Viewed from some angles, the Maple Leafs are the very picture of a fishtailing big rig. They haven’t managed a win in five straight games. Key men in charge of defensive-zone coverage have been nodding off mid-game. Coach Randy Carlyle is flipping lines in practice like a merciless kid with a video controller.

You can get the distinct sense that bad things could happen if they don’t promptly halt this season-long slump; that the fishtailing rig could devolve into the jackknifed tractor-trailer that becomes the Burke-ian 18-wheeler speeding off a proverbial cliff.

But for all the gathering panic in Leafland in the lead-up to a Wednesday-Thursday back-to-back with Tampa Bay and Buffalo in which the Leafs desperately need a win, there is relative serenity in pockets of the roster that could have been expected to be mid-crisis flashpoints.

The Free Jake Gardiner movement never did arrive at the gates of Ricoh Coliseum with their pitchforks and torches; the slick-skating defenceman who played 75 games for the Leafs a season ago is expected be in the lineup for Wednesday night’s home game against the Lightning after spending most of his long recovery from a concussion with the Marlies. Gardiner surely would have arrived with the big club at least a few days earlier had his agent not lobbied for his promotion with a now-infamous Twitter post. But now that he’s got himself out of the minors, it will be good to see if he can get the puck out of the Toronto end.