Activity Does Mean Progress

It has been the season of inactivity for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It continued today right up to the trade deadline. It really should have not come to such a big surprise that this occurred, but it only provides more fuel to the fire on the direction this team is headed.

The opportunity presented itself to the Leafs to do something. Usually, when a club is struggling so badly as the Leafs have with a 4-13-2 record in their last 19 games, something usually gives. A proactive GM would be finding ways to help stop the bleeding and improve the club. Instead, John Ferguson chose to stand pat.

So, being 8 points out and ready to start a brutal schedule that has the Leafs playing 8 of 11 on the road, the other option would be to pack it in, look to next year and restock the system. But again, Ferguson did nothing.

This type of risk averse, dithering approach is not going to get this organization anywhere. It makes many wonder if the plan that Ferguson has and continues to boast is a whole lot of nothing. Or if there is a plan, and it’s to continue on the road to mediocrity.

If that is their intention then John Ferguson is the best man for the job. If the intention is to build a winner and a credible organization then a change definitely needs to be made. MLSE only needs to look at their other franchise the Raptors to see where incompetence in management can lead you.

I do not see any reason for the Leafs to keep Ferguson on as GM after his moves mirrored the stupidity of his basketball counterpart Rob Bab*****. Changing the GM or whomever is running the hockey department would be a step in the right direction. Its true that this would go against the words said today by JFJ that activity doesnt mean progress. But really it offers hope that change will bring direction and to me, that IS progress. Seeing how the Raptors hired the last executive of the year to righten their ship in Bryan Colangelo, we know MLSE has the resources and conscienceness to hire the best.

The team needs changes first at the top before anything else. Perhaps someone with a winning pedigree, a decorated resume and credibility. To me, Ferguson was a puppet and too much of an understudy to the old regime. Nothing of what he did was anything in the way of innovative and imaginative. Retaining Belfour for 3 years at 4.5 million per with a no-trade clause? Throwing money around who were either distracted, too old, injured or incompetent? Thats the kind of stuff we saw already from his predecessors. His cap mismanagement alone is enough reason to fire him.

But to me, he simply lacks the guts and guile to do something drastic. Whether it be casting away a crowd favorite, to moving a big name out, to firing the coach, he simply cannot pull the trigger. Being gunshy is not a trait that any GM should have. The Leafs need someone who is not afraid to do something about losing.

It’s the kind of opportunity that MLSE cannot let go by. The Leafs need something new, new ideas and philosophies. Fresh minds in management and behind the bench to take the team in a new and stronger direction.

The team is in very decent shape next season to potentially build a competitive team that should only get better down the road. In a rare occurence, they will for the 2nd summer in a row have a first round pick. The improvements in scouting and development, which is the only good thing Ferguson did, should land the Leafs a good prospect. I dont really condone losing but throwing in the towel would have been a real good idea as it could have meant a higher pick. The Leafs need to really draft a young stud to build with.

The Leafs bypassed the opportunity to pick up some prospects or draft picks at the trade deadline. We will hear the excuse of a weak draft or some other thing that condones their actions. I see it as an opportunity lost. In recent years we have seen teams like the Rangers, Caps, Preds and this year the Isles load up draft picks which have restocked their systems with players they can develop themselves. It works. I am sure that Khavanov, Berg and especially McCabe could have fetched a young return considering defence was in high demand (19 defencemen were traded yesterday). But not to the current regime.

The team will also have some cap room which wasnt available last summer. Though there is no need to spend excessively, there is also no excuse to sign guys like Lindros, Khavanov, Allison again. Using the numbers taken from the Toronto Star, here is how the Leafs stand next year:

Mikael Tellqvist One year at $519,500

Tomas Kaberle Five years at $4.25 million per year

Andy Wozniewski One year at $462,500

Mats Sundin Two years at $6.3 million per year

Darcy Tucker One year at $1.6 million

Jeff O’Neill One year at $1.5 million

Tie Domi One year at $1.25 million

Alexander Steen Two years at $900,600 per year

Alexei Ponikarovsky One year at $712,500

Wade Belak One year at $670,000

UFAs: McCabe, Berg, Khavanov, Allison, Lindros, Kilger, Wilm, Richardson

RFAs: Antropov, Wellwood, Coliacovo, Stajan

Ed Belfour Team option for $4.5 million. If the Leafs don’t pick up the option, they must buy Belfour out at $1.5 million, which goes against the salary cap.

