It’s been a rough past couple weeks, well rough season really for the Leafs and after a stretch of six losses in the past seven games which has been capped off by a 5-1 loss to the youthful Phoenix Coyotes it is becoming more and more evident that the time for change is near. There are rumors of the GM John Ferguson being fired, rumors of Paul Maurice being fired……there was even a rumor that he was fired but the ownership stepped in and quickly stopped that from happening. Whether or not this is true only Ferguson, Maurice and Leaf ownership really know, as you can’t always believe what is reported in the paper, especially when it’s a reporter that heard it “from a source” but lets for a second pretend it is true. Since the Pat Quinn days it seems that there is nothing done in Leaf land without ownership saying yes you can or no you can’t which is where the real problem in Leaf land lie.
I will openly admit to questioning the decisions made by Ferguson but now after hearing that ownership stopped him from firing Maurice this week I really have to question how many of those decisions really came from Ferguson or were done because Richard Petty and the teachers said so. When Ferguson stepped in he talked of building through youth and the draft which sounded nice and refreshing at the time, but even the most casual Leaf fan knows this never materialized. Since then we have seen trades for and free agent signings of expensive veteran players that at best have made next to no impact if any at all. We have seen draft picks and prospects traded for next to nothing and youthful players that need an opportunity to play to become effective players banished to the third and forth line or even the AHL. Not exactly anybody’s idea of building through youth is it? With the Leafs ownerships desire to make the playoffs, not win the cup just make the playoffs and the lack of commitment made to Ferguson it is clear there is no real plan in place here and it’s a day by day operation that is failing miserably.
So the question is what to do? This is probably going to seem a lot more simple then it really is but the first step is Leaf ownership stepping out of the day to day player personal decisions and letting whoever is going to be the next GM do there job. I’m saying this assuming that Ferguson will not make it through the summer; he might not even make it through the week. The Leafs need someone with experience to take over, someone that is known around the league and is respected. The only way someone like this will even consider coming to Toronto is if the ownership does whatever ownership does and allows the GM to do what they do. It’s been reported that Scotty Bowman originally said no to the Leafs back in the summer because he was told that there would be no re-building and that nothing less then a playoff spot would be acceptable. This is Scotty Bowman, owner of 9 Stanley cup rings. It’s more then fair to say that he knows a thing or two about building a winner. As the saying goes Rome wasn’t built in a day and Bowman knew that the current model had to be stripped and a new foundation built. It’s going to take someone that is creative and that has an eye for talent to come in here and even begin to make this mess of a team competitive again, but even more importantly it’s going to take Petty and Tenenbaum first agreeing on a GM and committing to this person over the long term and then stepping back and letting him work his magic no strings attached. Nothing in sports is a guarantee but one thing is almost certain, this team as it stands is not a playoff team and if things keep going the way they are, hang in Leaf fans it could very well be another forty years before we see a Stanley cup parade down Youge St.