Don Cherry feels the Maple Leafs’ pain.
“I never really kick guys when they are down, and boy, are they down now,” Cherry said.
“I was in that with Colorado (when he coached the Rockies in the 1979-80). You can’t believe how you feel. (Coach) Peter (Horachek) and (assistant coach) Steve (Spott), I feel so sorry for them.
“You go to bed thinking of it and the family suffers.
“It’s a nightmare. At the time I was the highest-paid coach (in the NHL) and I would have given it all up just to win it. No way I am kicking them when they are down because they are in a nightmare.”
The Leafs, following their loss in Ottawa against the Senators on Wednesday night, are 10 points behind the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto enters the all-star break with a 1-7 record in the eight games Horachek has coached since the firing of Randy Carlyle. In their past 17 games, they have lost 14 in regulation.
Cherry didn’t have much use for those who have taken to tossing Leafs sweaters on to the ice at the Air Canada Centre.
“They are jerks,” Cherry said. “Four or five guys. They come in with the sweaters to throw on the ice. They are hoping they lose. They are jerks. I can not believe people sit beside them and watch them throw and somebody does (not) do something about it.
“They are creeps, as far as I am concerned, that would do that.”
Cherry is coaching in the Canadian Hockey League top prospects game on Thursday night at the Meridian Centre and will face Connor McDavid, who is skating for Team Orr.
Would Cherry assign a player to check McDavid? Perish the thought.
“Guys are here to show their skills and stuff like that,” Cherry said. “He will be running free tonight and you will see McDavid at his best.”
And don’t bother bringing up a comparison of McDavid and his only competition for the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft, American forward Jack Eichel.
“(Eichel) is a nice kid,” Cherry said. “But you guys have made him up … who is going to be No. 1? These guys, what are they smoking? Nice kid, but there is no comparison with McDavid.
“I have seen (McDavid) since he was 15 and you could see right off the bat he had that magic. I think he will (make an impact in the NHL right away). They will be running him and he has to expect that, but I think he will be like (Jason) Spezza and (Steven) Stamkos. Not quite as big as those guys but he has those magic hands and that is what you have to have.”