Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fire Ferguson: Simmons

When he arrived here from St. Louis, Ferguson talked about going back to basics, rebuilding the farm system, working the draft. As clumsily as he may have conveyed the message, there was some merit to his apparent plan.

At least, momentarily there was.

But then he traded away two first-round picks — a third if you count the 2005 choice, Tuukka Rask — three second-round picks and three fourth-round picks, for what amounts to Vesa Toskala, Andrew Raycroft and the suspended Mark Bell.
This isn't a new refrain in Toronto, but it's one that's going to get louder and louder the more this team struggles.

Ferguson will not survive another playoff miss, so it's hard to blame him for betting the farm going into this season. This team, unfortunately, is going to be paying for the fact they've had so few high draft picks, and so little in the development system, for a long, long time.

>> Alan Ryder has a statistical look at the Leafs' woes



At 11:25 a.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Hey look, another anti-Leaf column by Steve Simmons. Surprise surprise.

At 11:27 a.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous said...

James, you missed the quote where Simmons says:

"This is not a 10-game overreaction to a team off to a troubling start."

Why would he tell us that unless he is worried that it is? With the team one game under .500 and holding down a playoff spot, I would say that Simmons got a case of the knee-jerk. Does he get paid for writing the same article 5 times a year for three years? What a nice gig.

At 11:37 a.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

".500" would have been 13th in the Eastern Conference last season.

The team has not been playing well, but Simmons is speaking to personnel decisions that have been made over the past several years.

I'm not calling for Ferguson to be fired right now, but it is going to happen if they don't make the playoffs.

At 11:37 a.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous nebcanuck said...

Regardless of whether or not the Leafs make the playoffs, they're not in any shape to be a Cup contender any time soon. The Leafs really do need to step back for a bit and allow other teams to move past them as they rebuild, à la Chicago Blackhawks or Pittsburgh Penguins.

And regardless of how you frame it, it's hard to justify the Leafs' lost draft picks the last bit, since neither goaltender is stealing them games. If they had gotten a Luongo in the deal, it'd be different... but pillaging your farm system in order to get what amounts to half of Ed Belfour? That's not the best franchise-building model I've ever seen.

But I think Mirtle has a good point when he says that Ferguson's in a tough spot. What can the guy do? The Toronto fans won't settle for anything less than the playoffs. You can fight over and over again with the media and state that you're doing what's best for the team by ditching your stars. But when you're the one team in the largest market in North America, you're going to end up feeling the wrath of the media as soon as you fall out of the playoffs, and that puts any GM's job on the line.

At 11:46 a.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous PPP said...

How are the Blackhawks examples of how to rebuild? They have yet to make the playoffs and the season is 10 games old.

The Penguins are but how often in a draft do you get guys like Crosby, Malkin, and Staal in consecutive drafts?

More often than not the tear them down and suck rebuilding plans amount to nothing especially since while the media might clamour for it the second it began they would be howling for that GM's job and at the end of the day the GM is just looking to keep his job.

Not to mention that the Leafs have a team that does feature at least a handful of players that they have drafted and developed (Antro, Poni, Steen, Stajan, and White) and once Carlo and Wellwood come back they'll have 2 more. Not to mention Stralman and Kronwall that are knocking on the door.

Not that I don't think Ferguson should not be fired but I really hate Simmons.

At 11:46 a.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm not sure I agree with that. Toronto fans have accepted everything to this point, I think they could handle a rebuilding process (the building would stay soldout, in any event). But what they need is someone to come in, a la Brian Burke, and start the housecleaning immediately.

Ferguson's in a tough spot now because he's taken a win now approach from the beginning. And they haven't won.

At 11:48 a.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Not to mention Tomas Kaberle, who is another homegrown player.

Toronto needs more of those types, not less. What will the team's prospect system look like three or four years from now given Ferguson's dealt off so many picks?

At 11:49 a.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous said...

But right now, after a mere 10 games, sitting one game under .500 with a playoff spot in hand, does not consitute the kind of negative press the team is getting.

If they are still there after 60 games then I will jump on the Simmons bandwagon and help whip the horses into a frenzy.

At 11:50 a.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous noah said...

"Ferguson will not survive another playoff miss, so it's hard to blame him for betting the farm going into this season."

That's absolutely true, but also pretty depressing. He's essentially screwed this franchise for the next 5-7 years in an attempt to hang on to his job for one more year.

Also, the fact that 500 was good for 13th place last year is one more reason why the idiotic system that distributes a different number points for different games has to go. Otherwise we're going to have to start keeping track of how many points a team has accumulated *and* how many they've conceded in order to have their point total actually mean anything.

At 11:50 a.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous paul said...

This is the same Steve Simmons who thinks that Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a better pick then Jack Johnson or Carey Price.

At 11:53 a.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

That's absolutely true, but also pretty depressing. He's essentially screwed this franchise for the next 5-7 years in an attempt to hang on to his job for one more year.

It really is. I can't imagine being a fan of the team with that business going on.

That's where the Leafs need leadership above the GM position. They need someone to give direction that isn't "win or you're out" because that's only going to result in a firesale of the future.

You can certainly blame Ferguson for how the early years in his tenure went, but this season? He's got to go for it (unless directed otherwise).

At 11:59 a.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous said...

Sundin is leading the league in scoring. I think they still need to try and run with this guy. Kaberle could easily be top 5 for the D. What happens if Wellwood comes back and starts churning out a point a game on the third line?

