Won't Get Fooled Again

This time, I’ll pass on the koolaid because I’m not buying this for a second. The mystery of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment remains unresolved and not even Sherlock Holmes or Horatio Caine would be able to figure this one out.

Decision day has finally come and gone in Leaf Nation and with such fanfare the fat has been cut. John Ferguson was mercifully let go as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After being strung along for weeks, months for that matter, the not-so-quick thinking Board of Directors finally decided enough was enough and that it was time for a change.

On the surface, it certainly appears as though major change has ripped through MLSE and that a new fresh beginning is about to take place. Ferguson, the much maligned GM, was finally removed and with that went the appearance of being overwhelmed, the total lack of innovation and the mass confusion that defined his tenure with the Leafs.

This change has apparently ushered in a new era for the Blue and White as they look towards the future and look to begin the long road back to being Stanley Cup contenders. They have done so, going back into the past hiring Cliff Fletcher to be the interim GM until the organization can find a permanent replacement for the job as President and GM of the hockey team.

Fletcher brings a wealth of experience to the franchise and brings some respectability back that was lost over the past few unsuccessful campaigns.
He will now be entrusted to take the team to the next step, carrying them past the trade deadline and into the Entry Draft in June. Quite possibly, he will be entrusted as well with the dealings over the free agency period this coming July. While his tenure will be short term, there is a significant amount for him to accomplish as he lays the groundwork for the permanent man coming in at some point in the near future.

He will also give his input on the hiring process of that new person coming in to run the hockey department. He will assist CEO Richard Peddie and newly hired consultant Gordon Kirke in the decision of who becomes the next person in charge of the Maple Leafs hockey team.

And here is where they start passing the kool-aid and feeling the propaganda. Hearing the words Richard Peddie, Involvement, Decisions and Maple Leafs hockey team altogether is enough to make the perfectly healthy vomit.

The fact that Peddie is still involved in the decisions made by the company in relation to the hockey team have led me to believe that simply nothing has been accomplished today.

Though Ferguson needed to be let go due to his ineptness on the job in this market, its really Peddie who needed to be given the boot as well.

I am truly amazed how he was able to negotiate his way to remain as CEO, to be a key member in the decision making process of hiring a new President/GM and continue to be an influencial and powerful person within the company and hockey department despite his own ineptness and stupidity over his tenure in charge of MLSE and their sports ventures.

It is clear to me that there is no one within MLSE who has any knowledge or ability to understand what it takes to create a winning successful hockey team. To allow a man who has failed miserably in hiring people to be the caretakers of the sports teams this company owns, is utterly shocking. I can only expect that the worst is yet to come for this franchise. This really tells me that those in power at MLSE are idiots and/or they simply do not care how poorly things are done, how poorly the company is perceived so long as pockets are lined with a healthy dose of profits.

While Peddie will be assisted by Gord Kirke, a well connected lawyer within the hockey community, the fact he has even the slightest grasp on any of the hockey decisions is a scary proposition for Leaf Nation and its fans.

One of the biggest things that needed change was the philosophy, direction and process this organization has staunchly stood by the last 40 years. This overhaul was a necessity in the healing process for this pathetic franchise but instead we are faced with the possibility of living through more ineptness, more dithering, more stupidity, more hidden agendas and more quick fix ways to earn a few extra dollars.

While the statement “John Ferguson Fired” clearly shows that change was made, if you noticed the fine print, you’ll notice that things are relatively status quo, save for an office in need of filling.

The biggest issue at hand is the fact that the board of directors remain split on what to do and who to hire. This singlehandedly could keep the Leafs in ruins for years to come.

Chairman Larry Tanenbaum was not a big Fletcher supporter and in fact it was he who originally was instrumental in ousting Fletcher the first time around a decade ago.

On the other hand Peddie was key in endorsing Fletcher and getting sign off from his bosses to proceed with this change.

This isnt the first time, nor do i expect this to be the last that Peddie and Tanenbaum have a difference in opinion. While thats going to happen in big companies, it feels that these differences are more out of spite than anything tangible or for the greater good. They differed on Ferguson, they differed on Bowman. Its hard to fathom them agreeing wholeheartedly on a replacement without a few hidden agendas getting in the way.

The infighting has to stop, but its clear, the egos here are too big that it will be improbable for there not to be disagreements along the way. In the past, this has always led to the dreaded compromise that has in a big way crippled the team the last several years. The Ferguson hiring was a compromise, the decision not to fire him in the summer was a compromise resulting in the failed search for an advisor another foolish compromise. And even now, this hiring process, where Peddie retained some control joining Kirke was a bit of a compromise as well.

While Kirke was formerly a lawyer for Peddie, he is also very close and well connected to Dale Lastman and his family. Lastman of course is one of the board members and has been one of the few who have sided with Tanenbaum, opposing Peddie in the process.

While I am glad at least a respected outsider is in on the decision making process, i cannot put it past MLSE to find a way to screw this up. The history leading up to today, and the events that happened this January 22nd, 2008, tell me that more doom and gloom lies ahead.

This is not a mark against Fletcher who is a good hockey man and an improvement over Ferguson. But this stench of stop gap measures and 2nd rate decision making still reeks from the confines of the ACC.

Honestly, the best in the business, the Ken Hollands, Brian Burkes, of the world are considered the best for a reason. They dont do stupid things and get themselves in foolish situations. There is no way that they or any other strong, legitimate candidate would be willing to accept a move to Toronto if it meant dealing with this foolish group of owners and board members.

Its not just the infighting.

Its the fact the CEO needs to be involved in the decisions. Its the fact the board still needs to rubber stamp any major decisions like a hiring, a firing or a big trade and that the same people ready to hire you are still looking over your shoulder where you know at a moments notice they will throw you under the next bus like your predecessor.

Its clear, autonomy in their minds means something completely different than what any one else in this world thinks. Its clear, those who have nearly left this franchise in ruins, cannot see any wrongdoing and thus will maintain things as they stand, save for John Ferguson.

They can boast today and rejoice at what they’ve done and be enthusiastic about all of this like they’ve cured world hunger. But I for one am not buying it. The change the organization needed didnt happen. Because of that, we’re set up to witness more failure that now we have become accu
stomed to seeing from MLSE. Do I hope I end up being wrong on this? Definitely, but with this vicious cycle continuing, I can, like most Leaf fans, live on hope, but taste bitter reality.