John Ferguson Jr. was basically laughed out of Toronto as an inept general manager for having teams that were more productive than those that have been put forth thus far by Brian Burke.
If you donít believe it, look it up.
Ferguson fired Pat Quinn after he failed to make the playoffs by two points in 2006. Quinn finished that year with 90 points, his lowest total as Leafs coach. The following season, Paul Mauriceís first as Leafs coach, Toronto missed the post-season on the final day of the season. That team had 91 points, and missed out by just one.
Ferguson had little vision, no real grasp of the salary cap, made poor trades, was worse in the free agent market, came off as a stumbler in public and micromanaged the franchise and still had 90- and 91-point seasons with a team he inherited from Quinn. While times change this much is true: Should the Leafs garner 91 points this season, theyíll play in the post-season for the first time since 2004. Itís embarrassing to link Ferguson and Burke in any real way ó when you see the kind of foundation and organization the Leafs are trying to build and recall that Ferguson inherited a 100-point team ó but in a results-oriented business the numbers are the numbers.
In three of his four years as GM, Ferguson had more points than Burke has had in any Leafs season yet. And that isnít something anyone wants to be linked with.
THIS AND THAT
A longtime Rick Nash watcher offers a different viewpoint on the most available star at trade deadline time: ďBuyer beware,Ē said the veteran hockey voice ... Canít see how Columbus benefits from the package of kids and maybe Brandon Dubinsky being talked about in a deal with the New York Rangers. How do you sell a lot of ifs to an already disenchanted fan base? ... Burke said the only reason Toronto fans donít like Ron Wilson is because of what the media says about him. Thatís naive. Surely it has nothing to do with the fact he has yet to make playoffs, does it? ... Paul Holmgren determined in Philadelphia that he couldnít win with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the lineup. Now, his old assistant, Dean Lombardi, has determined in Los Angeles that he canít win without Richards and Carter. Two words of advice for Lombardi: Early curfew ... The Wojtek Wolski Shuffle: 1. Team acquires him; 2. Team falls in love with his skill set; 3. Team gets disappointed in him; 4. Team gets rid of him. For those counting, thatís four teams in four years for the shootout expert ... The one difference between this year and past years at the trade deadline for Burke: This year heís a buyer. In the past, he was typically a seller.
HEAR AND THERE
I was 10 years old when the Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup. George Armstrong scored into the empty net and my father sent me to bed. A 10-year-old today would have no frame of reference for a Leafs team in the playoffs ... Not that weíre advocating gambling here, but if you had bet $100 on the Red Wings and continued rolling your winnings on the Wings through their 23-game winning streak, you would have ended up with just over $3 million. Then again, in the 24th game, you might have lost it all against the Canucks ... Remember when John Tavares was supposed to be the exception when he was granted early entry in the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old? Well, this year, for the second year in a row, an underage minor midget, Connor McDavid, will be granted early status and almost certainly will be picked first in the OHL selection draft ... For those wondering about Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets? He was acquired by Rick Dudley, now working for the Leafs ... As Iím watching Toronto play New Jersey on Tuesday night, Iím thinking: How different would the standings be if Wilson coached the Devils and Peter DeBoer coached the Leafs.
SCENE AND HEARD
Have you heard anyone ó anyone you know ó say that they canít wait for the PanAm Games in Toronto? All I see coming is excessive government spending at a time when government canít afford excessive spending ... Apparently everything in life is for sale, including induction in the Basketball Hall of Fame. How else does Nike chairman Phil Knight get elected? ... How old do you want to feel today? Among the most heavily recruited high school football talents in the U.S. is a defensive back named Leon McQuay, grandson of the famous Grey Cup fumbler ... Inspired by the life of Gary Carter, my list of favourite Carters: Butch, Jimmy, Sgt., Linda, June and Anson. My least favourite Carters, and remember this is personal: Vince, Joe, Jeff and Rubin (Hurricane) ... Another reason why I worry about hockey in the U.S.: The most-watched game this year of American television has been the NHL all-star game ... The rumour that wonít go away: The Hamilton Bulldogs will move to Laval to be closer to the Montreal Canadiens paving the way for the OHLís Erie Otters to move to Hamilton ... Please, canít we put an end to the three-point game in the NHL? ... Just wondering: Now that the Argos donít have Rob Murphy, Taylor Robertson or Dominic Picard, whoís going to block for Ricky Ray and Cory Boyd?
