North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Shakedown on Bay Street

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“Pretty soon now, will be a quitter.

Pretty soon now, I will be bitter.

You can’t see it ’til it’s finished.”
– Talking Heads, Artists Only

There’s trouble brewing in the downtown, and it’s not pretty. The Leafs are a team in trouble. On the ice, they’re underachieving and losing whatever steam they had fast.

Granted, they managed to not just beat, but to shut out, Ottawa, one of the best teams in the NHL. But they followed that up with two bad losses, one to Dallas on Friday and one to Phoenix on Saturday.

But you know what? That’s not even the worst part of it.

Not that I want to sound like an apologist, but both Dallas and Phoenix are good teams. The Stars are second in the West right now and the recent addition of Ilya Bryzgalov has put Phoenix in position to make a playoff run.

No, it’s their front office that’s in shambles right now. It’s a power struggle, the classic end-game scenario that plays out every so often.

Right now, John Ferguson Jr. is blaming Paul Maurice for the Leafs problems and tried to fire him over it. But Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment overruled him. Maurice is a company guy, somebody they brought up through the ranks. Remember, he’s only a few years removed from coaching the Marlies.

No, it’s JFJ who seems to be on the firing line, and with good reason. During his term as GM for the Leafs, he has overseen numerous great deals that have helped to push the Leafs to just above .500.

Deals that have seen first round picks fly away. Deals that have brought in such star players as Mark Bell. Deals that have seen valued prospects – such as current Bruins goalie Tukka Rask – leave, replaced by people who aren’t playing up to par.

Deals that have seen the Leafs fall from the playoffs, and into the cellar.

Perhaps they learn their lesson a bit late, but MLSE does learn. And when they do, they take out on the GM, sometimes cruelly.

This is what they did to Ron Babcock not too long ago. The then-GM of the Toronto Raptors, Babcock was first stripped of his power, and then marginalized and terminated when the Raptors brought in Wayne Embry.

Babcock has since disappeared from the ranks of General Managers in the NBA.

So, is this what it happening with JFJ right now? Are the Leafs preparing to ‘clean house’?

While on one hand, it certainly looks like it.

But on the other, why should they do it now? Who else is there to replace him?

The Raptors managed to secure Bryan Colangelo from Phoenix, a stroke of genius, when the Suns cut him loose.

But there are no Colangelos on the horizon in the NHL. The best-qualified candidate was rumoured to be Scotty Bowman, who was widely said to have rejected the offer right up.

Also rumored are Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman or Ron Francis, all of whom have exactly zero experience as a GM.

Would they do any better? Maybe. They have no experience, but Garth Snow has done a good job without any in New York.

Does that mean that the Leafs should change GMs in the middle of the season?

Yes.

The Leafs need a shakeup, and firing JFJ is less disruptive then firing Maurice, who remains a capable coach. After all, JFJ has had numerous chances to prove himself as a GM but has yet to succeed.

It’s time for a change in Toronto. End power struggle now, before it derails the team’s season any further.

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Written by M.

November 26, 2007 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Hockey

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