Quinn steps down as Leafs GM

As expected, Pat Quinn has relinquished his post as the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager to concentrate on coaching.

The Leafs announced the change during a news conference in Toronto on Friday.

Quinn, 59, was originally hired solely as the Leafs' head coach on June 26, 1998. He added the GM role to his resume a year later.

When Quinn took over the dual role, both he and Ken Dryden agreed to review the position at the end of each season.

Rumours of changes in the Leafs organization have been afoot since Steve Stavro announced he was selling off his share of the team to Larry Tanenbaum.

The Leafs' new board of directors has been running the organization for several weeks. And earlier President Richard Peddie said he wanted to reduce Quinn's many responsibilities.

"As everyone involved has said from the beginning, we anticipated splitting (Quinn's) dual role at a time that was best for the organization," said Peddie on Friday.

"We all agreed that the time is right to take that step now."

Quinn has always maintained that coaching is his first love and what he wants to do.

"I came to coach. I still want to coach," he said in an interview earlier this month. "I think that's what satisfies me the most."

Peddie said while the team had achieved much in recent years, more was expected.

"We are not satisfied with our current level of success," Peddie told a news conference. "We expect more and our fans expect more."

In addition to redefining Quinn's responsibilities, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. also announced it had restructured its front office.

The post of Leafs' president has been eliminated. Dryden, who held that job, was named vice-chairman of MLSE, which owns the Leafs and the NBA's Toronto Raptors.

Quinn, Dryden and Peddie will work together to find a new GM. According to the team, a search will begin immediately.

"We have not interviewed anyone yet despite speculation," said Peddie when asked about who may succeed Quinn.

"We've started to develop a long list and through due diligence and checking up we'll make that a short list. We'll bring those individuals in and the three of us will interview them.

"We're all going to be involved all the way and in the end I see us having a healthy debate."

Steve Tambellini, the Vancouver Canucks' vice-president of player personnel and general manager of Team Canada's gold-medal squad at the 2003 world championships, is the rumoured front-runner to replace Quinn.

Quinn gave Tambellini his managerial start with the Canucks 13 years ago and worked closely with him on Canada's gold-medal Olympic team in 2002.

"Steve is an excellent guy," Quinn said of Tambellini.

"He's smart, he's young, he's aggressive...I'd love to have him."

Also as part of the restructuring, the contract of Bill Watters, assistant to the general manager, is not being renewed when it expires June 30.

Watters spent 12 years with the organization and was a familiar face and voice to many Leaf fans, often appearing on local television and sports talk radio programs.

with files from Canadian Press