Quinn Hiring a Mistake
May 28, 2009, by Homme De Sept-Iles
The Edmonton Oilers have been an admired, dignified organization for a number of years now. Decades, really.
Just as the Eskimos are known as the class of the CFL, their hockey sisters, the Oilers, are of similar standing in Alberta. Several Oiler hockey people have said that the organization has molded itself, to certain degrees, after the respected Canadiens archetypal model. And the logo still retains the sparkle of five Stanley Cups in seven seasons and the glowing afterimage of icons Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. It’s why Edmonton self-describe as the City of Champions (you can still see the sign driving into the city).
And that’s also why the move to hire Pat Quinn is doubly a surprise.
At first glance, the Quinn hiring is questionable. He is 66 in what is increasingly a younger man’s game. He has never won a Stanley Cup despite his many legitimate opportunities and long career (he was in the final in 79-80 and 93-94). And he is old school; a proponent of intimidation tactics, dirty play and manipulation of the referees. His Toronto teams averaged 1376 penalty minutes over his last five seasons with the team, sixth highest in the NHL for all teams over the same period.
Second glance is damning. This is a man who viciously assaulted a Toronto Sun photographer, whose words are controversial and who remains a big part of the NHL’s still-surviving good old boys network.
Are these City of Champions qualities?
And finally Quinn is not one known for humility. When Quinn became aware that Stanley Cup-winning coach Bob Hartley was available, there was no way that Pat Quinn the GM was going to supplant Pat Quinn the coach. Hartley was fired by the Colorado Avalanche after a 10-8-9-4 start to the 02-03 season, only two years after leading the Avs to a Stanley Cup in June 2001.
Hartley turned Atlanta around, going 20-14-5-1 to close the season and then led them to their best record in franchise history, finishing with 33 wins in 03-04. The following season, Hartley took the team to their first winning record in franchise history (41-33-8).
In the meantime, Pat Quinn the coach continued to make excuses for Pat Quinn the GM and vice-versa. The Leafs were eliminated in the first and second rounds in the two seasons following and in Quinn’s last season (05-06), missed the playoffs entirely.
Pat Quinn’s press conferences were tutorials on spin, blamelessness and thinly veiled finger-pointing towards his own players. Or, if needed, referees.
Pat Quinn has won on the international level but with a stacked deck and great talent at his disposal, there is little credit that he deserves.
Quinn is one of the last of a long line of coaches who exist in all sports; a man who gains favour by dint of an overbearing, intimidating demeanour and some minor achievements early in a career defined by almosts, maybes and polished excuses for failures of team and of character.
How much has changed? Oiler fans will find out the hard way.