Interesting that Pat Quinn and Bryan McCabe would be in the news in the same week.
Once, the two men were key collaborators in the attempt to bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. Quinn played the heck out of McCabe, turned him into a Leaf blueline workhorse, and McCabe responded with his best NHL seasons.
Then the star faded for both men in Toronto. Now Quinn has got a new coaching gig, and McCabe a new hockey home.
First Quinn. Clearly the man wants to coach again in the NHL, and it's surprising he hasn't received a chance. You have to be impressed that his gigantic ego didn't get in the way of taking first the under-18 Canadian coaching job last winter, the 2006 Spengler Cup and now the reins of the Canadian national junior team for this year's world championships in Ottawa.
He won gold with the under-18s and silver at the tricky Spengler, more international hardware to go with his gold medal from the 2002 Winter Olympics and championship work from the 2004 World Cup.
Maybe these competitions are Quinn's calling, even more than NHL work.
After all, it's curious that in a quarter-century of coaching in the NHL with Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto, often with very good teams at his disposal, the 65-year-old Hamilton native didn't win a damn thing.
But when in charge of a Canadian entry for a tournament, he's almost a lock, with the dismal finish of the country at the 2006 Olympics the only major blemish on his international coaching record, a result that probably had more to do with some very questionable player selections.
By the end with the Leafs, he was the wrong man for the job. But in short tournament-type events, however, he commands immediate respect, and it could be where his straightforward, simple message of skating and puck control works best. Moreover, with no fighting in these international events, Quinn's worst bully instincts don't bubble to the surface.
He certainly deserves credit for not thinking the under-18 posting or the national junior job are beneath his dignity at this stage of his long career. The focus on Team Canada at the world juniors in Ottawa will be excruciating, and he's certainly handled the limelight before.
Now a little more on McCabe.
In responses to this blog and a column in The Star this week, some took offence at my suggestions that this deal that sent McCabe to Florida was less than a brilliant transaction for the Leafs. Some suggested that it was a flip-flop on my part to suggest for a number of years that McCabe had played below his abilities and was overpaid, but then to argue that when he was dealt, the trade wasn't good enough.
Well, that's not a flip-flop at all.
To say McCabe needed to be shipped out of town is one point. But then you don't just give him away. It's ridiculous to say any deal, no matter how it was structured, was a good one for the Leafs to make and to disagree is a flip-flop.
Well, if the Leafs had thrown in Tomas Kaberle along with McCabe and fourth rounder, would that have been a good deal for Toronto? Of course not.
Maybe there wasn't more out there. But maybe there was, and the Leafs were unwilling to wait patiently as the season progressed to find a trading partner because they were obsessed with moving McCabe for public relations reasons.
It's interesting, for example, to compare the Leafs trade of McCabe to Florida and Tampa's deal with San Jose that made Dan Boyle a Shark.
McCabe and Boyle aren't identical commodities. Boyle is two years younger, but like McCabe, received an outlandish contract from the Lightning before being dealt, a six-year, $40 million extension that could prove to be one of those millstone-like contracts to have on the books. Like McCabe, Boyle had a no-trade provision in his deal.
Like McCabe, Boyle has been bothered by injuries the past two years, hurting his production to some degree.
But while the Leafs had to throw in a draft pick and swallow McCabe's $2 million bonus just to get overpaid, 29-year-old Mike Van Ryn (two more years at $3.35 million) out of the Panthers, the Lightning, in exchange for Boyle, received promising 23-year-old blueliner Matt Carle, San Jose's 2006 first round pick Ty Wishart, a first round pick next June and a fourth rounder in 2010.
That's a promising package of youth and picks.
Again, McCabe and Boyle aren't exactly the same commodity. But they're not completely different, either. In fact, McCabe's significantly cheaper for the next three years.
So sure, McCabe had to go. But couldn't the Leafs have done better?
And if the cap room gained over time by the deletion of McCabe is really the main gain and the driving philosophy of the Leaf organization behind the swap, why would the team be offering Mats Sundin multiple years at $7 million or more, thus swallowing up much of that cap room if Sundin were to accept?
The name of the game for the Leafs shouldn't just be accumulating cap room. It should be accumulating prospects and draft picks, something more difficult to do when you're trading draft picks at the rate Cliff Fletcher has been in recent months and all but giving away former all-star defencemen.