by John Iaboni
Being the head coach and/or general manager of a National Hockey League team is a lot like parenting.
You love your "kids" although there are times they drive you absolutely crazy, leaving you to wonder where you went wrong.
Pat Quinn can relate to that. There was plenty of pride for him when his Toronto Maple Leafs put together their impressive run, including a record-tying seven-game winning streak on the road.
Then came the debacle in Detroit. It was like Quinn's kids went to school, flunked miserably and came home to feel the wrath of the head of the family. Quinn's animated post-game rant left the distinct impression that, at that moment, there wasn't an untouchable on his roster.
| Leafs try to keep things all in the family. |
Graig Abel Photography
It reminded me of the time during the 1970s when I was pounding the NHL beat for The Toronto Sun and one of my sources tipped me off on a huge story. Emile (The Cat) Francis, the general manager of the New York Rangers, was so incensed at his under-achievers that he put every one of his players on waivers. A call to another source in New York verified what sounded like a contrived piece of information. Francis resorted to the action to shake up his "kids" and to test what interest, if any, other teams had in his players.
That was a different time, of course. I mean, a GM/head coach could actually succeed sometimes by reading the riot act in the locker room. Welcome to 2003 when the NHL stands at 30 teams and players socialize before trying to beat the heck out of each other on the ice.
With the impending deadline to barter in the NHL, the trade drums around Maple Leafs Nation are reaching ear-splitting proportions. Every "expert" knows exactly what the Leafs should do. Every time a deal is made and it doesn't involve the Leafs people wonder why.
Such was the case after the Leafs rebounded from the fear they exuded in Motown by quelling the punch-less Carolina Hurricanes. Dmitry Yushkevich, with 10 points, 38 penalty minutes and a minus-16 in 65 games this season with the Florida Panthers and the Los Angeles Kings, was suddenly back in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Dealing with Philadelphia's acquisition was the first question Quinn faced in the post-Carolina-game media conference. As a follow-up to that, he was asked if one game, the 7-2 loss to the Red Wings, would affect how he'll approach the trade deadline.
"I hope not one game," Quinn said, insisting the team's attitude and deer-in-the-lights stinker in Detroit bothered him most.
Quinn and his staff have been pursuing deals and are quite open to making a move if they believe it will benefit their cause. It's apparent, however, that Quinn isn't prone to over-reaction nor is he a bandwagon jumper.
He believes his club's 23-man roster, as it stands, has depth but he's looking to augment that even further. And the biggest need, with all due respect to any talk regarding acquisition of a power forward with scoring ability, is on the blue-line.
The Wings, Avalanche, Stars and Devils -- all Stanley Cup winners in recent years -- all went into the playoff marathon with ample depth on defence. Let's face it, the Leafs can ill afford an injury to any of the big three defencemen, Tomas Kaberle, Robert Svehla or Bryan McCabe, so the club drastically could use a 25-to-30-minute-a-game defender.
But those guys are at a premium and there isn't one team heading into the playoffs who won't be looking for the same option in the few shopping days remaining.
Yet the pressure to trade is greatest right here in Toronto. Quinn, whose acquisitions in March once netted Markus Naslund for the Vancouver Canucks, doesn't show signs of wilting amid the questioning of stand-pat approach. He'll deal when ready or he'll hold on to the cards he already has.
It's his call and, either way, he'll live with whatever way his "kids" look like after 3 p.m. on March 11.