January 17, 2008

It's Time To Re-Sign John Ferguson Jr.

For the past three seasons I have believed that the Toronto Maple Leafs were a playoff team. Clearly, my instincts have been wrong. Ok, horribly wrong. It's time for some George Costanza inspired thinking. It's time to re-sign general manager John Ferguson Jr. to a multi-year contract.

Like Jerry Seinfeld told George, "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right." My instincts are telling me that John Ferguson Jr. needs to be fired and jettisoned out of this town, and fast. So, with that in mind, lets get his signature on a long-term contract. JFJ got us into this mess, lets give him a chance to get us out of it.

While everyone is enjoying shitting on JFJ (I've done it too, I admit it is rather enjoyable), I think the man is deserving of some serious props. He's trying to do his job in one tremendously fucked up working environment right now, yet he's still been accessible to the media. There he was Tuesday night doing an interview on Sportsnet during the second intermission of the Leafs game saying that, yes, at the end of the day, he was accountable for Toronto's lack of success. The man isn't hiding behind a rock, although he has every reason to be. He's facing the heat, and I've got to show him some love for that. His job is hanging by the thinnest of threads, and it can't be good times in the Ferguson Jr. household.

I can't also forget to mention the douchebag JFJ has to report to - his boss, the ever-popular, Richard Peddie. Peddie's the moron who passed on Scotty Bowman - passed on freakin' Scotty Bowman - and who publicly said that JFJ's hiring was a mistake. It's also common knowledge that Peddie and the Leafs are, and were months ago, looking for a replacement for Mr. Dead Man Walking, JFJ.

The thought has crossed my mind as to why JFJ simply hasn't quit. Why he hasn't gotten up one morning and said, "You know what? Fuck this. I'm gone," is beyond me. I'm sure there are financial reasons involved, but he has chosen not to take the easy way out. I send more props his way.

I mean, you've got Scotty Bowman coming on national television saying he was interviewed by Peddie and co. and Cliff Fletcher-mania all over the media in the last few days. JFJ isn't stupid (although many think he most-certainly is and, based on his track record, it's tough to argue he's not). He sees the media vultures circling his soon-to-be canned carcass, and his team, every day. My question is: how the hell is this man supposed to get any work done in such an environment? He still is, after all, the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The same Toronto Maple Leafs that have won two games in a row, baby (and last night's victory was in a shootout, to boot)! But, in all seriousness, how is Ferguson supposed to make a trade when rival general manager's know he's a lame-duck manager and almost certainly on the way out, be it in the coming days or weeks, or in the off-season. I don't think it's possible. Every other general manager should be trying to rip Ferguson off right now and if they're not trying to, they're not doing their job. If JFJ is desperate to make a trade to try and save his behind, he hasn't let it be known, and hasn't made a deal, and I give him credit for that. He's sticking to his guns, even though he's flat out of ammunition.

The reality of the situation is that decisions need to be made in regards to this Leafs squad. Vancouver had a couple of scouts in Toronto to watch the Leafs on Tuesday night and Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter took in last night's game in Boston vs the Bruins. The Leafs have a ridiculously tradeable asset in Mats Sundin, and someone, whether it's Ferguson or his replacement, needs to start working the phones. JFJ needs to know whether he'll be pulling the trigger on any potential trade, doesn't he? Only in Toronto, I swear.

JFJ's treatment by the Leafs is pretty pathetic. Either show him the door, or give him an extension. The fact that they would leave the man's fate hanging in the balance like this is sad, and shows complete and utter disrespect for the position, and for JFJ. After this most-public humiliation of JFJ, who in their right mind would want to come and join the toxic environment that is the Toronto Maple Leafs front office? Ownership should be ashamed of themselves, but they're probably too busy doing laps in their swimming pool's of dollar, dollar bills, y'all.

As for Richard Peddie, I'm sick of hearing the catcalls for his firing. Peddie isn't going anywhere. He should be removed from the hockey department, as he was with the basketball department (hence the Raptors meteoric rise), but the man isn't going to be fired. He's simply made MLSE and the teachers way too much loot. According to his most trustworthy wikipedia entry, since taking over MLSE, Peddie has tripled its value to over $1.5 billion. Peddie, although a douche, ain't going nowhere. Deal with it.

