Sharpen that axe

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:36 PM ET


 Jeremy Roenick's killshot last night was just under the crossbar and the question this morning is whether Pat Quinn will take the hit.

 The Maple Leafs coach was his usual eloquent self last night, disconsolate in the wake a gut-wrenching 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

 "I had kind of a feeling that this team had a little bit of destiny to it," Quinn said. "I was convinced we were going to find a way, or make a way, to advance.

 "When you have those hopes and dreams like your fans do, it seems to be devastating."

 The 61-year-old has one more year left on his contract. He has coached the Leafs for six seasons, none of which included a trip to the Stanley Cup final.

 Among his assets has been one of the league's most profligate payrolls, a procession of veterans who wanted to finish their career in Toronto, the great Mats Sundin and top calibre goalies in Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph.

 By way of comparison, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock, the author of the past two Leaf eliminations, now embarks on his fourth appearance in the final -- four to go with the Stanley Cup he won in 1999 with the Dallas Stars.

 Good players gridlocked here, Fred Modin and Alyn McCauley come to mind, and expanded their games when they left town. The play of the club's corps of defencemen has been in neutral for years. That was the fault line last night as the Flyers cashiered their second consecutive two-on-one for the win.

 Quinn is an autocrat, the last of the line now that Scott Bowman is spending his time as a golf marshall and spokesman for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

 Quinn views player accountability as a given and adheres to the belief that the players, not the coach, set the tempo of the dressing room.

 When the Leafs win, and they have managed quite a lot of that in ringing up five 100-point seasons, Quinn has been credited for liberating the players into being their own keepers. When they lose he is too aloof and uncommunicative. Defeat has a way of rendering old school into old fashioned.

 A premium on age has made the Leafs as brittle as rock candy and it's hard to blame Quinn for the knee injury that kept Owen Nolan out of the playoffs or the rebuilt hip that rendered Alexander Mogilny into a non-factor.

 Given the pick of the litter, Wayne Gretzky chose Quinn to guide Team Canada in Salt Lake City and picked him again to lead the team at the World Cup of Hockey.

 And barring a return to the game by Bowman, who could bring a better resume of winning the big one? Joel Quenneville couldn't reach the final either.

 Hey, Jacques Martin is free.

 Kidding.

 This is where the burghers of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment showed some smarts. By divesting Quinn of the title of general manager, they put an impartial voice in charge.

 Quinn would never fire himself. Ferguson will be charted with forging a new direction, especially with a quarter of the Leafs roster headed for retirement should the lockout, as expected, scuttle the game next year.

 "Starting today, preparation will be for going forward," Quinn said last night.

 That means him as well.

 "I have certainly enjoyed my time here and I would like to stay on. I'm not ready to go to the pasture yet."


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