No shock to Quinn

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Pat Quinn is many things, but one thing he's not is naive.

He began the hockey season, as he does every season, safe in the knowledge that his team would get whacked by injuries.

It's just that he had no idea his post-game and post-practice interview sessions would turn into Dr. Quinn, Medicine Man quite so quickly.

Having had a day to digest that his best player and team captain will be sidelined at least a month -- and maybe much longer -- Quinn has moved on.

Mats Sundin is out at least for a month, and perhaps longer. Jeff O'Neill, a prize signing this past summer, is out at least for tonight's game with a shoulder injury, and Quinn is worried his might also be a longer stay on the shelf.

"It's not about who's not here, it's about who's here," Quinn said after yesterday's workout. "We'll concentrate on the guys we have and know we have the same intentions, even though Mats is not there. Those intentions are to be a good team and win. We're not going to replace him. There are not many Mats's out there. But we have 23 guys here now and they'll be challenged to be a good team, just as we always do."

That said, before the injury, Quinn had been anticipating big things from his captain this season.

"It was a big blow, especially since it was our top guy, our captain," Quinn said. "He was really strong this year in training camp. He had a lot of jump, he looked like that year away had rekindled a lot of the good feelings he has had about this team and his game."

Recent Leaf history is dotted with similar situations, where key players have been medically unfit but others stepped up to carry the club.

Quinn is counting on the same thing happening here.

"It speaks to the strength and the character of the guys here that they can dig down and come up with an ability to share the load like good teams do," he said. "You never replace some of the guys we have lost from time to time over the years but we've always found a way to step up and compete real hard."

Kyle Wellwood was recalled from the Marlies to replace Sundin on the roster and Quinn was inclined to throw him right in tonight against Montreal, winners of their first two games.

"Old Hal Laycoe used to say 'With every injury a star is born,' " Quinn said. "Could very well be the case, as far as his performance in exhibition was quite good, his training camp was quite good. It shows he has been developing and it's going to continue and it might continue with us, depending upon how healthy we remain and with the close proximity of the Marlie team.

"You never know, maybe with this opportunity he impresses enough for us to determine he should be here all the time."

It already is becoming obvious that having the team's top farm club situated about two kilometres down the Lakeshore Boulevard, rather than 2,100 kilometres away in Newfoundland, is going to pay benefits.

Carlo Colaiacovo has been up and down and up and down and up and down without even packing a suitcase.

Wellwood also has been demoted and promoted without an airplane ride.

Quinn said Wellwood could even earn himself a spot on the shootout team, an innovation Quinn has little enthusiasm for.

"I don't like it," he said.

"The whole essence of the sport disappears. It's like deciding a basketball game with free throws. Or the quarterback at the end of the game gets to throw the football through a tire.

"At that point, it's not a team thing. It's an individual deciding the game. I'd rather tack on (more time) or play until the game is decided."

That said, Quinn knows he has to play the hand he has been dealt, whether it's a new wrinkle in the rulebook or an injury to his best player.


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