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Leafs nearing rock bottom Add to ...

If this isn't as bad as it gets, it has to at least be close.

A 5-0 loss - the sixth time they have been shut out in the last 16 games - and a hometown crowd that has clearly had enough of a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has laboured to put a puck in the net ever since a long forgotten 4-0 start to the season.

Making matters worse, this time the loss came against one of the worst possible opponents, an Edmonton Oilers team that finished 30th last season and is still very much in the beginning stages of a wholesale rebuild.

And it certainly didn't help that the goals came from three former world junior stars, with one smiling, young face celebrating right after another.

In all fairness, Toronto had its chances on the night, at times carrying the balance of play, something coach Ron Wilson focused on in his postgame press conference as he continues to try to point out the positives in a strange break from character.

The Leafs pushed hard in the early going, with Phil Kessel getting the best chances, but after out shooting Edmonton 12-4 in the first period, they still couldn't squeeze a puck past netminder Nikolai Khabibulin.

When the Oilers youngsters then began to find the back of the net, chasing Jonas Gustavsson early in the second period at 2-0, desperation - then exasperation - set in.

Sam Gagner's 3-0 goal with 2.6 seconds left in the second was the back breaker, a marker the Leafs likely believed insurmountable given they simply haven't been able to score at the best of times over the past 20 games.

Toronto then folded in the third, and after several rounds of boos for the home side, the crowd turned its attention to the coach, with a fair portion of the Air Canada Centre engaging in the first "Fire Wilson" chant of his two-plus year tenure in Toronto.

The players all heard it. Some, like Francois Beauchemin, refused to comment at all, but others defended Wilson, acknowledging the group's heart wasn't in the game after the third goal against.

"The crowd, they pay big money and they're there every night for us," netminder J-S Giguere said. "So I understand their reaction. They're expecting effort. They understand, they know the game, we're not going to win every night. They know when we don't work as hard as we can.

"The reaction is very understandable. They have years of frustration."

Leafs rookie Nazem Kadri agreed.

"You can't blame them," Kadri said. "We didn't exactly play the best hockey in that third and the entire game really. I honestly felt, first period, we absolutely dominated, and somehow we came out of that period down 1-0 so we've got to figure out how to stay on top and keep battling throughout the rest of the game."

Clarke MacArthur, who has been one of the most outspoken Leafs of late and defended Wilson several times the past few weeks, again reiterated the coaching staff is not to blame.

"It's too bad it goes that way [with fans against Wilson]" MacArthur said. "If anything they should be calling us out in here. We're the guys out on the ice not getting it done. I don't look into any of that and I don't think anyone on the team should or anyone else. I've said it before, it comes from the guys in here. The systems and that are the same everywhere you go. It's just about us wanting to buy in and do it.

"I just felt like we almost quit on the goalies there a little bit and it's not acceptable. You go into the game all ready to go, the systems are all laid out and then we don't want to follow them. It's one of those things where if we don't all buy in, you know you're going to have nights like this and we didn't buy in tonight.

"We've got to show some pride. Tonight was just one of those games where you just want to find a cliff and jump off it almost. It was just so bad."

Whether or not Wilson still has his players' support, however, may not matter, as almost no NHL bench boss has ever survived as many losses as this team has in the past 188 games and not neared their end.

The only pressing question if a coaching change does come in the near future?

Will it help?

 

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