Surely the Leafs GM figured it was worth it to see a few players up close who are sure to be made available at the trade deadline from a seventh-place Senators squad.
By night’s end, it was evident the more likely trade partner could be the Calgary Flames, who are moving perilously closer to becoming sellers.
Calgary’s season on the brink hit a new low Wednesday.
In desperate search of a solution to their scoring woes, the only thing the Flames seem capable of finding nowadays are new ways to lose.
Entering the third period with a 1-0 lead and a 13-0-0 record when leading after two, the new, defence-first Flames failed to preserve the win.
An early third-period goal in the midst of a 13-minute stretch without a Flames shot on goal set the stage for Chris Tierney’s second-straight game-winner with eight minutes remaining in a game that ended 3-1.
It sends the lads limping home with three-straight losses on a four-game roadie that leave the Flames four back of a fourth-place Montreal team that has three games in hand.
“It’s not easy losing two here,” said Dillon Dube when asked if his 15-16-3 club had hit rock bottom.
“We had the game in our favour going into the third and it got away from us. So it’s tough. It’s not what you want for sure.”
As has been the case in all eight outings under Darryl Sutter, the effort was there. A desperate, determined Flames club held its own in yet another, plodding defensive battle that was decided by a few tiny mistakes late in the game.
But looking at the big picture, the Flames struggled to get just one goal in each game against a rookie netminder making his first two NHL starts on a young, last-place team that has allowed far more goals than any club in the NHL.
It sets up what could be a terrifying trio of visits from Winnipeg starting Friday that has the potential to all but mathematically eliminate a Flames team that still has 22 games left.
“Right now we’re really feeling this one and letting it sink in,” said Dube, who was instrumental in the forecheck and net-front traffic that allowed Mark Giordano’s point blast to carom off Alex Formenton 13 minutes into the second period.
“We can’t just move one, you’ve got to feel this and let it motivate you for the next one. We’ve got to go home and come strong and take care of that first game. That’s all we need to worry about – we can’t get ourselves stressed out here and worry about all those 14 games.”
The 14 games he’s referring to are the number of home contests remaining for a Flames team that almost certainly will need 16 wins to challenge for a playoff spot.
The club is 8-5-1 at home this year and has given no reason to believe that without the aid of 18,000 frothy fans urging them on, they can somehow turn this ship around in dramatic fashion.
Sutter once again felt his team played well, despite losing to a team that every other club in the north outside of Montreal has feasted on.
They made a 22-year-old goalie feel comfortable despite dealing with a condition that causes numbness in his hands when he’s stressed.
Perhaps the Flames should be checked for a similar condition after scoring just twice in their last three games.
“For long stretches of the game we were playing the right way – we’re checking hard and the effort is there,” said Giordano, whose club has claimed five of a possible 14 points from Ottawa.
“It’s about getting chances and finishing them. Three pretty hard-fought games (on the trip) but our inability to finish our chances is pretty much the difference.”
On Wednesday, the Senators completed their comeback at the tail end of a lengthy clinic in the Calgary zone against a newly-formed line of Milan Lucic, Elias Lindholm and Sam Bennet that saw Noah Hanifin on for more than three minutes before losing his check on the winning rebound.
As Sutter pointed out, the team had three chances to clear the zone, but failed.
“Both games (in Ottawa) feel similar – we didn’t have the ability to lock it down when we needed to in the final minutes there,” said Giordano.
“It’s tough. This (was) a big trip for us. We’ve got to make plays under pressure in all three zones, and that’s the difference.”
The early optimism that came with Sutter’s hire is gone, as the team is 4-4 with him here.
On Wednesday he implemented significant line changes, with the same result.
Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane were reunited, while Dube played with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
To no avail.
One game after throwing 71 shot attempts at the Senators, the Flames threw 67 Wednesday, which included 29 that needed to be stopped by Filip Gustavsson.
Only three were considered high-danger chances by NaturalStatTrick.com.
Not good enough.
Words we’ve heard far too often from the players themselves, some of whom should start to wonder how much longer they’ll be in Calgary.