Quinn not done yet

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When Pat Quinn came to Toronto, all he wanted to do was coach.

He didn't want to play office politics. He didn't want to have to fill out reports, justifying his decisions to a series of general managers.

He's a career coach. A lifer. All he wanted was to be left alone to stand behind the Maple Leafs bench.

But he has had to work for three GMs of varying degrees of competence. The rest of the time, he assumed the managerial reins himself for no reason other than self-preservation. Self-preservation as coach, that is, not as GM.

He worked for Ken Dryden, a dilettante of the first order whose pomposity and arrogance allowed him to believe that after 16 years away from hockey -- far, far away from hockey -- he could return to the game and out-perform those who never had been away.

Quinn also worked for Mike Smith, a man fixated on all things Russian. Where are you now, Alexander Karpovstev? We know the whereabouts of Mathieu Schneider.

And Quinn worked for himself for awhile, never able to really do the job properly because in today's NHL, no one can be coach and general manager and do both jobs properly.

And now, he's working for John Ferguson Jr. If you believe all the reports, he won't be working for him for long.

The unanimous sentiment among the media is that Quinn is on borrowed time, that after the debacle that has been the 2005-06 season, some sort of atonement will have to be made to the hockey gods. Quinn is believed to be the human sacrifice in question.

It may well be true. It may well be that the board of governors, feeling the need to uphold a decision made by one of its number, will jettison Quinn and keep Ferguson.

But in the time between now and then, don't expect Quinn to kneel and meekly put his head on the block. He loves coaching too much.

On Thursday, for instance, he scratched a pair of veterans to make sure he had room for Alex Suglobov, the product of Ferguson's only deal at the trading deadline.

After all, this game was so important that even a couple of governors might watch. They got to see Ferguson's acquisition on the first line alongside Mats Sundin. It wasn't pretty.

After Saturday's game, as the media wondered what had happened to Alexander Khavanov, Quinn went to find out. The GM's explicit rule is that no one other than himself discloses team medical information.

So, with the GM standing a few feet away, Quinn announced that Khavanov had suffered a broken leg.

The battle has been joined. No matter what inane platitudes Leafs president Richard Peddie might offer on the matter, Quinn and Ferguson are not on the same page.

POINT

The point that Quinn will try to make evident in the coming weeks is this: It's easy to get another GM who is more experienced than Ferguson. But where do you find a coach more experienced than Quinn?

Most fans and much of the media have anointed Paul Maurice as Quinn's successor. But that's not the view in the Leafs front office. It's not that they dislike the job Maurice has done. They love it.

But coaching in the minors and coaching in the majors are two very different jobs requiring two very different sets of responsibilities. There is little sentiment in favour of Maurice's promotion.

Quinn is not the perfect coach. If he is retained, he should be forced to accept certain changes to his status. But that's a different matter. More on that another day.

The point here is that even though Quinn won't challenge Ferguson publicly, he'll make the subtle moves that expose Ferguson's decisions. He wants the board members to see it in simple terms: Who has the greater responsibility for the abysmal performance of this team? The man who coached it or the man who built it?


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