It’s likely that Belfour’s option wont be picked up so they’ll have $19.7 million committed for 2006-07. Throw in 3 of the 4 RFAs (I hope they ditch Antropov) the payroll will likely jump to roughly 23 million. With the cap potentially rising up to $41-43 million, the Leafs could have up to $20 million in cap space.

With the way Ferguson has spent MLSE’s money already, it would be counter productive to allow him the opportunity to spend another cent. It would mean more of the cluelessness that needs to stop. We have already seen the lack of forward thinking on his part the last 2 summers. Considering the only real strength in the free agent market this summer is defence, there is little reason to use all their cap room available. But we have seen Ferguson’s cap management skills already and it leaves alot to be desired. The blood evidence will be if the incompetent Aki Berg and Nik Antropov both return.

The future of the Leafs depends on what the organization does at season’s end. Right now the team is on a path to days almost as dark as it was in the Ballard years when the likes of Garry McNamara, Gord Stellick and Floyd Smith were in charge. It doesnt have to be. All it takes is someone to not take the status quo, stand pat, stick with Pat approach to building a winner.

109 Responses to Activity Does Mean Progress

  1. nordiques100 says:

    dave nonis seemed to adapt pretty well and his very first year was the cap year. fergie had 2 seasons to prepare. instead he showed neglect and ignorance to it. perhaps it was that MLSE attitude but it also shows his lack of forward thinking.

    bab***** brought in some decent young talent. charlie V, graham, calderon. just like fergie i guess. but while bab***** was wating draft picks on hoffa, fergie was trading them away in the leetch deal. that is very much the same thing. and the two threw money for no reason. fergie to belfour, bab***** to zo mourning. both didnt get along with the coach and couldnt fire them b/c they were chummy with the owners and both chose to sit on their hands instead of being proactive of running a losing team. it took embry a week to cut 20 mil in cap space which rob didnt want to do. fergie also didnt want to do anything about his cap situation while he watched a team like the isles who are about equal in the standings cut several veterans. seems like pretty similar paths to me.

    it’s the same old story. hire a few scouts and a good AHL coach and he is god and deserves a 2nd a 3rd a 10th chance. shouldnt dwell on this stuff too much. it’s nothing grandious, innovative or imaginative. my grandmother’s dog could have figured out the leafs needed better scouts.

    he inherited the team 3 years ago. by now he should have figured out what needed to be done. all he did was mirror what quinn would have done when he resigned niewy, roberts, klee, belfour before the lockout and qualify berg and antropov 2 years running. nothing here suggested he had little to work with. if the guy is GM he should show some balls and do his own thing.

    i compare fergie to ballard’s GMs who were equally as efficient in building a 5th rate club.

  2. 92-93 says:

    well duh. of course he was trading draft picks – it was UNDER A DIFFERENT SYSTEM!

    now its a new system and he can’t do that anymore and he hasn’t. times have changed, so your criticisms of JFJ should change too – especially if he hasn’t been trading away top-round draft picks or prospects.

    i never once said that JFJ was ‘god’ and quite frankly your comments are getting beyond the comments of a frustrated individual and towards the comments of a very disrespectful individual. he didn’t just ‘hire a few scouts’, etc. – do you even know what he has done? and how do you go from 2nd chance to 10th chance so easily. geesh. do you really want me to take your opinions seriously? because if you do, you need to drop such non-sensical sentences like: “hire a few scouts and a good AHL coach and he is god and deserves a 2nd a 3rd a 10th chance […] my grandmother’s dog could have figured out the leafs needed better scouts.”

    yes he inherited the team 3 years ago. but then this little thing call the cap was introduced more than half-way through his tenure. now do i agree with the moves he has done before and since then, no not all the time. but the guy hasn’t been given a chance, and reading your ‘points’ about why he should be let go, i realize that he’s clearly not getting a fair shake.

    and if you truly HAVE ANY CLUE, KNOWLEDGE, or MEMORY OF THE HAROLD BALLARD YEARS then you would never, ever make such comparisons. it is clear that you became a leaf fan in 1991 or your consciousness about hockey began around then because you have no idea what you are talking about when you make such faulty comparisons.

    again – your Nonis comment, i’ll simply restate: ‘now before you start pointing to other GMs who have done better under the same system, you have to remember that JFJ had less to work with in terms of a minor league system and scouting and drafting.’