There are plenty of positives on this team. Frankly, I would rather have to work on the defensive aspects of the game than be incapable of scoring. Defense can be fixed with the players you have, but offense to a large degree cannot be.

It took Belfour probably 15 starts in Toronto to take off. They need to play Toskala every night until he proves either capable or incapable. If Toskala proves he can do the job then there is no reason this team can not challenge. They have a good core here that needs to start playing a better team game, but they certainly don't need to be blown up. I think I speak for all of us that we don't want the decade of rebuilding that Chicago is still in the middle of.

At 12:00 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous noah said...

Simmons ends with:

"The culture of this hockey team desperately needs to change . . ."

I couldn't agree more, but then:

". . . starting with the general manager."

Unfortunately, no. It needs to change starting with the ownership. The problem with firing Ferguson is that the bunch of bickering suits who run the team will probably hire someone worse.

At 1:17 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Danny Tolensky said...

James I agree with you completely. I wrote a long-winded and rambling post on Ferguson and the Leafs this morning. This is a franchise that needs a major overhaul.

At 1:35 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone remember the Senators start to last year's season? Fire the coach, fire the GM, trade Alfredsson, Redden sucks! How did a little bit of patience by the cooler heads in charge turn out for them?

Its 10 games into a season. Their season hinges on having a starting goalie, and a commitment to a system.

At 1:45 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous said...

"Anyone remember the Senators start to last year's season? Fire the coach, fire the GM, trade Alfredsson, Redden sucks! How did a little bit of patience by the cooler heads in charge turn out for them?"

That's what I'm saying. With their scoring prowess, who knows, a commitment to defense could see them put together alot of wins. Let's all come back and have the same conversation at the 30 game mark, then we will at least know if the Leafs have a goalie.

I see a lot of positives on this team and they deserve a chance to try and turn it around.

At 3:06 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

The Penguins are but how often in a draft do you get guys like Crosby, Malkin, and Staal in consecutive drafts?

I think you mean: how many seasons do you have to intentionally tank to get Crosby, Malkin, and Staal?

At 4:09 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

If the season ended today, the Leafs would make the playoffs. Unfortunately, NHL rules mandate that all teams play the same number of games. Five teams have enough games in hand to pass the Leafs; at least two would do so. They're on pace for 73 points - that would have been 19 points out of the playoffs last year.

I'm not a big fan of the Washington-style "go in the tank to draft high" strategy. Pittsburgh's been undeservedly lucky, but I think the Caps may still suck for a number of years. It can take a long time to build a culture of winning - too long under free agency rules.

On the other hand, hanging on to your draft picks when you're a non-contending team - which the Leafs indisputably are - would seem to be a bare minimum decision. I agree it's a massive ownership problem, although even with a gun to his head I think JFJ could have done better than Raycroft and Toskala for all those picks.

At 4:35 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Anyone remember the Senators start to last year's season?

Yes. I remember it very well, because, while there was a lot of derision here about how they were playing, they were scoring a lot more goals than they were allowing, and just had bad luck in close games. Predicting that the Senators would finish near the top of their division was an easy call, because they were very clearly one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Once the bounces started evening out, they shot up the standings.

The same is not true of this year's Maple Leafs. They are slightly under .500, which is probably a slightly better record than they ought to have based upon goals scored and goals allowed. They are exactly where they belong in the standings. It isn't bad luck that the Leafs have a crummy record, because they've been playing like a crummy team. Sure, ten games is a small sample, and they certainly could get better. Unlike Ottawa last year, though, I don't see any particular reason to think that they will get better. It's just as likely that they could get worse.

At 4:40 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Rod said...

Thinking that the Sens turn-around last year is somehow possible for this edition of the Leafs is laughable. Really, I enjoyed the laugh. Thanks for that.

Ottawa was coming off a 113 point season, 1st in the East. How 'bout the Leafs? Did the Sens have 8 of 10 at home? Did the Sens face 8 straight backup goaltenders? The Sens problem was goaltending. The Leafs problem is everything in their own end, other than goaltending. Any chance the Leafs D will be changing anytime soon? Good luck on that 'commitment to defense' then.

I'm no Sens fan, but even I can see last year's edition of the Sens totally outclass the Leafs. Enjoy the dreamworld where the Leafs rally.

BTW, the Sens did fire their GM. Not exactly the best argument I've seen to keep Ferguson.

At 5:20 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I guess you guys are right. The Leafs have looked terrible in the four games they have lost this year and should fire everyone and just pack it in. And I guess then that so too should Anaheim, NY Rangers, Devils, Vancouver, Buffalo, Florida, Colorado, L.A., Edmonton, and Washington.

At 5:41 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And hey, if 4 losses is the yardstick for a complete blowup, I forgot to include that toronto also needs new owners, then the teams that have lost 3 games: Pittsburgh, Islanders, tampa Bay, Columbus, Calgary and San Jose should at least fire their coaches.

But lets not stop there, because those team's that have lost two games are looking borderline bad as well. Shouldn't Dallas, St. Louis, Detroit and Philadelphia be looking to make a trade to get better?

Sounds ridiculous doesn't it. So why is everyone panicing over the Leafs? Because they are being ridiculous. Its far too early.

At 7:01 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Davek said...

The statistical analysis was very interesting. If you didn't look at it, it is well worth checking out. The Leafs could move a couple of big money players (McCabe and Kubina) and still be the same quality team, if not better. This would free up a lot of salary for next summer. I honestly believe the team is only a couple of quality players away from being a contender.


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