All's not well down at the ACC

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

The unspoken tension between Pat Quinn and John Ferguson comes to a whispering light in the wake of the trade that yesterday sent Sergei Fedorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

If there ever was a serious opportunity to unload the unhappy centre, Jason Allison, then Columbus was supposed to be the place.

Instead it's Goodbye, Columbus, as the market tightens, the control-freak coach detests the insubordination and the micro-managing general manager attempts to right a wrong that is partially his own creation.

STUCK WITH ALLISON

And for now, and maybe for the rest of this season, the Leafs are stuck with Allison. Which, depending on the night and the number of power plays involved, is either a good thing or a bad thing.

Make no mistake, though, these are not necessarily cohesive times for the Maple Leafs, even though the team's record belies some of the inside pressures and discord that exists. Quinn and Ferguson may be reading from the same book, but they're not necessarily on the same page here.

The very fact that the clever Quinn intentionally let it slip that Allison asked for additional ice time the other day was certainly no slip of the tongue. There are few accidents in Quinn's world. Letting the world know Allison was second-guessing was Quinn's not so subtle way of saying: "Don't screw with me, kid. This is my team."

Quinn long has been one of those old school coaches who wants his business to stay his business, sneaks little to anyone, and truly wants no one to know what's really going on with his team.

He detests leaks. He detests when others -- especially media members -- know more about his hockey family than he knows. A career autocrat, he has but one way of communicating -- his way.

You don't ask Pat Quinn for more ice time and expect satisfaction. For years, his better players have privately complained about their ice time, but few have ever gone to him and asked for an explanation.

And you don't, as Allison did, go to the general manager and plead your case for more ice time when the coach gives you no satisfaction.

That's what agents are for.

Quinn, in this way, is not at all like the legendary Scotty Bowman. Bowman, at his best, liked nothing better than to start a brush fire and then watch the flames all around him burn. He operated often in an environment of great tension and angst.

If a player like Allison went over his head the way he did with Quinn, he would find himself so buried he would need a magnifying glass to find his name on the gamesheet.

Quinn probably doesn't have the freedom to find Allison a seat somewhere near Wade Belak and Mariusz Czerkawski, and if he did, how would Ferguson explain that $4.5 million of inflexible salary cap payroll was tied up in a player who can only marginally contribute. That, by itself, contributes to the pressure on the coach, and the pressure on the general manager.

The Leafs are expected to win and Ferguson has promised they will win and Quinn has searched to make his roster work, with only marginal success so far.

"We're yet to see our team the way I envision it," Quinn said. "I don't know what the eventual answer is."

He is saying that under the most extreme pressure, he has been in a rather unpressured tenure coaching the Leafs. For a long time, he only answered to himself and only if he felt like it.

Ferguson is under a pressure all his own. He has been given the freedom to create this team however he chooses to. He made odd decisions in qualifying expendable free agents such as Aki Berg and Nik Antropov -- when inexpensive minor leaguers could take their roster spots -- only to now attempt to find new homes for them as well.

So Quinn now tries to make sense of the roster and Ferguson tries to enhance it by moving those he never should have signed in the first place.

And despite a winning record, all is not happy in Leaf land.

"We still have to figure out what we want to be," said Quinn.


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