preseason and isn’t the presence the Leafs need down the lineup.

I do think the Leafs are going to have to bring up one or more of these guys at some point and hope to get a bit more of an energy lift out of their bottom six with Trevor Moore and Alex Kerfoot out of the lineup.

8.  Obviously, part of the process for Dubas will be attempting to more clearly delineate what is coaching and what is down to an inexcusable lack of commitment and execution errors on the ice from the players — Boston’s third period goals certainly fall into the latter category, as would the 2-0 goal against Pittsburgh where Johnsson came back hard but picked up no one. On the 4-0, Johnsson got beat and it was a long time before Matthews and Nylander could be seen coasting back into the picture (with fresh legs as well, having recently changed on). To say nothing of how difficult it is to watch Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci defend their blue line or around the net at the moment.

At a certain point, though, if the same execution errors are happening over and over, a message isn’t getting through. You may not always like his answers, but you always got a high level of confidence (even if it was false) from Mike Babcock as to where it’s going wrong and what the team needs to do to fix the problem amid losing streaks in the past. He started to exhibit the thousand-mile stare on the bench during the game — either that or the classic “look busy on the notepad” reaction — and gave a befuddled-sounding “I dunno, we’ll try to figure it out on the plane,” answer as to what the plan is here.

The coaching question is on everyone’s mind and it may well prove true that the coach is out of ideas as to how to get through to his group. Cup expectations, bad defensive results, and inept special teams are usually the formula to get any coach canned regardless of the root causes. The problems here clearly go deeper, though, and from my outsider perspective, simply firing him probably isn’t the right message to the group at this time.

9.  Ultimately, if the Leafs don’t get themselves out of this tailspin soon, in approving any decision to fire Babcock, Brendan Shanahan will take a long look at the roster and decide if the core of this team has the requisite commitment to playing the right way to win championships, and whether they’re a coaching change away from reaching that level — or whether he’s going to leave this on the players for quite some time still, or if the team needs both a coaching change and significant alterations to the core of the roster, and if Kyle Dubas is the right person to carry out those changes (of course, he’s very likely not the hot seat before he uses his coaching-change card).

10.  As a student of the Leafs’ past, Shanahan will know the history here, too — think back to when Pat Quinn was the coach of the Maple Leafs, John Ferguson Jr. arrived as the new young GM with fresh ideas, and he fired Quinn for Paul Maurice. Or the Pat Burns and Mike Murphy story. It doesn’t mean the situations are the same, but Shanahan won’t knee jerk here, I wouldn’t think.

Even as the results have lagged, I hadn’t seen clear signs of the team tuning out or quitting on the coach; they didn’t go away quietly in the Chicago game — putting nearly 60 shots on net — and the games against Boston and New York were solid efforts at 5v5. This was the first game that really gave me pause; they started fine, and then one penalty, another 4v5 goal against, and it was a total fold-job with no pushback whatsoever with a debuting goalie in net. The response in Vegas is going to be telling. I think Babcock is owed the rest of the road trip, at the absolute minimum.


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Pittsburgh Penguins


Game Highlights: Penguins 6 vs. Leafs 1

You’re not a masochist, are you? Google the highlights if so.