Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hey, does anyone have Punch Imlach’s phone number?

They plowed through the B’s to no avail, apparently rebuffed by Scotty Bowman. Bud Poile never got the chance to say yea or nay. A confidential session was held with John Muckler, so secret that we suspect snipers were ordered to stand guard atop the roof of the Air Canada Centre on the off chance somebody got too close to the inquisition.
And now if the latest report is true, they have now turned their attention to Harry Sinden who did such a fine job with the B’s over the last twenty years or so.

In one of the more bizarre headhunter searches in recent times, the executives of MLSE have talked to anyone with a pulse and an old age pension in regard to the “mentoring” position for John Ferguson Jr.

The Leafs seem determined to undercut any value their current GM may have, by trotting out the elder statesmen of the last century. And while we no doubt suspect that all those considered thus far have a fair amount of hockey knowledge and have probably forgotten more than we’ll ever learn, most of it was forged back when the players could be sent to Siberia or Springfield at the whim of the manager.

The long running saga which first got its legs before the playoffs had even finished, has carried on to comedic lengths, with the only message that doesn’t seem to be getting through is that there aren’t that many people really in a hurry to work for the crazy rich guys guarding the Teachers fund at the Air Canada Centre.

How this whole bizarre scenario is impacting on his ability to run the Leafs is a very valid question. How many other GM’s will phone him up and try to talk trade, how many agents will call him up with their free agent players if there’s some doubt that he’ll actually be the guy making the decisions. It’s the most foolish thing we’ve seen in a long time from the franchise that used to make Foolish its corporate mantra.

You have to feel a fair degree of sympathy for Ferguson, who may be wondering just what it is that his bureaucratic masters at MLSE really want from him. More importantly perhaps he should be looking to find his parachute and go to a franchise a little less loony in their approach to upper management. He could only pray that Hamilton somehow snares their cats from Nashville and might need an extra hand, now that would be a delicious bit of turn about, taking his battered frame down the QEW to help launch the next great threat to the Leaf Nation.

The unseemly manner of the Leafs machinations of late, took a rather dark turn today with the news of the passing of John Ferguson Sr., the hard nosed former left winger of the Habs and one of the great characters and most knowledgeable executives of the game. His son will take time out now to bury his father, a job that every son dreads but one which must be taken to complete life’s cycle.

Once he has taken care of that most sacred of our social rites, he can get back to wondering about his bosses. He was particularly close to his father from all accounts, one would hope that some final fatherly advice might have been to take his lumps from the Toronto experience and move on to a more promising opportunity. There are 29 other teams in the NHL, most of them in need of some upper office guidance, surely a few of them are a run a little bit more sanity than his current employer.

He may truly want to stay on with the Leafs, they are the face of hockey in the NHL. One of its most storied, but apparently most dysfunctional of franchises.

John Ferguson Jr. may or may not become the next great General Manager in pro hockey. He may or may not have what it takes to lead a team to the Stanley Cup, but in order to make that step you have to have the faith of your employer and faith in your employer.
Judging by the last six weeks in Toronto, Ferguson must wonder at nights if this job is worth all the levels of Dante’s circles hat seem to be playing out for him as part of the Maple Leaf Nation.
Note: article was revised July 15/07, to correct an error in text regarding Ferguson Srs. position with the Canadiens.

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