  3. 92-93 says:

    oh and nords … stop reading steve simmons’ articles!

    your opinions are usually bang on when it comes to the leafs (especially in this past offseason when i first joined HTR), but right now i think its time to take a step back for a bit and REALLY take a good look at the recent history of the leafs. clearly, you and i don’t see the same history, but its all about context. and all i am asking of people who don’t want to criticize JFJ (and i do NOT fall in that category) and those who criticize JFJ but go about it in a very inaccurate way is this: look at the context. look at the ground on which JFJ stands and she how it has shifted.

  4. nordiques100 says:

    i cant help it if i demand winning. i am truly sick of how people dwell on a playoff win or winning 1 round or hiring a good scout or finding a top minor league coach. who cares. win a cup for once.

    my opinion has nothing to do with steve simmons thank you.

    to be so optimistic over a few off ice hires is insignificant. will it ever get better on the ice if JFJ doesnt have the balls to cut loose quinn? or make some tough personnel moves dropping some fan favorites? he has done nothing of significance since he came in.

    if he just started fine, but 3 years and he hasnt put his stamp on the team. he brought back the same darn guys that quinn got in the first place!!! i want him to do something with the team, the leafs. not the marlies or the scouting department or his assistants. the team the leafs, the ones wearing the jerseys the leaf crest, the numbers like 14 for keon, 27 for sittler and the big m, 13 for sundin, 17 for clark. the ones playing at the ACC against the montreal canadiens, the sens the oil, the rangers. the team. he has done NOTHING for that team. you and nobody else can deny that.

    that my friend is the damn context of it all.

  5. 92-93 says:

    well we simply disagree.

    what you consider ‘insignificant’ a lot of other people – not just fans but hockey people as well – consider quite important – especially to the future of the Leafs’ franchise.

    I too want the leafs to win the cup. but whenever a franchise wins a cup, its not just the NHL team that wins it, its the entire organization – scouting staff, coaching staff, AHL team, other minor league teams, etc. its a franchise accomplishment and you should know that. to look at the results of this year’s leafs, to completely conflate the pre-lockout leafs/situation with the post-lockout/leafs situation, to make no distinction or differentiation between the two within your criticisms is where i have my issues with your argument.

    so, sorry, i CAN ‘deny’ – or as i like to call phrase it: ‘disagree’ – that JFJ hasn’t done anything for this team. the fact of the matter is that JFJ HAS done a lot for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the ones that wear the maple leaf crest on their jerseys. And as the next couple of seasons will prove, i hope, we will see more of the moves that JFJ has made with the Marlies and elsewhere pay off.

    to call for JFJ’s head after his first, post-lockout season, is ridiculous.

    as for the context – well, we have differing opinions on that as well. the thing about context is that it is hardly reducible to a single person. the more complete one’s understanding of context is, the more people are involved in being credited or blamed for what goes down. I refuse to place all the blame on JFJ for both his recent moves and the moves he made when he first came in. When he first became GM, it was a different system and he was able to throw money at problems. Considering his background as a scout and developing talent for the Blues, this must have gone contrary to his instincts. NOW, post-lockout, he has a chance to put those skills to good use and so far he has. the problem is much larger than JFJ and has to do with the pressures of MLSE and the unique situation that is the Leafs being the most popular franchise in hockey.

  6. nordiques100 says:

    yes him completely revamping the scouting and development system is great but does it completely outweigh the belfour 3 year deal for 4.5 million plus a no trade clause? completely outwieghs the allison contract which called for 3 million in performance bonuses for a player who hasnt proven his health after injury for 3 years? does it completely outweigh his inactivity to help add a piece to either the future or the present? does it completely outweigh his miscalculation of the cap? to me it does not and it is my own opinion.

    i dont think ferguson should be let off the hook cause he has addressed the off ice issues within the leafs. the results need to be seen on the ice. you cannot deny him transforming a competitive team he took over to one that is now a nonplayoff team. and you cannot deny his complete mismanagement of the cap. and you also cannot deny that he has done things that are not much different that what his predecessors did. the belfour signing for example? frevelously spending the money when really he shouldnt have?

    these are not things of a confident forward thinking idea filled GM. he hasnt a clue and the blood evidence doesnt lie. if you wish to see what he can do this summer then that is great for you. i have my opinion and that is that he doesnt deserve it. he wasted the money on belfour klee, he did resign roberts and niewy for 1 year too plus qualify berg and antropov 2 consecutive summers for over a mil. if he didnt know that changes were coming in the CBA i have to question his abilities. for myslef, i am not sure he can do things right. and i dont know if he has the guts to fire the guy who has been mentoring him on the GM duties in quinn.

