Leafs face spring cleaning

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

TORONTO -- Changes are on the horizon in Leaf Nation. While Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson is expected to survive any purge once the season officially ends on Tuesday, coach Pat Quinn likely won't be so lucky.

Despite the Leafs' late-season run for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the fans and media here want somebody to pay the price for Toronto's shortcomings and it appears that will be Quinn.

Yes, many in Hogtown believe Ferguson is to blame for what's happened here, but Leafs ownership was told by the GM before the season began that missing the playoffs was a distinct possibility and those who run things out of the Air Canada Centre bought into the program.

But the time has come to give Ferguson a chance to put his own coach in place. He tried it with Quinn behind the bench and it hasn't worked.

Toronto Marlies coach Paul Maurice has been working nearby with the Leafs' AHL affiliate and he's a natural choice with a proven NHL record -- having taken the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup final in 2002.

Then, Ferguson can spend the $20 million US he'll have to sign unrestricted free agents this summer.

The Leafs might not be around in the post-season, but there's going to be plenty of action in Toronto this spring.

CHANGES IN L.A.: It won't take long for the axe to fall on Kings GM Dave Taylor once the season ends. President Tim Leiweke is getting ready to clean house and it's going to start with Taylor, but don't be surprised if everybody goes. There are whispers the Kings might try to get Coyotes owner/coach Wayne Gretzky to return to the club and take over Taylor's duties. Gretzky has been non-committal about returning to Phoenix next season and it's believed he wants to be closer to his family living in the Los Angeles area. Yes, this is a long shot, but it would make a lot of sense because Gretzky would bring credibility to the Kings franchise. Other names that have surfaced in connection with the job are former San Jose GM Dean Lombardi, former Florida GM Rick Dudley, NHL VP Mike Murphy and former Rangers GM Neil Smith. Murphy, a finalist for the Ottawa job before John Muckler was hired, is a former member of the Kings.

AROUND THE BOARDS: It isn't expected to take long for the Penguins to start cleaning house by getting rid of GM Craig Patrick and coach Michel Therrien ... Florida G Roberto Luongo has been invited to play for Team Canada at the world championship next month in Latvia with teammates Nathan Horton and Jay Bouwmeester. All three are expected to attend ... Speaking of Gretzky, he was sorry to see former teammate Luc Robitaille announce his retirement from the Kings last week. "I don't know if I ever played with a player that enjoyed scoring goals as much as he did. I think everybody loves to score, but he truly willed his way into scoring the goals that he scored," said Gretzky. "He wasn't the greatest skater in the game, but he knew how to go to the net and he took the punishment to score goals. And he won the hearts of fans of L.A."

RUMOURS DU JOUR: There will be a bidding war for Senators D Zdeno Chara in July and already teams are lining up. There is talk out of Boston once the GM situation is settled there -- interim GM Jeff Gorton is a front-runner along with Lombardi and former Hawks GM Mike Smith -- the Bruins are going to make a pitch. Florida and Toronto are both expected to make big offers to Chara, too ... If the Senators do lose Chara as a UFA don't be surprised if they make a pitch for Vancouver D Ed Jovanovski. While it's expected he'll re-sign with the Canucks, there's a lot of talk he's going to shop around first and he'd be a nice fit in Ottawa ... The Canucks are expected to fire coach Marc Crawford after missing the playoffs. He's been there a long time and is one of the top coaches in the NHL, but the club needs to make a big change ... There is talk Toronto D Bryan McCabe could sign with the Isles as an unrestricted free agent ... If the Kings don't give C Sean Avery a qualifying offer, he'll be shopping himself around as an UFA. Toronto and Phoenix could show interest ... Speaking of the Coyotes, G Curtis Joseph has said he'd like to return to the club next season ... Don't expect to see Vancouver RW Todd Bertuzzi play another game in a Canucks uniform after this season. Several teams showed an interest at the trade deadline and GM David Nonis will likely make a deal at the draft. Here's an interesting note: The Thrashers held talks with the Canucks about a Bertuzzi for Dany Heatley deal last summer before the latter was sent to the Senators ... The Kings aren't going to re-sign C Jeremy Roenick. Expect to see him return to Phoenix if Gretzky is still there ... The Blues only have a week to decide whether they're going to pick up the $3.8-million option on LW Keith Tkachuk. If not, he'll become an UFA ... The Blackhawks have given coach Trent Yawney a vote of confidence. Maybe they should put him out of his misery.

Have a nice Sunday and a Happy Easter.

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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