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Quinn not just blowing smoke

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO - After putting the hurt and disappointment behind him of narrowly missing the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in his four years with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pat Quinn was in a jovial mood as he addressed the media Thursday for a season-ending chat.

The 59-year-old Quinn looked better than he has in months, playfully bantering with reporters as they asked him about his health, Curtis Joseph and team's future heading into the entry draft and the free agent signing period.

Joseph is Quinn's top priority.
Graig Abel Photography
After an irregular heartbeat gave the bench boss a serious health scare and forced him to miss two playoff games, Quinn has made a commitment to better living. Yes, he is in the midst of quitting cigar smoking, "his all-day sucker." A better diet may be going down the pipe as well.

"I have to make a mental change clearly," Quinn admitted. "I thought I was invincible but clearly I wasn't. Going forward health will not be an issue."

When asked whether he was forced by doctors to stop the cigars Quinn said with a big laugh, "It's recommended. I don't have to do anything."

He even defended himself like one former US president claiming, "I didn't inhale".

Losing his habit at this time of the year may be tough for Quinn. Hanging around in the office and worrying about contracts won't be easy. First on his plate is the Curtis Joseph situation. The Leafs have a little over a month to try and negotiate a deal before Cujo becomes an unrestricted free agent.

"We'd like to have him signed. We'd like him to stay with us and we'll make every effort," Quinn said.

Quinn said some progress was made back in January. Talks originally began last summer. The biggest question is if the Leafs can afford to give a high priced, three or four-year deal to a 35-year-old goaltender and not have it affect other areas of the team.

"We've been doing a lot of work on the budget part of it and we intend to analyze it as best we can so that we can field the best team that we can within the budget limits," Quinn said. "There's no question in my mind that we will have some guidelines for dealing with this hockey club and that hopefully allows us to field as good a team as this year's and possibly even better."

The business side of hockey has taken on a life of its own. Player salaries are skyrocketing and the Leafs, even though they are by no means a small market team, have to keep the costs in check like any business.

"If you want to discuss the rationality of the business of hockey, boy I'm not the one to do it. I've seen it go wacko," Quinn said.

If Joseph can't be re-signed the Leafs may use some extra money to shore up their defence. Quinn would like to get bigger on the blueline.

"We spend lots of money here, and quite frankly are very successful. We've had a couple small errors but the big-ticket items have been pretty darn good and that's why we've been able to play eight or nine rounds the last four years. We're going to have to continue that given that there is something in the free agent market that can help us," Quinn said.

NOTES: Steve Tambellini has been mentioned as a possible fit if Quinn decides to step aside as general manager. However Quinn said that he hadn't talked to Tambellini about the job but that he was a quality hockey man ... Quinn let it be known that he is a proponent of a smoking double standard saying, "Cigarettes I find offensive, I really do. Cigars have an aroma."
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