I heard JFJ on the Fan590 Wednesday evening and I have to say I actually felt sorry for the guy.
McCown and Brunt asked him about his contract status at MLSE and JFJ spoke openly and honestly about his desire to remain GM of the Leafs and to secure a longer-term deal. It might have been the first time that I’ve felt he came across as a genuine person.
Based on that interview and the panel discussion that followed, I have a strong feeling that MLSE is going to ink Ferguson to a longer-term deal.
I came to this conclusion not as a result of heavy analysis, insider knowledge, or any brilliant gems that the talking heads offered-up at 5:45 on a Wednesday night.
No, I came to this conclusion mostly because this is the Leafs and extending JFJ is the wrong thing to do - so odds are it’s going to happen.
If there’s anything my three decade long one-way love affair with the Leafs has taught me it’s that this is an organization that likes to do things the difficult way and that 9 times out of 10 they like to make the wrong decision (please refer to: Sittler and MacDonald, treatment of; Roger Neilson and the paper bag; Carl Brewer’s come-back; Fred Boimstruck; trading Randy Carlyle; Brophy’s tenure; Courtnall for Kordic; Nimrod; Nykoluk; Nyland; Draft schmaft; the Gardens closing ceremony; the Smith-Dryden-Quinn triumvirate; Rick Ley's line-up cards; Post-lockout contracts for Belfour, Domi, Belak; the Jason Allison experiment; trading first round picks four times in the past 10 years; and on and on and on...)
Let me be clear about this: JFJ may be one helluva nice guy. He may be a smart hockey man; he may one day be a giant among NHL executives. But at the moment, he’s still a GM feeling his way and that’s not what this club needs. This club needs the best mind in hockey and, no offense to JFJ, he’s not that guy.
Let me put it in starker terms. According to Stats Canada, the average life span of a Canadian male is 75 years. That means I’ve got about 40 more chances to see the Leafs win the Cup before I kick the bucket. The last thing I need is to waste another 2 or 3 of those chances while JFJ goes about learning his job. JFJ's hesitant tenure is, if you will, killing me.
JFJ has been GM of the Leafs since 2003. This is his fourth year and third season as GM of the Leafs. The sum total of his achievements – a second round exit in his first year with the club; a post-lockout scramble that resulted in missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997-’98 and lots of questionable player personnel moves. (As an aside, if any of you readers seriously believe for one second that JFJ wasn’t in charge until this year – stop reading here. Seriously. Even if you were remotely right – and you are not - there’s only one conclusion that can be drawn from that line of thinking: JFJ has no cojones and should have resigned his post if he had to play second fiddle or manage while shackled by the board. If he’s that weak of a man, I don’t want him running the team.)
The sum total that JFJ has added to the Leafs on-ice product? 12 of 28 players. And of the 12 who have JFJ’s stamp on them, half are marginal role players who will likely be back in the AHL by the mid-point of this season:
- Jean Sebastian Aubin - UFA signed 2004
- Bates Battaglia –AHL reclamation project. Will likely return to the A
- Hal Gill – UFA signed 2006
- Chad Kilger – Claimed off waivers
- Pavel Kubina – UFA signed 2006
- Jeff O’Neill – Acquired post-lockout for a draft pick
- Ben Ondrus – AHL reclamation project. Will likely return to the A
- Michael Peca – UFA signed 2006
- John Pohl – AHL reclamation project. Will likely return to the A
- Andrew Raycroft - Acquired for Tukka Rask
- Aleksander Suglobov – Acquired for Ken Klee - looks great in the press box
- Andy Wozniewski – Likely headed to the Marlies when the D overcome injuries
The rest of the team were all here prior to JFJ's arrival:
- Nik Antropov – drafted 1998
- Wade Belak – 2001 Waiver Claim
- Brendan Bell – drafted 2000
- Carlo Colaiacovo – drafted 2001
- Jay Harrison – drafted 2001
- Tomas Kaberle – drafted 1996
- Staffan Kronwall – drafted 2002
- Bryan McCabe – Acquired in trade for Karpotsev
- Alexei Ponikarovsky – drafted 1998
- Matt Stajan – drafted 2002
- Alex Steen – drafted 2002
- Mats Sundin – Acquired in trade for Clark
- Darcy Tucker – Acquired in trade for Mike Johnson and Marek Posmyk
- Michael Tvelquist – drafted 2000
- Kyle Wellwood – drafted 2001
- Ian White – drafted 2002
Some of JFJ’s other questionable moves:
- Acquiring Brian Leetch for all of 15 games
- re-signing Belfour to that goofy contract
- thinking the lock-out would be short term
- not buying-out Belfour post-lockout
- being caught flat footed post-CBA
- Inking Domi to a two-year contract
- all of his post-CBA player acquisitions being uniformly busts
- whiffing at last year’s trade deadline
- failing to recognize that the Leafs may have had the talent on-hand to win all year (but continued to deploy the plodding Allison, the creaky Belfour and the shaky Khavanov)
- Giving McCabe a no-movement clause – the first of its type in the NHL
- Extending Belak's contract
This is not the stuff Championships are made of. This is not the stuff that warrants mid-season contract extensions and this is not the stuff that slightly increases the odds of the Leafs winning the cup before some very important personal StatsCan indicators kick-in.
I think the Leafs owe it to JFJ and his family to either put a bullet in him or ink him to a new deal.
If I were on the MLSE Board, I’d thank JFJ for his time, provide him with a nice reference and move him along or offer him a more junior post with the club. This team needs the best mind in hockey, not a guy who’s still learning as he goes.