AND ANOTHER THING
The real MVP in the National League: Ryan Braunís lawyers ... There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball: How many would bat Adam Lind fourth?... How bad will it look for the Leafs if theyíre out of the playoffs and Winnipeg and Ottawa happen to be in? ... Canít remember an Oscars night where I have so little emotional attachment to the films nominated. Liked some of them, didnít love anything ... It would be easy to call Ed Davis a wasted first-round pick for the Raptors last year if the five players drafted before him and the five players drafted after him have contributed next to nothing to their NBA teams. Can you say bad draft? ... Aside from the obvious, another reason to covet winger Dustin Brown, heís signed for two years after this one at a cap hit of $3.1 million ... The question with Erik Karlsson is if heís on your Norris Trophy ballot, whoís being left off? Zdena Chara? Shea Weber? Niklas Lidstrom? Itís a question that gets more difficult with each passing week ... Happy birthday to Kelly Gruber (50), Zenon Andrusyshyn (64), Joey Mullen (55), Marshall Faulk (39), Ric Flair (63), and Anders Hedberg (61) ... And hey, whatever became of Rocky Trottier?
GRUMET-MORRIS THE AHLíS LIN?
You have to wonder, in the midst of the Jeremy Lin craze, how many athletes are sitting home and wondering: What if? How many have been passed over without ever receiving the proper opportunity? Thereís a 30-year-old goalie in San Antonio, a Harvard grad like Lin, who has kicked around the CHL and ECHL and AHL and Europe, mostly as a second-stringer since being drafted 10 years ago by the goalie-starved Philadelphia Flyers. But suddenly in the past two seasons heís been money. He has a 30-13-2 won-loss record in the AHL playing for average teams, a goals against average below than 2.3 and a save percentage at higher than .922. His name is Dov Grumet-Morris. Like Tim Thomas, who made the NHL full-time 11 years after being drafted by Quebec, all he needs is a chance. ďWe like him,Ē said Florida GM Dale Tallon, just not enough to bring him to the Panthers, though. Lin got his opportunity to play, frankly, because the New York Knicks ran out of players. Somebody, somewhere, in need of goaltending should be giving Grumet-Morris the opportunity to see if all this is real.
ARE VETS HAPPY ABOUT HEMSKY?
If you happen to an all-time great like Martin Brodeur or Chris Pronger; a Vezina Tropny winner and Conn Smyhe winner like Tim Thomas; or an absolute salt-of-the earth veteran leader like Daniel Alfredsson, what are you thinking when you see the never-won-a-thing and always hurt Ales Hemsky signing for money thatís either more than youíre making (in Alfredsson and Prongerís case) or similar to what youíre being paid (in the case of Brodeur and Thomas). Are you happy the system is rewarding players beyond their abilities? Or do you look at the hockey world with slight disdain and embarrassment, knowing the measurements for contracts are completely out of whack, again. Under any structure in which the NHL operates, a $5 million player must be a star. But every once in a while a team overpays for a Paul Martin or a Brian Gionta and now with Hemsky. And I truly wonder what the most productive players in the game, long term, think of taking home similar money to those who will never come close to matching their accomplishments.
DONíT WAIT FOR FREE AGENCY BURKIE
The best reason Brian Burke needs to trade now: You donít want him active in NHL free agency come July. So far, Burkeís batting average is below the Mendoza Line when it comes to success with the Leafs in free agency. In fact, in his time here he has committed just under $60 million dollars in contracts to Mike Komisarek, Colby Armstrong, Tim Connolly, Francois Beauchemin, Colton Orr, Mike Brown and Clarke MacArthur. Only MacArthur, a late signing not done by Burke in 2010, has brought real value to the Leafs. And itís not just the money here ó itís the belief that Komisarek and Armstrong, both given Aís on their jersey, would be difference makers in Toronto. Burke did manage to do what he does best ó and thatís trade ó when he shipped Beauchemin to Anaheim in a steal of a deal for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner, with both players exceeding Leafs expectations. Burke is fortunate to work for a hockey club that doesnít fret over every penny misspent or he would be answering for all those wasted dollars.