Leafs: Finally getting defensive?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the NHL's longest-running reality TV series, a combination of Survivor, Big Brother and The Millionaire. They did nothing to disappoint those who take their pleasure from following the saga which annually grips the franchise its followers believe occupies the center of the hockey universe.

There was a change in ownership from Steve Stavro to new boss man Larry Tanenbaum, but the three-ring circus which developed around Pat Quinn giving up his general manager's portfolio to focus solely on coaching surely indicates little has changed in The Big Smoke.

The Leafs, as they embark on the hunt for their first Stanley Cup since 1967, once again have more questions than answers.

  • Who's in charge? John Ferguson, Jr., took over Quinn's empty GM's chair, but it remains to be seen just how much power Ferguson actually wields in the dysfunctional Leafs hierarchy. Ferguson said he has the power to fire Quinn, but few actually believe it. It will be interesting to see in training camp if
    there are personnel moves which indicate who is having the final say on who stays and who goes.

    Quinn has always been viewed as favoring the veterans, but a cynical Leafs observer might point out that's only because the Leafs' drafting record under Quinn has been so horrific no kids have emerged to seriously challenge any of the greying incumbents. It doesn't look like the Leafs will be any younger this season and Quinn's strategy of loading up with expensive veterans during the summer and again at the trade deadline has resulted in increasingly spectacular failures.

    It remains to be seen if Quinn and Ferguson can create an environment which finally helps the Leafs renew themselves and improve or simply degenerate into the type of infighting which will only add to the off-ice drama.

  • Still the Mighty Quinn? Quinn might have to change his ways behind the bench, as well. He likes offensive hockey and you have to love Quinn for that. He won a gold medal with Canada at the Olympics playing that kind of hockey, but it is unlikely -- even with the Leafs' fat profits -- they can afford to
    reunite that team wearing a blue maple leaf rather than a red one. At a time in the league when defense rules -- as witnessed by the clubs which had playoff
    success last spring -- Quinn's love of a free-flowing game is unique.

    The bottom line is the Leafs inability to play defense when needed has led to their annual
    demise in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see in training camp if Quinn attempts to strike out on a different path and and fall in line with the most successful postseason clubs in the league and adopt more of a trapping, defensive style. It remains to be seen if he has the personnel capable of playing that style or if Quinn has the ability to get his players to buy into it.

  • Who will man the blue line? The Leafs' defensive corps has always been a sore point and the big question to be answered in training camp is will they have enough bodies to even get through camp? Bryan McCabe, who is expected to be the Leafs' leader back there, is week-to-week with a leg injury he suffered during offseason training. He's coming off a terrible season, to boot. Robert Svehla finally officially retired. Glen Wesley re-signed with the Hurricanes. Jyrki Lumme was bought out. Thomas Kaberle is fine when he's on his game, but after that? Yeesh.

    Bryan Marchment arrives on the scene, but he is not -- or shouldn't be -- a top-four guy. Top prospects Brendan Bell and Carlo Colaiacovo will get good looks. It will be interesting to see what Ferguson and Quinn can cobble together.

    Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.xxxx