End is near for Quinn

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn barks out orders at yesterday's practice, but whether his...

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn barks out orders at yesterday's practice, but whether his charges were listening is questionable. (Toronto Sun/Mark O'Neill)

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

The court was convened, the jury was selected, and the star witness for the prosecution was called.

He stated his case eloquently -- so eloquently there could be not the slightest doubt about the verdict.

Guilty!

Pat Quinn is the defendant.

The sentence is that he must go.

And who was that prosecution witness who provided such damning evidence?

None other than Quinn himself.

If you listened to him after Tuesday night's loss to the Washington Capitals, you heard a coach admit his team no longer listens to him. And if that's the case, then the Maple Leafs must have a new man at the helm if they are to make the playoffs.

It matters not that Quinn does his job better than most of his players do theirs. This is not the blame game here.

Quinn is now and always has been a very good coach -- when he wants to be. On some occasions during his tenure, he didn't work as hard at his craft as some of his compatriots, but there never was any doubt about his coaching wisdom.

This year, he has been more than capable behind the bench, but it appears that the seven-year itch has set in. The players have decided they know better.

This is not unusual in professional sports. In fact, by lasting this long with one team, Quinn is far ahead of the curve.

But, by his own admission, he tells his charges what to do and they don't do it.

He would prefer, for instance, that his players issue the occasional bodycheck. He repeatedly tells them this. On the recent trip to Florida, he told them at a decibel level that would send AC/DC running for earplugs.

Here's what he said after the 5-3 loss to the last-place Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

"They were hitting us and we didn't like that. We don't have a (physical-play) mentality and I don't understand why.

"We have a number of players who don't think in terms of physical play. You ask them to finish their checks."

Quinn did not finish that sentence with "but they ignore me."

But he might as well have.

Instead, he went on to say, "The only thing we can do after a while is say, 'Okay, we'll go out and find someone else who does.' "

Right. Trader John Ferguson, well-known throughout hockey for his endless wheeling and dealing, is going to bring in some help?

That's not likely to happen.

But more to the point, Quinn is saying if he's going to be the coach of players who listen to him, those players will have to be acquired by trade.

Some observers suggest the players are unfamiliar with Quinn's game plan.

This certainly is not true. At least, it shouldn't be.

In most practices, Quinn gets out his marker-board and draws the diagrams.

But it does no good.

In an explanation of the club's latest losing streak, Quinn said: "We're not winning because of the intangibles side. It's not those drawings on the board."

Here's another quote from Tuesday night: "We have to take a look at ourselves very closely."

And another one: "We lost because we weren't doing the little things you need to do to be a winner."

If you think for a moment that Quinn hasn't made the Leafs aware of those "little things," you're wrong.

TOO LOYAL

Granted, Quinn is not without his flaws. He has sown some of the seeds of the current malaise by not holding his players sufficiently accountable.

And he has been too loyal to some of them.

If the Tampa Bay Lightning can sit, and eventually release, their captain Dave Andreychuk, Quinn can sit Tie Domi, for example.

Quinn is a players' coach. He treats his players very well. And they have rewarded him by taking advantage of him.

But when that happens, someone invariably drags out the cliche book and intones, "Well, we couldn't fire 23 players."

You know the rest of the sentence.


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