Leafs fourth-liners Sam Carrick and Zach Sill don’t make the millions of dollars that their highly-paid teammates do.

But on Thursday, they provided the most bang for the buck out of all the players on the Toronto roster.

Combining for eight hits in limited ice time, the youngsters were the only ones praised by interim coach Peter Hoarchek following the Leafs lethargic 4-1 loss to San Jose at Air Canada Centre.

“I think that every single time we step on the ice, we’re showing ourselves,” Hoarchek said. “You’re showing yourselves to the fans and to the management. Our character has got to be important. One thing that you can give to your teammates and to your fans is an attitude.

Your work ethic doesn’t have to change. I see Carrick working hard, I see Sill working hard, doing what he can as a fourth-line player.”

Once again the Leafs were played by a slow start, looking unprepared and confused. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier was left to his own device over the first twenty minutes during which Toronto was outshot 21-8. San Jose got the opening goal just over seven minutes into the game after Morgan Rielly was caught in no-man’s land, hesitating during a retreat towards the puck, looking for an icing.

Instead, the Sharks gained possession and Tomas Hertl netted his 12th goal of the year.

After an early power play goal by Logan Couture in the middle frame, the Leafs briefly gained some momentum, fuelled by Jake Gardiner’s tally that ended a personal 44-game goal drought for the defenceman.

But San Jose restored their two-goal lead after Dion Phaneuf left Melker Karlsson unguarded in front of Bernier, the Sharks forward one-timing a centering pass from Joe Thornton for the score. Although the Leafs never really competed from then on, a goal credited to Tommy Wingels with 5.1 seconds left in the period was merely adding insult to injury.

“We were probably a junior team against an NHL team tonight,” said Bernier.

The $8-million man Phil Kessel was a minus-3 on the night. While plus/minus isn’t necessarily an indicator of a player’s defensive ability, it’s worth noting that at the time the final buzzer sounded, Kessel’s rating of minus-35 on the season was a league worst.

Now, no one is saying that Carrick and Sill play on the same talent level as Kessel.

But if the high-priced stars brought the same effort as the foot soldiers too, perhaps the fans would get their money’s worth as well.

This game recap is dedicated to the memory of CapGeek founder Matthew Wuest, who passed away from cancer on Thursday. TMLfans.ca sends its condolences to the Wuest family.

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

Follow TMLfans.ca on Twitter: @Rob_DelMundo