Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ferguson fired, Fletcher fills in...

Out with the old, in with the older!

"After full consideration of the Leafs' situation, it has become clear that change and a new direction is needed. The decision has been made that John will not be receiving a new contract at the end of this year, and it's in the best interests of the Leafs and of John to begin the transition immediately," ---Richard Peddie, president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.

The last Margarita apparently consumed and the new boss tanned, rested and ready to work the latest era of Maple Leaf transition has begun.

John Ferguson Jr. was relieved of his duties this morning and Cliff Fletcher, who is set to head back to his Phoenix home on Wednesday is apparently making his plans to return to the Maple Leafs to try and bring some stability to rather dysfunctional Maple Leaf situation.

The long anticipated (and drawn out) melodrama played its final scene of the Ferguson sessions on Tuesday as Richard Peddie made his announcement and perhaps gave Ferguson some sense of relief that the shabby handling of his bosses was now finally over.

In their parting comments the Leafs summed up the Ferguson years in a paragraph; John has been given the opportunity and the resources he requested to deliver results from the strategic plans that he put in place when he was named general manager in 2003, and while the new collective bargaining agreement required some re-shaping of those plans, the results have fallen short of what our organization, including John, and our fans expect.

No mention of the stumbling, fumbling nature of the upper offices, where apparently accountability is not a requirement, nor humility a trait.

The Leafs and their byzantine layer of management left Ferguson to twist in the wind far too long, playing out the torture for weeks at a time and degrading their own brand in the process.

With Ferguson now out, the process to rebuild is said to be underway, Fletcher upon his arrival from the sunbelt destinations will take over the day to day running for the rest of the season and will be tasked with the duty of as Peddie puts it, establishing a foundation from which the next general manager can build.

While Fletcher patches up the cracks and holes in the foundation and wheels and deals the leafs through the final stages of the 2007-08 season, Peddie and his board will begin the search for the next great hope.

To that end, Peddie announced that sports attorney Gordon Kirke will be added to the search team to consult with Peddie in the quest for the next Leaf President and General Manager, Kirke and Peddie will put their heads together and provide the name of all names to the MLSE board.

Kirke appears from time to time on the radio program Prime Time Live with Bob McCown, who has been rather critical of the Maple Leaf soap opera this year. Perhaps Kirke will take some of his research from the various contributors to Toronto's radio talk show wars, where there's never a shortage of options offered.

Ferguson's Maple Leaf obituary had been written for weeks if not months now, sabotaged in a way by the Leafs dithering of the off season, the search for a mentor for Ferguson fell flat leaving him as a lame duck since the start of the season. As the Leafs began to slide down the standings, the calls for the Leafs to make some decisions became louder and louder.

Ferguson broke his uncomfortable silence yesterday in an interview with the Toronto Sun, in which he seemed more or less resigned to his fate and said that he was sure that he still had more to contribute to hockey and fully expected to be part of the sport in the future. It was a sentiment shared by more than a few hockey people interviewed by the National Post.

As things have evolved in the last 48 hours he'll be able to put those thoughts to the test, and he most likely will get another chance, hopefully with a more focused ownership group that has an idea as to where they want to go and how they want to get there. Interestingly enough in a Globe and Mail story on Tuesday, comparisons of Ferguson's winning percentages compared to other Leaf GM's stacked up fairly decently, in fact by comparison his .559 is better than his replacements number of .502.

Ferguson's headaches are now Fletcher's, no wonder the new boss wanted to get in that Mexican siesta while he had the chance. That pounding in his head will no longer be from those beach side beverages, but rather from the never ending problems that seem to go hand in hand with running the show at MLSE.

Globe and Mail--Leafs turn to Fletcher

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