Quit Bashing JFJ

I can’t believe how much I hear people whining about JFJ. Every time I look at this site, there are people blaming JFJ for the leafs not making the playoffs 2 yrs in a row, blaming him for Raycroft’s inconsistency, even for Bell’s suspension. WTF is up with all that shit??? For a guy who had not been a GM at this level before, he is doing a good job in one of the league’s most difficult markets to please (Toronto).

We’re talking about a guy who was hired to be a scapegoat for the leafs while they struggle to adjust to the salary-cap system. When he was hired before the 03-04 season, there may not have been a salary-cap but you can bet that the Leafs brass knew it was a likely possibility. They hired JFJ just in time to get some experience before the lockout. After the lockout ended and the NHL resumed operations in the 05-06 season, JFJ had the task of taking a $62.5 million dollar team and making it a $39 million dollar team. There is no way that he could duplicate the performance of the pre-lockout leafs (4th in the eastern conference and 5th in the NHL) with a post-lockout salary-cap. The leafs were expected to struggle with a cap, and struggle they have. In order to have a competitive team with a salary cap, you must be able to draft and develop young players. This is evident looking at the teams that have been successful with a cap (Anaheim, San Jose, Buffalo, Ottawa, etc) The leafs aren’t exactly known for developing their young players, so it obviously takes some time to adjust. JFJ was hired to take the blame for the growing pains and will probably be fired before the leafs see the fruits of his efforts. And just to cap it off, I took this quote from JFJ’s bio on the leafs site “During Ferguson’s tenure the Maple Leafs have established franchise records for points (103), wins (45-tie), home wins (26) and road wins (23) in a season.”

As for Raycroft, who expected this guy to win 37 games last year? NOBODY! He was clearly overworked, playing 72 games, and it showed when it came down to the wire (9 of his 25 losses were in overtime). Only Brodeur, Luongo and Kiprusoff played in more games than Raycroft and we all know he is not as good as any of those goalies. Not yet anyways, you never know what might happen in the future… he just turned 27. When Luongo was his age (a yr ago) he only won 35 out of 75 games, I know it was with Florida but still. My point is, Raycroft is not as good as any of the other goalies mentioned in this paragraph, but he is still a solid young goalie with a HUGE upside. Now add Toskala to take 30-40 of the 82 games and see the team roll until they tear their groins or the PK hangs them out to dry. (stats acquired from tsn.ca)

And lastly, the Bell issue. Of course JFJ knew this guy had these issues to deal with, but he obviously knew more than any of you about the situation and decided to take a chance on a young guy who has lots of potential but needs to get over the drinking/legal issues that side-tracked him last season. Sure he made a HUGE mistake with the drinking-and-driving hit-and-run, but even though Bell has been suspended indefinitely, according to reliable sources (NHL Spokesman Frank Brown) “There is no expectation on our part that (his suspension) would extend into the season” (http://www.thestar.com/Sports/NHL/article/253304)
Stop speculating about how much time Bell will miss or how the leafs will use the salary cap space, or any other nonsense like that. Even if Bell does miss time, it won’t be significant and the leafs must retain the cap space for suspended players in the event that they are able to return. They cannot spend the money tied up in Bell, and for any of you out there thinking JFJ made a bad decision taking Bell, try looking back a yr to when Bell scored 25 goals with Chicago. If he can score 25 in Chicago, imagine what he can do in Toronto if he keeps his focus. If he doesn’t keep his focus, he may be a negative distraction to the team which could impact a relatively young group.

That’s the end of my ranting about your whining, for now. If I keep hearing you naggles crying about how Sundin is a bad captain, then I might have to write one of these about the best European captain ever to lace them up.

* leafs 03-04 salary taken from http://www.usatoday.com/sports/hockey/nhl/salaries/totalpayroll.aspx?year=2003-04