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Is now the time for a new contract for Quinn?, part II

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Elliotte Friedman


Elliotte Friedman is a reporter and commentator at The Score, Canada's 24-hour sports highlights and information network. He has covered the Leafs extensively for a number of years and has a birds-eye view of what's going on with the Leafs and the NHL.

Somewhere in all of this, however, you have to wonder if the team has forgotten its immediate past and immediate future. Last season was almost one of the great disasters in Leafs history, which really is saying something. After an impressive start, the team stopped caring and needed a win on the penultimate night of the season to even make the playoffs. Quinn admitted there were problems between him and some of the players.

The team recovered to sweep a gutless group of Senators and take the eventual Eastern Conference champion Devils to seven games in a nasty second-round series. Quinn did a very good coaching job, and, to many, the finish was satisfactory enough to erase memories of what happened beforehand.

But the biggest question is the future. Quinn is currently embroiled in two contract disputes that threaten the club's foundation. Too many people are making Tomas Kaberle into the second coming of Brian Leetch, but the fact is that, at worst, he is the club's third-best defenceman. Without him (or a suitable replacement) the Maple Leafs aren't good enough on the blueline to win the East, never mind a Cup. This is a player Quinn wouldn't trade for Eric Lindros. You can't offer him Anders Eriksson money.

Still, Kaberle's contract problems are secondary to those of Joseph. Yes, you can argue that he's never gone to the Finals. You can argue that he's never won a Vezina. But you can't argue his value to Toronto. He is, by far, the team's MVP. Right now, the Maple Leafs' window of Stanley Cup opportunity lasts as long as he is in town. There is no one in the system who can adequately replace him. And the only comparable goaltender on the market next year is Ed Belfour, who is two years older than Joseph and comes with six Samsonites full of emotional baggage. (This also brings about another point: Will Joseph or Belfour hold a grudge against Quinn if either is not given a prominent role with the Canadian Olympic Team?)

It just doesn't make sense to give Quinn a new contract right now. Will he sign Kaberle, replace him, or trade him for fair return? Will it get to the point where a miffed Joseph could walk away for nothing? Most importantly, is this team built for playoff success?

Board members should wait for the answers to these crucial questions before giving Quinn four more years.
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