The savage Toronto media stirred things up Thursday with a front-page story in the Toronto Sun that said Maple Leafs management was fed up with coach Pat Quinn.
The paper quoted an unnamed player agent saying players were unhappy and that the team had several malcontents.
The Leafs were 7-6-5-2 but 0-2-2-1 going into the final game of a six-game road trip that wrapped up Saturday in Vancouver. Sharks center Alyn McCauley, acquired from Toronto in March, criticized Quinn when the Leafs visited on Nov. 15.
"I wasn't ridiculed or anything, but there was never really any advice as to what I should do," McCauley told the Sun. "Just put up some points. That's easy to say, but a little help along the way has made a big difference."
In five previous seasons under Quinn, Toronto won fewer than 43 games only once. Maybe that is why captain Mats Sundin came to Quinn's aid.
"It must be a slow day in Toronto for the media," he told the Canadian Press.
Quinn shrugged it off.
"Players don't have to like the coach to perform," he said. "The onus is on the players. They play for each other, not the coach."
In an attempt to spark the Panthers, who trailed the Islanders 3-1 Wednesday, defenseman Lyle Odelein challenged Eric Godard to a fight. Odelein was hit with about 12 rights to the face, but demanded the fight continue when linesmen moved in to break it up.
Florida promptly fell behind 4-1 when 5-foot-10 Jason Blake bulldozed past 6-5 defenseman Branislav Mezei and outworked 6-foot-6 Mathieu Biron.
"He's 35 years old," Panthers captain Olli Jokinen said of Odelein. "He goes in there and fights their tough guy. He's doing his job and what's the response? Nothing. I feel bad."
Five questions with Devils defenseman Scott Stevens:
Q: Your 904 points are 11 behind Bobby Orr for ninth all-time among defensemen. Does that blow you away?
A: I am flabbergasted by that. I've probably played a few more games than Bobby to get to that total, but it's an honor to be mentioned with his name.
Q: How can the game be better?
A: Make the rink wider and put the nets back to where they were.
Q: Worst jersey you've ever seen?
A: The Vancouver one with all the different colors and the V was the one that sticks out most.
Q: Any decisions on playing next season?
A: I'd like to be playing next year and that's the end of my contract. But it's hard to make a decision until we know what direction the league is going and if we can get a (collective bargaining) agreement next year.
Q: Other than when you won the Cup last season, have you ever seen coach Pat Burns smile?
A: If you start talking about Harley Davidson motorcycles or trucks, he may crack a smile.
Around the league
There is speculation Panthers GM/coach Rick Dudley may try to lure former Sabres tough guy Rob Ray out of retirement. ... Marc Savard was supposed to be out six to eight weeks after surgery for a high ankle sprain. But the Thrashers center was skating 12 days after the Nov. 4 procedure. ... Paul Kariya is out indefinitely after aggravating a sprained wrist. Through Colorado's first 19 games, Kariya and Teemu Selanne played together in seven. ... The Heritage Classic prompted some innovative ticket requests. According to the Edmonton Journal, Oilers vice president of public relations Bill Tuele got a call from a guy who said, "I tailored your pants 10 years ago. Can I get two tickets?" ... Who said Mark Messier is over the hill? A day after the Rangers' lost 5-0 to the Devils on Nov. 15, the captain called a team meeting and then scored a shorthanded goal and had an assist in a 2-2 tie with Chicago.
"We said, "If everyone on the Maple Leafs doesn't hate you by the 10-minute mark, you're not effective.' If he doesn't get that (stuff) initiated, he's average. But he was noticeable. Why? Because they wanted to kill him."
- Flames assistant coach Jim Playfair on left wing Oleg Saprykin.
- Compiled by staff writer Damian Cristodero using personal interviews and information from other news organizations.