by Jaime Burnham
TORONTO - The cornerstone of any winning team in the NHL is found not on the ice wielding a stick but behind the bench, clipboard in hand. Hired to help assemble, fashion and then guide a unit to Stanley Cup is a team's head coach.
Essential to building champions in Toronto is Maple Leafs head coach and general manager Pat Quinn. With a vision towards present and future success the announcement of Quinn's contract extension therefore became the Summit View "Building a Champion" moment for January.
| Pat Quinn is an important part of the Leafs' machine. |
"Our organization is stronger, more stable than it has been," said Leafs' president Ken Dryden. "So is the foundation. You have to keep building it higher and we're a better team."
On January 15 the Leafs announced that they had signed Pat Quinn to a contract extending his position as head coach and GM through the 2004-05 season. No terms were disclosed but media speculation estimated the contract to be worth around $2-million (U.S).
Midway through his fourth season with the Maple Leafs, the decision for Quinn to re-sign was only a moot point. A deal in principle had been decided upon before the season started. Even though Quinn holds a lot of power as both GM and coach, he and Dryden will try to find a managing successor so he can concentrate on coaching.
"Ken (Dryden) and I will work toward what we think is in the best interest of this hockey team," Quinn said at a press conference announcing his contract details.
Quinn arrived in Toronto as head coach in June 1998 and each season since has guided the boys in blue past the first round of the playoffs. This year, as the team bounces near the top of their division, there are hopes for another playoff run and dreams of a Stanley Cup final.
The 59-year old head coach is having a busy year. This month he will travel to Salt Lake City to coach the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team in its pursuit for gold. He also flies to Los Angeles as head coach for the North American team at the 52nd NHL All-Star Game.
With so much on his plate, it is a wonder how Quinn stays focused on his foremost duty of building a championship team in Toronto.
But, after a mid-January losing skid, the twice-former Jack Adams Coach of the Year winner seems to have this team back on track. As they head into the All-Star break, the Leafs are on a two-game winning streak and are just three points behind first place Boston in their division.
Looking at the Leafs this year, Quinn has his fingerprints all over their improvement. His eye for talent added Alexander Mogilny and Mikael Renberg, his hockey sense yielded power-packed lines like the Swedish combo of Mats Sundin, Renberg and Jonas Hoglund and his demand for excellence is currently leading Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe to banner seasons.
All of these things led to Quinn's contract extension and the Leafs getting one step closer to building a champion.