* Toronto hockey seer Howard Berger says the Maple Leafs "refused to show up for work" on Thursday night in St.Louis. Since I trust Berger's judgement, the question must be asked: how come millionaires such as David Clarkson and the esteemed captain Dion Phaneuf not come to work?

* Remember that the Maple Leafs represent the biggest fan base of the 30 NHL teams. If any club is obligated to perform its best, it's Randy Carlyle's sextet. Imagine if 18 workers came to an auto plant in Oshawa, Ontario and decided to just schmooze and not work.

* Mind you, it's not only the Leafs when it comes to letting down. Maybe it's a function of players knowing they can get away with it. But, really, we're only asking a max of 28 minutes of work for a fortune in return. What gives wth these guys?

* Rarely has a pheenom rookie received so little attention for so much accomplishment than Tomas Hertl. At last look the freshman Shark scored his team-leading 15th goal and third game-winner. Plus Hertl leads NHL rookies in goals, points and shots on goal. And he still hasn't received a good nickname!

* Concern about Henrik Lundqvist's goaltending after Hank was yanked on Thursday night is justified. My solution would be for coach Alain Vigneault to just keep playing The King until he finds his groove. Benching does not appear to answer the equation.

* Without question, the most underplayed Stanley Cup contender this very moment is the St.Louis Blues. (By the way, where oh where are the Ken Hitchcock critics of yesteryear?)

* Now Patty LaFontaine has competition in his search for a general manager. The way the Sabres new boss is taking his time, it would not surprise me if Brian Burke has his new g.m. in place before his Buffalo counterpart gets around to it.

* Speaking of the Sabres, can anyone accurately determine precisely how good -- or not so good -- a job Ted Nolan is doing behind the Buffalo bench? I can't.

* Reader Alan Greenberg, based in Florida, writes, "Crazy, long-term contracts always come back to haunt." (Didn't happen with Martin Brodeur.)

* When will we ever hear a discouraging word from the NHL Players' Association about card-holders maiming fellow card-holders. (Or is mum the word?) 

* Did Steve Yzerman whip Bryan Murray in the Ben Bishop deal, or what? (Cory Conacher sure faded fast, didn't he?)

* David Clarkson sure was all hot-and-excited about moving to Toronto. I wonder if the feeling still exists? In him -- in the hearts of the Leafs high command?

* Brian Burke says he wants "Black and blue hockey in Calgary." Which is well and good but it depends on how the black-and-blue marks are inflicted. (Remember, Burke once had the job that Brendan Shanahan now owns as Warden of Black and Blue.

* Keith Kinkaid, the Long Island-reared goaltending prodigy with the AHL Albany Devils must practice extreme patience and fortitude. Although KK is NHL ready now, he'll just have to wait until Martin Brodeur decides once and for all to hang up the pads.

* Time to give Howard Dolgon a standing ovation. The Syracuse Crunch owner won the Crystal Ball Award for community development work. Those who know Dolgon best will attest that he's been one of the most constantly creative owners in all of pro hockey. I'd love to see him run an NHL team.