End of the Quinn Era
Weep not for Pat Quinn.
John Ferguson, now there's another story.
In canning Quinn as head coach Thursday morning, Ferguson put himself squarely in the line of fire if next season duplicates the results of the one that just ended.
But for Quinn, it was one heck of a run.
You have to look at this from a historic perspective. In lasting from 1998 right through to the end of the 2005-06 season, with a lockout wiping out one season, Quinn had a longer run than any head coach of the Leafs since Punch Imlach during the glorious, four-Stanley Cup 1960s.
None of the 14 other men who guided the Leafs between Imlach and Quinn lasted nearly as long, and that tells you something about Quinn's ability as a coach and his tenacity as a hockey politician to have outlasted so many personnel and ownership changes within the Leafs organization.
Quinn did it by creating a mix a strong regular season results and moderate playoff success, and by being able to out-muscle Ken Dryden in a drawn out executive tug-of-war that saw Dryden eventually pack it in and head off for federal politics.
As well, he won big with the 2002 Canadian Olympic team and the '04 World Cup squad, and that gave him currency in a city in which he was otherwise unable to end a Stanley Cup drought that stretches back to 1967.
Moreover, he made a great deal of money while doing the job, and even more when he held the GM post, as well.
In the end, Quinn simply ran out of wiggle room and time.
When he lost the GM post to Ferguson in 2003, he was on the clock, and that became even more apparent as he and JFJ failed to negotiate a comfortable working relationship.
Beyond that, every coach is hired to be fired, and Quinn's inability to produce a Cup winner or even a Cup finalist meant that, eventually, the team would have to turn to another coach. Mounting public criticism of team chairman Larry Tanenbaum and president Richard Peddie put added pressure on the team to make a substantial move this season after a promising campaign deteriorated after January.
In essence, Quinn lasted as long as a coach could last without winning. Indeed, Pat Burns only made it from 1992 to 1996, and he had as much success during his time with the Leafs as Quinn had over the past eight years.
Quinn had his shot, and undoubtedly, he'll now get another somewhere else.