To start, I am completely behind the signing of Cliff Fletcher as interim GM. With the interim status he will be given the green light to undergo a series of changes in Leafs land, and all signs seem to point to the big, flashing rebuilding sign, I really don't have to explain why. However, some fans are skeptical on Fletcher because his track record of depleting youth and attaining veterans. They have every reason to poor some sweat over this matter, this team has ended up with nothing but failure for over 40 years, this is only natural.
With that said, I don't think Leafs fans will have to worry about this. Cliff stressed to the Toronto media that to make a significant impact in this league, you have lay the ground work. He added that good drafting and developing a young core is essential to any success. It is music to my ears. Thank you very much, Cliff.
But wait! In comes the sinister Richard Peddie with an absolutely golden quote "Cliff Fletcher is the ideal person to lay the groundwork of positive change for the Leafs. As all of our general managers have had, he will have the autonomy and responsibility for all hockey decisions with a focus on establishing a foundation from which the next general manager can build." I say pardon!? You sir, are a liar. If JFJ was given that kind of freedom, why did you shoot down his plan to re-build the Leafs a couple of years ago? Is it because you a) thought the Leafs were Stanley Cup bound? Or was it b) the satisfying sound of "ca-shing!" was too much.
Here's the thing. Cliff Fletcher doesn't worry me, Richard Peddie does. If the quote above tells us anything, it's that Peddie is delusional and/or a liar. If Cliff decides to do a major overhaul of the Leafs come the trade deadline, what will Peddie's reaction be? If it means missing the playoffs for 3 more seasons will he accept such change? Maybe, like JFJ, he will refuse such suggestions and swipe it under the rug. Apparently, it is in Cliff's contract to have full say on anything he does with the Leafs. I don't buy it. MLSE is too sneaky and have done to much damage to the Leafs for me to believe such things, there is probably a loophole, either that or I've became completely paranoid ( courtesy of MLSE, thank you very much!). Like it or not, the Leafs are a very dysfunctional family, and I believe it will take much more than an interim GM to solidify a better future.
JFJ was never really the problem, he was just a deer caught in the headlights with no survival experience - so he got squashed. In a very unprofessional and heartless way, at that. I am not defending John, because his work as GM has been certainly questionable, but with that said, he did have plans to rebuild this club. He got rejected. So we end up with a rookie GM who has been denied to rebuild a team headed to demise in a scrutiny infested city. What did we expect? His limitations were extremely small and he did not have much to work with.
If there is one thing they could not snub him on, it is drafting. JFJ is considered to be skilled when it comes to drafting. While he traded some highly touted prospects (Tukka Rask) you have to remember he had no choice, because playoffs were the number one priority.
Let's look at some of the acquisitions JFJ has brought to Toronto:
- Joe Nieuwendyk .. - Eric Lindros
- Andrew Raycroft .. - Ken Klee
- Pavel Kubina .. - Brian Leetch
- Hal Gill .. - Ron Francis
- Vesa Toskala .. - Ed Belfour
- Jason Blake .. - Jason Allison
- Signed D Bryan McCabe to a 5-year, 5.75 mil contract with a NTC.
- Signed D Tomas Kaberle to a 4- year, 4.20 mil contract with a NTC.
- Signed D Pavel Kubina to a 4-year, 5.00 mil contract.
Not exactly impressive, however, there is a few good signings here. Most notably, the contract extension of Tomas Kaberle is quite simply a steal. With Kaberle you get almost a carbon copy of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov, but a bit more skilled. Markov makes 5.7 million per season, Kaberle makes 4.2, and there is a considerable difference there.
Also, how different do you think this list would be if JFJ was given full autonomy? It is something to ponder.
Well, either way you slice it - the JFJ era est fini. A new era is coming, we don't know who will overtake the Leafs throne, but it won't be Fletcher - who is serving as a patch to the heavily wounded Maple Leafs. Fletcher's job will be to lay out a blue print of how the Leafs will be outlined. Not exactly an easy job, because getting key youngsters to replace players like Mats Sundin will be very -- and I mean VERY -- important to any kind of Leafs future. Whatever he does, the new GM will have some pieces to work with, hopefully to bring the Leafs to a respectable level.
When you fully analyze the situation the Leafs are in it's not that bad. I'm super cereal. A long term rebuilding plan would pretty much ail the wounds of the Leafs. But, there is one glaring problem.