It's the mind that matters

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:45 PM ET


 It has come to this with the Maple Leafs: They don't need a coach anymore, they need Dr. Phil.

 They don't know whether to start thinking or stop thinking.

 They don't know whether to play with fear or fear themselves.

 They don't know whether to run from Bryan McCabe thinking whatever he has might be contagious or cozy up to him and let him know everything will be okay.

 Know this much about the Leafs: They aren't getting a whole lot of pep talks from Pat Quinn or group hugs from any of their teammates at yet another crisis point in yet another playoff series.

 Quinn doesn't believe much in idle chatter, almost as much as he detests being described as uncommunicative.

 He claims hockey doesn't lend itself to oratory. And when asked yesterday about the most inspiring pre-game talk he was party to in his playing days, he deferred only to the late King Clancy.

 "He used to say 'Pitter patter, let's get at her.' "

 And that was it. The great pre-game speech. No historical references to Bobby Baun. No fire, no brimstone. No win one for the Caber.

 This, for the record, is the best and the worst of the Quinn era in Toronto, all of it in evidence in about a six-day period. Two gutsy, character wins at home. One brainless defeat on Sunday in Philadelphia. So the series stands this way: Two wins for Philadelphia. Two wins for Toronto. One room service game delivered by McCabe and friends. One series now on the line.

 No way to explain the schizophrenic nature of the Leafs. At home, they are mature and gritty and savvy. On the road, they are mindless and undisciplined and old.

 There have been so many startling playoff victories in the Quinn years for the Leafs, so many against all odds wins, but almost all of them have come at home or in Ottawa, which shouldn't necessarily count.

 But the disasters, like Game 5, like Game 7 last year, like the six-shot stinker in New Jersey, have been reason enough to call for not just one episode but for an entire week of Dr. Phil.

 History provides Leaf fans every reason to believe and not believe in the team at precisely the same time.

 "I wish I could understand it," said Quinn, who then talked about the Leafs propensity for publicly exposing themselves in a hockey kind of way. "We don't have that Clearisil stuff to hide pimples."

 They are, in many ways, the polar opposites of each other, these teams and these coaches. Ken Hitchcock is a details man.

 He leaves nothing to chance and Philadelphia leads all of hockey in team meetings.

 They meet about faceoffs. They meet about line changes. They meet about regrouping. They meet so often the goalies complain they have worn out their pads sitting through so many meetings. They meet to have meetings.

 Hitchcock, like it or not, talks to everyone. He talks to them, lectures them, challenges them, annoys them, argues with them, phones them at home.

 Quinn talks to the press only because he has to.

 When Quinn pulled Ed Belfour on Sunday, the two never spoke. He was reminded yesterday of Sparky Anderson's famous line about calling the longest walk in baseball going to the mound to remove Jack Morris from a game.

 "I'm glad I didn't have to go on the ice to tell him," said Quinn of pulling Belfour, who likes being yanked about as much as he enjoys shaving.

 So here it is. Game 6. The Leafs frail after a horrible defeat in Philadelphia.

 Some careers on the line. Some careers at the end.

 The last hockey game in Toronto in who knows how long or maybe another beginning.

 Nobody knows. Nobody ever knows. The Leafs are tender. The question is: Are they done?


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