Changes brewing?

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

With one game to play, the post mortem has begun at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., where playoff dates are dark for the Leafs and Raptors.

"I've been reviewing (the performance) of senior people since the start of April," MLSEL president Richard Peddie said yesterday. "That will have an end date and a whole written component."

But he was reluctant to confirm whether Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr. or coach Pat Quinn already have been assessed, except to say his report will be forwarded to the full MLSEL board later this spring.

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Quinn, proceeding as he has every spring since 1999, plans to begin individual player interviews this week after the schedule concludes this evening against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

As for the timing of any major changes, theoretically they could come around July 1. If the Leafs are contemplating moves to the executive or coaching staff, that gives them breathing room to consider some names who might be under contract to other organizations.

Both Ferguson and Quinn are under contract next season, and Peddie said: "I'm not going to speculate" when asked about a decision date for deciding on changes.

In the meantime, Peddie and executive vice-president, business, Tom Anselmi face a summer of criticism in a major hockey market approaching 40 years without a Stanley Cup. Where Quinn, Ferguson and the players get flak for an inferior on-ice product, Peddie and Anselmi are often accused of treating fans like ATMs, believing the loyalists would fill the ACC every Leafs game even if they didn't lift a finger.

"Give us one reason we wouldn't want to win," a frustrated Peddie said.

"Some people have looked at the Blue Jays after they won two World Series and that their crowds went down. But that's a completely different situation than us.

"We'd like nothing better than to win a Cup, then a second Cup or a third Cup. Winning is good business. If nothing else, it would mean that (club chairman) Larry Tanenbaum and the rest of us would not get beaten up every day in the press for not winning."

The Leafs will be losing something in the neighbourhood of $2 million to $3 million Cdn (gross) per potential playoff game.

"It's a unique business, but in the end, pro sports is all about winning," Anselmi said. "So we're all disappointed this year -- fans, owners and management.

"For the past 10 years we have been one of the most competitive teams in the league in terms of the number of playoff games in that period. This has been a winning franchise under this ownership.

"But has the world changed in the past two years? Certainly. Because of the salary cap, we can't be a top spender anymore. We have got to catch up on the player development side and John (Ferguson) has committed to that."

With the salary cap rising from a projected $39 million US into the range of $43 million next season, Quinn predicts the team will use all of the extra room.

"I know this organization will be behind any attempts to improve," Quinn said yesterday. "The cap is what it is, but there won't be any hesitation to spend up to that if it improves our organization."


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