Monday, January 14, 2008

Leafs look to Fletcher

The beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs are taking steps to try to replace general manager John Ferguson Jr.

Sources tell TSN that the Leafs have contacted a number of hockey management types to gauge their interest in the job, which is currently held by Ferguson, and, in fact, have asked former Leaf GM Cliff Fletcher if he is interested in taking over as interim GM of the NHL club.
Oh boy.

Well, I called the Leafs the league's most dysfunctional franchise a month and a half ago, but the three-ring circus is certainly hitting the high notes lately.

If you're going to try and wade into all of this silliness, the best piece written lately came from CBC's Elliotte Friedman, who offered a well-reasoned take on the Fletcher business last night on his blog.

"Fletcher’s name has come up for three reasons," Friedman says:

(1) "He is popular in the market, with the fans and media"
(2) "Mats Sundin knows him and trusts him"
(3) He’s available

The Sundin business rings true: If someone is going to take over this mess and attempt a rebuild of any sort, the first move will be a deadline deal that brings in futures for the Leafs captain. Of course, he can return to Toronto next season as a free agent, but for the now the priority has to be looking toward the future and, as Friedman notes, Fletcher would be the perfect candidate to finesse such a move.

The other thing Friedman gets into is the human part of this drama, which has become excruciating at this point. Ferguson may have underperformed as general manager and deserve the boot, but no one should have to walk a gauntlet like this on the way out.

Unfortunately in Toronto, firings play out in the media before they've happened, and one would imagine that takes quite a toll on those involved.

By all accounts, John Ferguson is a good man; he just hasn't been a good GM (in difficult circumstances, to be sure).

As for Fletcher, well, he may be 72 years old, but I think he'll now jump at the chance to take on the GM's role in Toronto again. He had some success there before, and after being punted out of Phoenix in a regime change, this could be his last chance to take on a high-level executive role.

"I'm not sure whether I am between jobs or retired," Fletcher told the Toronto Sun last weekend.

To me, that's not a guy hellbent on staying out of the game.

UPDATE Eric Duhatschek and Lowetide weigh in.

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At 8:35 p.m., January 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This could work. Risebrough's still a GM. Maybe he'll trade Gaborik to his old buddy Fletcher so the Wild can re-sign Matt Foy or Jasper Parvnik or whomever. That Gilmour robbery resulted in the last great Leafs team. Maybe lightning will strike twice.

At 8:43 p.m., January 14, 2008, Blogger Bruce said...

Fletcher is a good interim choice IF the plan is to first tear down, then rebuild. He did a pretty good job of just that in an interim role in Phoenix, where he replaced Bobby Smith in Feb. 2001, dumped big headaches and/or contracts with names like Tkachuk, Roenick and Khabibulin, obtained some young talent and picks, and essentially cleared the deck for Mike Barnett who took the helm about six months later. Fletcher basically was a hatchet man in that situation, but to me he did a good job of dismantling what had become a dysfunctional franchise.

Goodness knows that the Leafs needs to add by subtraction first, JFJ has them committed to something close to $40 MM next year, so watch for a fire sale of assets (a.k.a. "liabilities") under Fletcher's direction. And don't be surprised if he gets kicked upstairs in the off-season.

At 12:37 a.m., January 15, 2008, Blogger Dennis Prouse said...

Regardless of what one may think of John Ferguson Jr. and his job performance, no one deserves to be treated like this. If I was a Leaf fan, I would be embarrassed not by my team's record, which really isn't that awful, but rather by the way in which my team was publicly humiliating a member of their management team. Shame on them. A scene this tawdry can only have the fingerprints of Richard Peddie on it. What a class act that guy is...

At 1:06 a.m., January 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent point, Dennis.

And anyone with class who the Leafs approach will refuse to negotiate on taking the GM's job while Ferguson is still in place. It's totally disrespectful.

At 6:28 a.m., January 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's what I thought, too.

If you are going to fire a man, then fire him already - don't leave him dangling like a pinata for everyone to whack at with a stick.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking a lot like the Detroit Lions, but by committee. Yikes.

At 10:11 a.m., January 15, 2008, Blogger Chemmy said...

The problem with the Leafs is obviously that they're being run by a board that knows nothing about hockey.

JFJ might not be that bad of a GM, he's just never had a long term contract to be able to rebuild a team or plan for the future, he's always been told "win now" and had being fired dangled over his head. Maybe he is incompetent, but he had no chance to demonstrate otherwise.

At 11:04 a.m., January 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen Chemmy, the focus first has to be on getting Peddie and Tanenbaum and the rest of the board away from any hockey decisions.

They need to hire a president and then step back for good.

And yes, JFJ and Paul Maurice definitely do not deserve to have every question in a media scrum involve their firing.

I hate to agree with Damien Cox but start firing people already. Time is not infinite.

At 3:04 p.m., January 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with the Leafs is obviously that they're being run by a board that knows nothing about hockey.

No, its worse; because they know a little about hockey. Just enough to screw it up. If they knew nothing, they'd let their 'hockey' people handle it.

At 4:25 p.m., January 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, its worse; because they know a little about hockey. Just enough to screw it up. If they knew nothing, they'd let their 'hockey' people handle it.

Now if only they knew that they know nothing...


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