First it was Phil Kessel.
Then his coach.
And both had the same message, one day after the Toronto Maple Leafs were mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
They're embarrassed at how their season has played out.
"It's embarrassing what we're doing here," Kessel said quietly after practice Wednesday, as his team prepared to play out their final five games beginning Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers. "We've got to pick it up a little bit here."
"We're somewhat embarrassed by what has happened," coach Randy Carlyle said. "And we should be."
What has happened has been well chronicled of late, with Toronto's current 5-16-3 slide picked apart after each loss to the point there's little left for the players and organization to say over the next two weeks.
Carlyle, however, has been rather eloquent on the subject over the past few days, speaking at length about pride and passion and what's needed to turn things around.
On Wednesday, the subject turned to the Leafs sizable fan base and how the team had, for a seventh straight season, let them down.
An Ontario native who was drafted by the franchise in 1976, Carlyle said he understood what it meant for Toronto to have sunk to these depths, pointing out the large following he's seen during the team's recent road trip through Tampa and Ottawa.
"We feel as bad about this as anybody," Carlyle said. "We're not very happy. We're nowhere near satisfied with what we've been able to accomplish [as a coaching staff]in a short period of time.
"We actually talked about that this morning, about the fans and how passionate [they are] how much the fans in Toronto give to the hockey club. We have to understand that there's a higher level of responsibility back from us a hockey club to deliver more.
"We're very, very fortunate to have those people supporting our group."
That fan base has turned on the team – first calling for Ron Wilson's head, then booing the team heavily during each loss – over this recent stretch, which includes an ugly 0-7-3 record at home dating back to early February.
The players, however, weren't exactly calling for any sympathy on Wednesday, with Kessel leading the way in terms of owning their poor play.
"Right now, we're just not playing good hockey, to tell you the truth," Kessel said. "I don't know what's going on, but we've just got to play better.
"Obviously [the fans]are disappointed, but we're more disappointed. We want to win every game here. We want to make the playoffs. We want to do as best we can. To come up short again this year is a disappointment for everyone in this room."
- There's something curious going on in the Leafs crease right now. James Reimer is out with an upper body injury that is believed to be a recurrence of the concussion-like symptoms he was experiencing early in the year, and Ben Scrivens was taking part in practice along with Jonas Gustavsson.
Carlyle had a cryptic comment about how a change would be made to the team's goaltending situation come Thursday, so we'll have to stay tuned for that. (It may be as simple as Jussi Rynnas coming back up, although he was practising with the Marlies on Wednesday.)
- Carlyle on Reimer's health: "James has had treatment today and he's still not feeling like himself. Anytime a player comes back to you and says he doesn't feel like himself you're going to take the necessary precautions... I don't think it's to that level [he experienced earlier in the year]but you always are going to have caution when there is a history of some of that... We're going to make sure we're extra cautious."
- Part of the reason Scrivens may not get starts in the NHL is that the Marlies are in a battle for playoff position and have only eight games remaining.
Scrivens has been terrific in the AHL the last two months, with a .940 save percentage in his last 21 games, and the organization wants him to be part of a long postseason run. Getting shelled in a few garbage time games with the Leafs may not be seen as being the best thing for his development.
- Currently in fifth last in the NHL, the Leafs would have an 8.1 per cent chance of jumping up to the first overall pick if the draft lottery was held now.Report Typo/Error