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The Globe and Mail

Leafs try to take lessons from lost season

One member of the Toronto Maple Leafs apologized outright to the fans.

Another said they deserved to have furniture hurtled at them after ending the season with a 7-18-4 record over their final 29 games.

And every single player who spoke to the media Monday expressed profound disappointment over missing the playoffs yet again during a sombre final day at the Air Canada Centre.

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"Sorry," defenceman Cody Franson said after being asked what message he would give the Leafs fan base. "Obviously we wanted a different outcome."

"We won the last game at home there, I mean, we got a standing ovation from the fans," Clarke MacArthur said. "What does that say about Toronto?

"For how we went down at the end, it could have been chairs coming at us onto the ice. And they're cheering for us. We owe it to them to get something done here. That day is going to come."

Despite sitting in playoff position until mid-February, the Leafs finished the season with the fifth worst record in the league and five fewer points than a year ago.

Goaltending was an issue off and on all year, but during a season-killing 2-13-2 slide that began Feb. 7 in Winnipeg, little went right for Toronto.

The players all had similar answers when asked what they could learn from one of the worst midseason collapses the franchise has ever had.

"It just shows you that this is a tough league," MacArthur said. "You can't let your foot off the gas, and if you have a leak, you've got to fix it right away. Because one thing can lead to the next. That happened here."

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"You've got to find a way to avoid those big slumps," added Luke Schenn. "You can't have those off months."

"I think that's the biggest thing we've got to take out of this year," Franson said. "If we get that kind of curveball thrown at us again, we've got to do a better job of handling it rather than letting it snowball on us."

"It's a tough league and it gets tougher to win as the year goes on," John-Michael Liles said.

The only news coming out of the day was the fact that netminder James Reimer revealed his concussion-like symptoms have been diagnosed as a neck injury and leading scorer Phil Kessel was playing through a wrist injury during the tail end of the season.

Neither player needs surgery for their injuries but will continue to receive treatment in the coming weeks and months.

Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, meanwhile, announced he will play for Team Canada at the world championships next month in Finland and Sweden. He'll be joined overseas by teammate Mikhail Grabovski, who'll play for Belarus.

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Monday marks the last time the Leafs will appear as a team until next year's training camp, but head coach Randy Carlyle and general manager Brian Burke are expected to hold a press conference Tuesday to offer their final thoughts on the season.

Burke will also be on hand at TSN's Toronto studios later that night as the NHL holds its annual lottery draft. The Leafs have an 8.1-per-cent chance of winding up with the top pick should they win the lottery.

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