Only way to rebuild Leafs is through Sundin
Tuesday, November 27, 2007 | 06:12 PM ET
Just another day in the loony bin that is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For the second time in six months, president Richard Peddie decided to publicly castrate GM John Ferguson, but no one’s been fired and it’s hard to tell if anyone will be. Today, reaction around the league ranged from: “That kind of story makes me think Ferguson will be fired tomorrow if they lose tonight (to Montreal),” to: “That’s Peddie trying to tell Larry Tanenbaum that it would be stupid to fire Ferguson and replace him with someone still relatively inexperienced.”
(Some of the floated names include Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier and Glenn Healy.)
Whatever the case, this ownership group is quickly dropping into Ballard territory among Toronto fans. If these duelling egos are really serious about doing the best for the franchise, they’ll stop sipping Cristal for a few minutes to ask each other one question: Do we trust John Ferguson to trade Mats Sundin?
That is the only relevant question right now.
This is not about the losses last weekend in Dallas and Phoenix. My opinion doesn’t change if they beat Montreal 47-3 tonight. This is about looking hard at a franchise that isn’t going to win it all now and isn’t built to win it all in the next couple of years.
Mats Sundin is coming to the end of his career. He badly wants a Stanley Cup and he badly wants it to be in Toronto. Well, he knows Santa isn’t bringing him that for Christmas, but he can still get his prize somewhere else. But he’s never going to ask for it. He’s determined to come off looking like the good guy.
There is no point in Toronto keeping him. Sundin is Toronto’s best bargaining chip on a roster full of no-move clauses and untradeable contracts. He’s playing very well this year, and many other teams would love to have him. He is the Maple Leafs best chance at reloading, getting some impact young talent into an organization that badly needs it.
Think of the bidding war, because he’s playing very well.
What this will take is someone from the organization going to him and saying, “Mats, we need to trade you. We have to re-start this franchise. You’re a free agent after this year and we both know you need to go somewhere else and win. What we need is the assurance you will go somewhere else. We’ll let you know where it will be, even let you pick a few teams you would agree to go to. When it goes public, we’ll explain how we came to you.”
I suspect Sundin would agree to this.
Then, it comes down to Ferguson. Basically, the issue is this: Tanenbaum wants to get rid of him. Peddie won’t let it happen, although he’s really annoyed at the GM for telling everyone how last summer’s proposed contract extension was botched. Each has enough support on this dysfunctional board for a ridiculous stalemate. It’s time these factions grew up, sat down and came to a compromise for the sake of their own reputations, which are going to get worse as this team free falls.
Just make a decision, already. If they believe Ferguson is the right guy, give him an extension until the end of next season and get out of the way. If not, well then, get rid of him and find someone else who can.
Now: the obvious follow-up is: who is that person? As I write this Tuesday afternoon, I’m waiting for confirmation on a few things. Give me a day or two.
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About the Author
Elliotte Friedman is the host of the CFL ON CBC. Prior to being named host in 2006, Friedman worked on the CFL on CBC broadcasts for the three seasons as a sideline reporter. A Toronto native, Friedman is well known for his additional work on Hockey Night in Canada, as well as his presence on the Torino 2006 Winter Games telecasts as a hockey reporter. Prior to joining the CBC, Friedman worked at The Score network and was widely regarded as one of the best reporters in the country. Friedman used his reporting skills to break stories and file feature reports for high profile events including six Stanley Cup Finals, four Grey Cup Championships, two World Series and one Olympic Games. He is also a regular on the nationally syndicated Prime Time Sports radio telecast, hosted by Bob McCown.
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