Quinn wary of rules

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The rebirth season of the National Hockey League could be a dream fulfilled for Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn.

The red line will no longer be a factor in offside calls. The tag-up rule is back. Neutral-zone interference will not be tolerated.

In theory, it should make for a much more entertaining spectacle for the fans -- less trapping, more playmaking and more excitement.

But Quinn, who hates the skill-killing game that has been choking the NHL, has been around long enough to realize that his dream easily can turn into a nightmare.

He not only knows that expecting the NHL to crack down is like expecting Adrienne Clarkson to be charming, he also is painfully aware of the mindset of his peers.

NHL coaches play to survive, not to entertain, and Quinn knows that if he himself is to survive, he may be forced to play a game he doesn't like. He may have to match the styles that are imposed upon him by other coaches.

"We're not sure how other teams are going to play," said Quinn, "and obviously, we're going to have to pay a lot of attention to our own division now we play everybody eight times now in our own division."

The Leafs coaching staff already has held meetings to determine the team's approach to the new season, and some of the discussions, Quinn said, "have been about coaches and how they like to play, so that we get a better understanding of what we're going to be facing."

Let's start with the return of the tag-up rule. Won't coaches use that to create more pressure and more prolonged attacks?

Not necessarily, Quinn said. "I think a lot of the coaches won't use it for pressure. They're going to use it as sitting back in that trap position and not really pursue it.

"I hope that's not the case. I hope we do all go back to a pursuit game and see if we can get some real forecheck into our game going forward, but I still think some of these guys, some of these coaches, are going to fall back."

What about the red line being a non-factor? Won't that encourage creative plays? Again, Quinn remains unconvinced.

"The thing that could happen," he said, "is you're going to see a lot of shooting the puck to areas with post-up guys."

The theory is that when a defenceman retrieves the puck after a shoot-in, he doesn't look for a pass, he merely hammers the puck as hard as he can up the ice along the boards.

A player posted at the far blue line then touches it and suddenly, the puck has gone from one end to the other without any creativity.

"It's not playmaking of any sort," Quinn said. "It's just going to be moving the puck to regions, so we're going to see that as well."

Quinn said that he already has heard coaches discussing the tactic and said, "In the world championship, that's the way the Germans did it. That's the way the Finns did it.

"All that guy up there does, is spread the play out. That guy, all he has to do is touch the puck, so it won't necessarily be good playmaking and puck movement."

Although Quinn doesn't identify the culprits, he feels certain that despite the best attempt of NHL vice-president Colin Campbell and his staff to reinstate the offensive nature of the game, the first reaction of coaches will not be to utilize the new rules, but to circumvent them.

And that's why he feels that some of the scenarios he described above are more than likely.

"I hope that's not the case," he said, "but those are things we're trying to prepare for with imagination. But to know what to prepare for with these new rule changes, it's hard to say."


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