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A dejected Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs leaves the ice after a defeat against the Arizona Coyotes in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 29, 2015 in Toronto.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

After a while, I'm sure guys lose their confidence."

Joffrey Lupul had been out of the lineup since Dec. 31, a span where his team has had one of the worst months in NHL history. But he could see what was happening from the sidelines and gave the most honest assessment after yet another loss Thursday, this time to the Arizona Coyotes, one of the few teams still behind them in the standings.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in freefall. They have been for more than a month.

They know it.

If you think "worst months in NHL history" is hyperbole, consider this: They have one win and only three points in the 12 games, a 1-10-1 stretch in which they've been outscored 40-16.

Now pucks are going in from well beyond the centre line.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson's fluke long bomb Thursday helped highlight how fragile the Leafs are right now. He lobbed in the tying goal five seconds into the third period from his own blueline and that appeared to deflate Toronto almost entirely.

Especially when another stinker beat Jonathan Bernier less than four minutes later.

This after they were outshot 21-6 in the second period by an Arizona team that has one of the weakest offences in the league.

Interim coach Peter Horachek is in a difficult spot. He was put into this role with the mandate to clean up the Leafs defensive deficiencies, but he also took over a team with already low confidence that has now been wiped out by the subsequent stretch with one win in 10 games.

Toronto has had some solid games under his tutelage – including playing the Kings to a near-draw – but what the veteran coach sees now is a cowed team, a group unnerved by its fourth collapse in four seasons.

After the loss to the Coyotes, Horachek kept talking about one word – resilience – and he did it for a reason.

His team seems to have very little.

"We've got to be more resilient," he said. "We've got to find ways to win now.

"We understand that you're going to go through these things and you've got to prop them back up. You've got to be resilient. You've got to be mentally tough. You deal with these negative things like having a couple fluky goals go in and you've got to move onto the next day.

"It's got to be a whole new day. You can't put your best foot forward if you're pouting or feeling sorry for yourself or making excuses. You've just got to go back to work."

At some point, they will, and they'll win. You aren't a 3-15-1 team forever unless you're an expansion team in another era.

The reality of where the Leafs are in the standings right now means that doesn't matter. They have a greater chance of winning the lottery and getting Connor McDavid (6.5 per cent) than of making the playoffs (under 2 per cent, but essentially nil).

The final 32 games have to be about what comes in the summer and the year after that and the year after that, part of a vitally important time for the franchise to look long and hard at what it is and what it's trying to be.

The casualty in the short term may well be these games and this group's confidence because they don't matter. Horachek failing doesn't matter. Bernier letting in a long bomb doesn't either.

What matters is that president Brendan Shanahan sees what he needs to see in this mess well enough to evaluate what can be salvaged and salvages it.

It's going to be a remarkable rescue effort if he can pull it off because this is as bad as it's been in a long time.

The only question now is how much deeper the hole goes.

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