The talk of the sports shows in Toronto on Monday, was a story making the rounds that a Toronto loss against Montreal on Tuesday would spell the end of the Pat Quinn era in Blue and White.
The long time Maple leaf fixture from player to manager has watched current crop of players perform far below expectations this year. It has made for a situation that has seen the Leafs desperately struggling to reach the eighth and final playoff spot. That is a job that has become harder with each point gained by rival Montreal, as the Habs riding the hot goaltending of new sensation Christobal Huet continue to put wins together and space between them and the Leafs.
Quinn continued to try and get his message across to his players on Monday in preparation for the Habs game, painting it as almost a Stanley Cup type of event.
Toronto has been hit by a combination of unexpected and unwelcome injuries and a very clear indication that many on their current roster have had their best days in the past. Mental errors have also contributed to the demise of the Leafs, untimely passes; pointless penalties and sloppy play in their own end have defined the Leafs for most of 2006. Since the Olympic break the Leafs have continued to falter, throwing away a strong two period effort on Saturday night against Ottawa with a collapse in the third period. The loss to Ottawa was the push point for the Quinn may soon be gone rumor making the rounds.
It picked up speed on Sunday and became the talk of the city by Monday afternoon. Whether it’s based in fact or not, the expectation is that a Leaf loss to Montreal Tuesday in a game televised by TSN will be the one to have Quinn dismissed from his duties behind the bench.
However, one wonders just what would be gained by firing Quinn at this stage of the season, the Leaf problems seem to be much deeper than just a coaching problem. There is a shortage of accountability in those who wear blue this year, laying the blame on the coach seems like far too easy an out for the Leaf higher ups!
It may also signal the beginning of a sale of players for Thursday’s trading deadline. However, with a woeful record and the slide down the standings, it’s hard to find many bargains in Blue that many might covet. Only Mats Sundin and perhaps Bryan McCabe might be of the quality to attract some tire kickers, but it's doubtful the Leafs would want to move those two members of their core foundation.
As for Quinn, he’s been standing on that thin ice for most of the season, with spring almost here it’s no wonder the ice is beginning to crack, the only question is does the Maple Leaf legend fall through it by the end of Tuesday nights game, or does the Leaf management offer him some help away from the cracks!