The JFJ tenure in Toronto hasn't gone exactly to plan, although since his arrival in 2003 the Leafs have reached the 40-win and 90-point mark in each of his three seasons. Injuries have screwed JFJ and the Leafs, royally, the past few years. A completely healthy lineup is a luxury this team hasn't been able to have. Sure, every team and every general manager has to deal with injuries, but the Leafs, as I've documented, have been cursed by the MLSE injury plague.

One needn't look further than the recent injuries to Carlo Colaiacovo and Mark Bell. Colaiacovo injured his knee, the same knee he had surgery on a few months ago, while skating innocently to the bench after the referee blew the play dead a couple of weeks ago against Philly. He collided innocently with Flyers forward Jim Dowd and, just like that, it was back to the injured list for Carlo. I can't, in good conscience, even call it a collision - they just bumped into each other. Carlo simply cannot catch a break. Bless his heart, the poor guy.

Mark Bell, on the other hand, is plain old stupid. When he was traded to Toronto over the summer I heard he liked to chuck knuckles. Well, turns out that was just a rumour. He doesn't do much knuckle-chucking, but he sure is on the receiving end of a lot of 'em. The man can't fight, but he keeps on dropping the gloves. I'm not sure if Bell was preparing for his upcoming springtime sojourn to, umm, jail, but it's safe to say he won't be fighting for the next little while. A few weeks ago in Pittsburgh, Penguins forward Ryan Malone broke Bell's face in a fight (if you could call it that). Bell went under the knife recently to repair facial fractures (ouch) and will be gone eight weeks. So much more Bell being the dark horse in the Vesa Toskala trade, eh?

The goaltending has also been unkind - ok, very unkind - to the JFJ years. JFJ, in his second year with the team, and coming off the lockout, re-signed Eddie Belfour and watched as Belfour had his worst season in a Leafs uniform. The Buds ended up missing the playoffs by two points, but JFJ was his own worst enemy. He had only himself to blame, for he should never have re-signed the old and creaky Belfour, especially to a ludicrous two-year contract.

JFJ's solution to the Belfour debacle? Good old Razor Raycroft. I'm not even going to go there. However, as bad as the Belfour and Raycrap moves were, JFJ rectified the situation this time around with Toskala. Vesa is one of the few bright spots this year on a moribund Leafs team.

Let's not, however, get it confused - I'm not making excuses for JFJ, even though it seems like I am. The Leafs haven't made the playoffs two out of the three seasons he's been at the helm, and the playoffs are looking like a pipe dream this year as well. That's really all that matters. And, in the understatement of the year, JFJ has made some seriously fucked up personnel decisions. Raycroft's at the top of the list, that's for sure, but there are a ton of others that simply didn't, and haven't, worked out: Eric Lindros, Jason Allison, Jason Blake, Mark Bell, Marius Czerkawski, Brian Leetch, Tie Domi, Andy Wozniewski, and more. I'm not including in that list guys like Bryan McCabe and Pavel Kubina, but I'm sure others would put them at, or near, the top.

I'm rambling now, but there is a point to all my drivel (isn't there always?). JFJ is man who has learned while on the job, and why not give him a crack at turning this ship around. Sure, we can bring in someone new and change everything up, but there are no guarantees in life. It's why I voted Liberal in last October's provincial election. Did McGuinty and the Liberals do a super job the past four years? Uh, not quite. Were they on the right track? In my opinion, yes. If we keep changing our government every four years, what the hell is going to get done around here? Not much.

Changes, especially the systematic ones that the Toronto Maple Leafs so desperately need, take time, and it's time we learned some patience in this town. So I'm all for rebuilding this Leafs franchise, from the bottom up, and I'm saying lets give JFJ a shot at it. Even George went up to that woman in the coffee shop and told her that he was unemployed and lived with his parents. He did the opposite, and I suggest we do the same with our beloved Maple Leafs. We must follow the lead of George Louis Costanza, one of the most brilliant, and most neurotic, minds of our time...


Anonymous said...

great article, the references were key!

preets said...

dude, really? hmmm. Mixed thoughts.