McCabe: Leave coach alone

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Bryan McCabe wants the circling vultures to stop pecking away at Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice and his staff.

With rumblings emerging recently among both media and fans questioning if Maurice will last beyond this season, if that long, McCabe, everyone's favourite scapegoat in Leafland, stepped up in defence of Maurice yesterday.

"It's silly," McCabe said of recent suggestions that Maurice's days might be numbered. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with Paul or any of our coaches."

"They have us prepared every game. Our practices are as good as they've ever been.

"The blame is 100% on us, the players. It has nothing to do with the coaches."

One look at the beleaguered Maurice and it is easy to see the toll the Leafs woes are having on him.

With the critics beginning to spread the blame to the Leafs coach, the personable Maurice seems tired, if not exasperated, these days.

Fatigue is etched all over his face. His answers don't include the usual number of colourful Maurician quips. And while there are no Pat Quinn-like blow-ups during his exchanges with the media, you can tell his patience is waning.

Try as he might to preach team defence, the blue print never is followed on a consistent basis.

Maurice soon will be running out of chalk after all the diagrams he has sketched on the blackboard at practice.

All the while, whenever the Leafs are coming off yet another disappointing effort, someone somewhere is sure to bring up his famous training camp vow that "we will make the playoffs and challenge for the Stanley Cup."

To his credit, Maurice, like Quinn, fiercely is loyal to and protective of his players, sometimes too much so.

Asked if the woes of this hockey-mad city weigh heavily on his shoulders, Maurice said, "No. Hockey teams weigh more on my shoulders."

Maurice said he understands the public's frustrations when things are not going well for Toronto.

"I wouldn't say I'm impervious to it," Maurice said. "You deal with it from experience.

"When people here sit on a player, like a Bryan McCabe, there is a lot of pressure. But it means they care. In smaller markets, guys can make a mistake and there is absolutely no feedback.

"Guys like that have enough to deal with without having me jump on their back."

HAPPY TO GET OUT

Maurice, like his team, is probably euphoric to escape the pressure cooker of Toronto for the Leafs' two-game trip to Dallas and Phoenix.

The Leafs face the Stars tomorrow and Coyotes Saturday before returning home to meet the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

Of course, another pair of losses will have the detractors crowing again, whether it be on the road or in Toronto. Maurice need only ask general manager John Ferguson, who, like McCabe, is fitted with goat horns on a regular basis.


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