EDMONTON – Forgive Pat Quinn for not being in the mood to stroll down memory lane about his past with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s got his hands full here and now with the Edmonton Oilers.
When the Maple Leafs come calling at Rexall Place on Wednesday, it will mark the first time Quinn has faced the franchise he won 300 games with as a coach since he was fired after the 2005-06 season.
Seven seasons coaching the Maple Leafs represent mostly good memories for Quinn, but with the Oilers in the throes of a seven-game losing slide that has them 15th in the Western Conference, he has more pressing matters.
“We’re concentrating on our team here,” said Quinn when asked about facing the Maple Leafs. “I will always have great memories of my time there and the people who were involved.
“The organization has a tremendous history. They’re loved throughout this country, there’s no question about it, but my thoughts are right here.”
Quinn, 66, led the Maple Leafs to the playoffs in six of his seven seasons in Toronto from 1998-99 to 2005-06, compiling a record of 300-196-52-26 on the way to two conference finals.
These days, he’d happily take one win against his old team to snap a skid that hit seven games with a 4-1 loss to Calgary on Monday. The Oilers are 15-20-4 for 34 points, leaving them 29th in NHL standings.
“The microscope is not any different here,” Quinn said, asked about the pressure of coaching in Edmonton compared to Toronto.
“There might be more (media) outlets as far as Toronto is concerned, but it’s no different. We have an active media. I’d like to be able to tell them a better story lots of days, but we’re in the process of making this a better team. It’s been a struggle the last seven games.”
While the Leafs hardly qualify as a juggernaut with a 14-17-9 record for 37 points, leaving them 14th in the Eastern Conference, Quinn’s first season behind the Oilers bench is proving to be trying, to say the least.
“Now would be as good a time as any,” Dustin Penner said when asked if getting Quinn a win against the Maple Leafs is any motivation. “We definitely would like to win for a few reasons, that not being the least of them.
“He brings a wealth of experience. He’s been around the game a long time. He knows the ins and outs. He has an approach to the game I enjoy. He’s a good motivator.”
The seven-game slump includes five straight losses at home, where the Oilers were booed off the ice after the loss to Calgary. The power play is 2-for-24 in that span and allowed a short-handed goal by the Flames. The penalty killing has allowed nine goals during the same stretch.
“You can win games you don’t deserve to win and lose games you play well in,” captain Ethan Moreau said.
“We were on a road trip (five straight wins) where we always managed to get that next goal or managed to get a key blocked shot or save when we needed it.
“Now, we’re not getting those goals when we need to get the next one. It’s as simple as that. We’re putting in a good effort.”
Out to a promising 6-2-1 start, the Oilers today sit 12 points out of a playoff spot and have Detroit, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis, Anaheim and Columbus between them and eighth-place Vancouver.
“I think the situation we’re in now, you can’t get more desperate,” Moreau said. “There’s not another storyline that will make us play harder.
“But we realize the history he’s (Quinn) had with that team and I know he’ll be excited to face the Leafs, as are a lot of people in this city. It’s always exciting for me to play Toronto. There’s always an extra sense of excitement in the building, so we’ll all be ready to play.”
After facing Toronto, the Oilers have a rematch against the Flames, who have beaten them in all four meetings this season, on New Year’s eve to close out 2009. Then, it’s off to San Jose to face the Sharks Saturday.
“We finding ways not to win right now instead of finding ways to win,” Quinn said.
“This is a great hockey city here. Always has been. Toronto is a great hockey town, too. They love their players and rightfully so. At the end of the day, they want to have success. That’s what it’s all about, having a team they can feel good about.
“We’re entertaining this year, but we’re not winning, so we have to figure that next part out.”