Consistency lacking on captain-less Leafs


The L-word came up again for the Maple Leafs yesterday.


The L-word came up again for the Maple Leafs yesterday.

Leadership, especially as it applies to executing the Leafs' game plan consistently, is being addressed as the team wrestles with a three-game losing streak.

"I think we need better leadership so we're more consistent – that's an issue we're trying to address," coach Ron Wilson said at practice yesterday.

Wilson feels the club's core players bear some responsibility for the recent slide, one that has muffled the positive effects of a preceding streak of six victories in seven outings.

"It's an issue of a mediocre team – consistency," Wilson said. "If we are more consistent, that would change."

The Leafs are five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the players firmly believe they can prove the naysayers wrong and battle for a post-season berth down to the wire.

The numbers, however, tell a different story. After winning five of their first 11 games – with three of the losses coming in either overtime or the shootout – Toronto has responded with an uninspired 9-13-3 mark.

Better results were expected in two of their last three outings (losses to the New York Islanders and the injury-ravaged Washington Capitals). But in those three games, the Leafs were outshot by a combined 97-75, a startling decline in output for a club that normally directs an average of about 33 shots a game on net (Toronto is ranked fourth in the NHL in both shots on goal per game and shots against per game).

"The game against Dallas (an 8-2 loss on Dec. 23), we were exhausted, but the last two games ... we didn't have enough shots on net, we were playing on the perimeter," Wilson said of the three-game losing skid.

Wilson's club remains without a captain, and there is no timetable to name one. Leadership is the responsibility of a core group of veterans that includes Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Dominic Moore, Matt Stajan and Nik Antropov. That group appears more comfortable leading by example than getting in teammates' faces.

Interestingly, both Kaberle and Kubina recently played their 700th career games. That's as sound a leadership platform as the Leafs have, but neither player is known as a vocal, take-charge type.

"We are confident in (the dressing room)," Kubina said. "We've lost three in a row now, but we're five points out of the playoffs. We believe we're a good team and it's a fun group of guys to be around. It's tough some nights and we have to find a way to get the job done, but we believe we can compete with any team."


Your voice