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Ex-Leafs coach Maurice says Toronto market can be like 'a drive-by shooting'

02/20/2015 03:23 EST | Updated 04/22/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Paul Maurice knows from two seasons as coach of the Maple Leafs how difficult a market Toronto can be when the team is losing.

The pressure, he says, is real.

"If you're saying something good about a player, he's a rock star, and if a guy has a tough night and you want to deal with the media honestly, you've got to be careful about how hard you go at his play because then the next day or maybe even that day, it's a drive-by shooting," Maurice said Friday after the Winnipeg Jets' practice.

"They'll find something that's not going and it's 40 people in the stall figuring out whether they should trade him, play him more or execute him."

Maurice, a Jack Adams Award contender as coach of the year this season with Winnipeg, didn't make the playoffs his two years with the Leafs, missing by one point in 2006-07. He said the market doesn't change the pressure of winning but does affect a coach trying to control his message within the locker-room.

"It takes a while to get a handle on it. I don't know that I ever did," Maurice said. "I thought Pat Quinn was probably the best at it because for the most part everybody was a little afraid of him.

"He might've come across the podium so that helped. And then I think he also got to the point he really didn't care, so he said what he wanted."

Maurice, who has been head coach of the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes (twice), Leafs and Jets, said there's a difference between Toronto, the other Canadian markets, traditional U.S. ones and then the non-traditional ones.

One key to playing or coaching in Toronto, Maurice said, was having a keen awareness of what the market is like.

Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek said Thursday he and his staff try to make players aware of what they're dealing with in Toronto.

"(Players) have to focus on their game and try to control it and not be influenced by it, led astray or have it influence you in a negative way," Horachek said. "That's just a part of the game, whether you're in Montreal, here or Vancouver or you're in a different place, you have to control it."

Forward Daniel Winnik, who signed with the Leafs last summer, understands why some players would want to avoid such a crowded media market. But he said on social media there are "fans that carve you worse than the media does," and that playing in Toronto can have a positive element.

"I actually think it can be beneficial to give you a wakeup call," Winnik said. "Sometimes you kid yourself like, 'I'm not playing that bad.' When people start writing about it, it might wake you up."

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