SUN Hockey Pool

Quinn is a rules optimist

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

If Pat Quinn gets his way, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be an entertaining team.

They won't always win. They may not be good enough. But that's no longer Quinn's department. He's no longer the general manager. His job is simply to get the most out of the lineup he has been given.

To that end, he hopes that the National Hockey League is serious this time when it says it intends to enforce the rules.

He has been burned before. In fact, he's convinced that if the league had kept its earlier promises, he'd still be running a highly successful team in Vancouver -- the one he built to take advantage of one of the promised crackdowns, only to see the old ways return after a couple of months.

But that's ancient history. When asked if he's more optimistic this time, he says, "I'm hopeful again, yes."

Quinn has never made any secret of his opposition to the trapping, defence-first game and he's hoping that finally, he can play the style he loves.

"I've always believed that I wanted at least three lines that can play the game," he said. "I don't want you going out there thinking that you've just got to check and not get beat.

"I want to see this game played the way it should be played with give-and-go and flair and openness and yes, commitment to defence when you lose the puck."

Quinn knows that no team can win if it ignores defence, but he would like to see the pendulum swing back a bit.

"When you play that (open) game, there's a responsibility," he conceded. "You've go to get it back and you've got to keep it out of your net, or else what happens is that, to win, you've got to say, 'Sorry boys. We can't play that way. We've got to pull it back in and we're just going to play kitty-bar-the-door and ugly hockey."

With all the new rules and the new interpretations of old rules, an aura of uncertainty hangs over the league, so Quinn is hedging his bets.

"We don't know exactly what to expect as far as the style of play and we want to be ready if there is room.

"Our philosophy is going to be the same. We're going to try to keep the puck as long as we can, even though there are times you have to give it up."

Had the Leafs grabbed defenceman Oleg Tverdovsky, who was offered to them, they would have increased the speed at the back end that Quinn thinks will be a major asset. But even so, he plans to do the best he can with what he has.

"If we stick with the rules, and we are really going to crack down on interference, especially through mid-ice, then the bigger, slower defencemen might have trouble playing," he said.

"Let's face it, those big guys, they latch on a lot. That's their strength. So if that latch-on is gone, then now it's footwork that you have to deal with ... and it might be hard."

But with a couple of notable exceptions, the Leafs' defence isn't unduly slow.

"First of all what I like, all of our guys can pass the puck," Quinn said. "But we can carry it too, so hopefully from the back end, we'll get some good offence if there's going to be that kind of room."

And then it's up to the forwards to make the most of the territorial advantage.

"What's going to be interesting too is we're going to have that little bit bigger offensive zone," Quinn said. "It will probably mean less play behind the net, but I think there'll be a lot of interesting offensive-zone play that has movement.

"When we see that cycling now, it's all down in the corner and it's kind of ugly. I think we'll see more movement and we've got some guys who are big strong guys who can move around well down there."

Mobile defence? Offensive-zone movement? It sounds as if it should be entertaining. If the league keeps its promises, it will be.


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