Fates of coach, GM are finally as one

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

There are certain niceties about things that happen all the time.

You know, things such as coaching changes and funerals.

That is why Paul Maurice will tell you it is not his job to replace Pat Quinn

"I'm not here, in my mind, to replace Pat," the Maple Leafs latest head coach said yesterday. "I'm just the next guy."

Things will be easier for the next guy, Paul Maurice, the 39-year-old son of the Soo, the next guy, who takes over for Pat Quinn, a legendary last guy.

A wise guy once counted 67 coaches fired in the nine years Maurice worked as a head coach in Hartford and Carolina.

Few of the firings were conducted in an atmosphere more Byzantine than in Toronto.

There is a great story that applies to life here. Someone was once speaking to a theatre empressario about success and life.

"It's not enough that I succeed," he said. "Others must fail."

That's been the story for the past three years between Quinn and general manager John Ferguson.

On the day he was hired to manage the Leafs, Ferguson walked into the shadow of Pat Quinn, a man 27 years his senior, a man who had, unlike Ferguson, played in the NHL.

It was Quinn, not Ferguson, who would define the Leafs' culture and the style of play. In the way that is odd to sports, Quinn was a middle manager who had far more influence than anyone else in the organization.

The only way for Ferguson to run his own show was for Quinn to stumble. It was the only way. Missing the playoffs this spring for the first time in seven seasons, was just enough. Ferguson waited only a couple of days before pulling the trap door.

Now, for the first time, it's in no one's interest for the coach of the Leafs to fail. Tell me that won't seep down to ice level.

Ferguson loves the newly-minted Maurice for a variety of reasons. A torrent of players -- including Ian White, Andy Wozniewski, John Pohl, Staffan Kronwall and Carlo Colaiacovo --showed well when called up to the Leafs.

Maurice is dynamic, organized and incredibly well-spoken.

"This hiring is a critical and key step in bringing us and this organization back into position for where we need to be next season and beyond," Ferguson said.

That means he likes him.

NOT SURPRISING

Maurice knows who can play at the NHL level. He squeezed 42 wins against 29 losses from a Marlies team with a middling talent level. And after a year watching Quinn work in the cesspool that is the ACC, nothing should really surprise him.

He might need to spend some time restoring his relationship with his captain. While Ferguson insists his talks with Mats Sundin are fine, there are ample signs that the stylish Swede has tired of the constant churn around the team.

Maurice likes piling ice time on his stars. He should find a willing taker in Sundin who chafed when handed less by Quinn.

Maurice has one more factor in his corner.

Ferguson is in the final year of his contract. For him, it's not enough that he succeeds. Paul Maurice must succeed as well.

Even when you're the next guy, you need the guy above you to be behind you.


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