Quinn still looming large

It is a testament to his presence that Pat Quinn still casts a long

shadow over the Toronto Maple Leafs nearly four years after his

firing by former GM John Ferguson Jr.

Quinn will face his former team Wednesday night for the first

time since his eight-year run behind the bench of the Maple Leafs

ended, a tenure that included two trips to the Eastern Conference

final.

“I will always have good memories of my time there and the

people that were involved. There’s not many left that were there

when I was,” said Quinn, now coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

“I think about the people more. The organization is one that

has a tremendous history and is loved throughout this country.

There’s no question about it.”

These Maple Leafs still bear his fingerprints.

“It’s going to be a special game,” said Tomas Kaberle, the

longest-serving Leaf. “(Quinn) was my first coach. He gave me a

chance to play.

“He played the game, he knows what you feel. In my first

year, I was getting tired toward the end of the season. He made me

a healthy scratch, put me upstairs and made me learn from it. He

told me not to get down, to keep my head up.

“It’s an important message for young guys.”

Matt Stajan also broke into the NHL under Quinn.

“I really enjoyed playing for him. I’m glad he’s back in the

NHL behind the bench,” Stajan said. “It’s been a bunch of years,

but it will be weird to see him behind another bench. We had a lot

of success with him.”

Most of the other Leafs who played under Quinn are long gone,

but Quinn’s presence is still being felt as a coach. Current Leafs

coach Ron Wilson got his start as Quinn’s assistant in Vancouver.

“I don’t think Pat would admit it will be emotional, but it

will be,” Wilson said. “He spent eight very good years with the

team.

“As much as the team is made fun of for lack of success, I

thought Pat did an unbelievable job. A couple of conference finals

and the puck goes the other way and you’re in the Stanley Cup

final.

“That’s one of the greatest coaches of all time. He really

helped me a lot in my career, gave me my start. I don’t respect

anybody any more than I do Pat Quinn.”

The love-in ends there, with Wilson saying he’d only be happy

if the Leafs were able to extend Edmonton’s losing streak to eight

games.

“The points are huge for us and for them.”

To do that, Wilson has initiated a few changes to his lines.

Mikhail Grabovski was demoted to the fourth line with Rickard

Wallin moving between Niklas Hagman and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

“We’re trying to avoid turnovers in the neutral zone,” Wilson

said. “Grabovski has been trying too hard, making too many

turnovers. When (Wallin) has jumped up and played with better

players, he’s capable of making plays. He’s good in his own end.

“We think he won’t make as many turnovers. That’s the only

way I can eradicate turnover-itis. Take away ice time until you

figure it out.”

Grabovski seemed frustrated at the demotion. “He doesn’t tell

me nothing, anything,” he said.

“I’m working hard. I always work hard.”

This will be a battle between the 28th-best team in the NHL

(Toronto) and the 29th (Edmonton).

Quinn told reporters he wouldn’t be thinking of Toronto. “My

thoughts are right here,” he said. “We’re in the process of making

this a better team.

“It’s been a struggle. We’re finding ways not to win right

now instead of finding ways to win.”