    lets say he signs mccabe to 5 mil. he may have had 20 mil to start, but it is now down to 15 mil left to spend. and that is after he signs the RFAs and buys out belfour. and you would like next year unlike this year to have a bit of cap space for injury. i think that is what hurt the team when mccabe was out and he couldnt get reinforcements because there was no cap space to use or little of it. if he learns from that mistake then i would say save 5 mil. that is a safe number. therefore the roster is:

    sundin, pony, oneill, domi, belak, wellwood, stajan, steen, tucker up front

    mccabe, kaberle, coliacovo, kronvall and likely another youngster (woz, harrison, bell, pilar) on D

    and tellqvist in goal.

    you still need 3 forwards, 2 blueliners and a starting goalie with just 10 mil in cap space to really use. playing the youngsters is a great idea but i think with the signings of kabby and mccabe to long term deals they want to win now as much as they want to win later.

    so how would they get better by bringing back guys who didnt fare well for them this year? they would be affordable if inefficient. adding just 1 big name guy to play with sundin for example for say 4 mil would eliminate them a chance of getting a proven goalie or adding depth to the D. or say they add a goalie of named value. who will play with sundin? and can M and K play 30 minutes again all year long?

    so instead, does that mean more lindros or other low rate signings with a low return? will nikky return? he is a RFA who needs a 1 mil qualifier. does fergie have the gumption to let him go? he has been in a word inefficient as a leaf. he doesnt deserve a mil. but i guess that would go back to quinn whom he wont fire or at least cant. quinn likes antropov. that would mean his return i can only assume. does that mean his return to the top line?

    see there is so many ways to see how fergie could hinder things more than help them. we could talk until we’re blue in the face on what fergie should do like rid himlsef of domi, oneill belak etc but we know it wont happen. or will it? i think he had a chance to do something significnat at the deadline and when he chose to be inactive, i cant see him having any more opportunities to make changes because he either wont, cant and is too stubborn to.

    to me, strengthening the leafs off the ice isnt enough. i dont think he can do it for the team on the ice. sure it may not all be him, but if there were someone in his position with a little more power and respect around the league i would have to think things would be handled differently. to me that is taking it into context.

    i enjoy your fervor at sticking with toronto but if you would like people to take your words into context, you must take others as well. what i said about ballard only related to the GMs. not anything else. mcnamara, smith, stellick, hey the team drafted well back then, and did some good things. heck i hear even floyd smith wanted to draft sakic. but as a whole they were bad. and fergie hasnt shown enough to be considered doing a good job.

  7. nordiques100 says:

    dont you think then he is over his head? pretty poor decision then to put someone so inexperienced in such a huge position.

    do you excuse him for his pre lockout decisions? cmon man, he should have known changes would come to the CBA. he should have prepared better. the judgement should also include then and not just his 1 post lockout season.

  8. 92-93 says:

    agree with most of your criticisms about JFJ and some of his decisions he has made. i too am in doubt of whether or not he will do what needs to be done and i am close to the end of my rope with some of the decisions he’s made.

    (for proof of this, scroll down to the ‘Deadline Deals’ thread where i make two huge posts critiquing JFJ).

    and please don’t take my defence of JFJ as another example of a leaf fan blindly following his/her team or lowering his/her standards. but i refuse to wholesale dismiss anyone. i have to take the good with the bad and mention both of them. when JFJ F—s up, i’ll yell and scream about it (again, check out the ‘Deadline Deals’ thread). but when he makes a good move/decision, and he has made many of those too, i don’t want to ignore them either.

    well, we disagree. and i know that people like you, Aetheial, etc. care passionately about the team and that’s totally cool. i am going to be posting something soon – yes another ‘plan’ for the leafs, that takes into context a lot of the numbers that Aetherial throws around in his last post.

  9. chingpao says:

    There was a rumor of Antropov going to Chicago for Arnason. I have trouble believing Toronto was outbid by Ottawa’s offer of Bochenski and a draft pick. I’d prefer Antropov over Bochenski. Maybe there were a few other things JFJ could have done to better the teams future. Arnason still has untapped potential and a change of scenery might have done the trick.

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