The remake of John Ferguson, general manager on trial, officially has begun.
One day into NHL free agency, the normally stammering Leafs GM -- the man with a plan in invisible ink -- made a strong pitch to restore his flailing credibility.
By signing long-term deals with Pavel Kubina of Tampa Bay and Hal Gill of Boston, the Leafs' top-four defence is now set for the future with dependable players between the ages of 28 and 31.
That's one problem area addressed. Ferguson may or may not have addressed the goaltending difficulty with the deal for Andrew Raycroft -- but at least he did something.
Now, with cash quickly running out, Ferguson needs to be creative or lucky in order to find some forwards with speed and skill -- the team's most glaring deficiency. New coach Paul Maurice wants to play an up-tempo game and with a Leafs roster that has just one front-line forward, the Leafs still are horribly thin in that area.
After one day of free agency, Ferguson isn't about to be declared the new Sam Pollock, but at least he's beginning to repair his roster and his reputation. Simply, the Leafs are better today than they were yesterday.
THIS AND THAT
Let's see now: Ottawa defenceman Zdeno Chara signs for big money in Boston, where the Bruins GM still happens to work for the Senators until the middle of the month. Can you say potential conflict of interest? ... Defenceman Jay McKee might have wanted the Leafs, but they didn't want him. The simple reason: McKee is a left-handed shot, Kubina shoots right ... May the best men win: Now six young defencemen battle for two spots on the Leafs blue line ... Four million a year is too much money for Dwayne Roloson, in Edmonton, or anywhere else ... The Colorado Avalanche, with all kinds of cap troubles, signed Tyler Arnason to a one-year contract. Good luck to them ... Just wondering: Who would you rather have, Todd Gill or Hal Gill? ... The Gary Roberts to Toronto trade will happen. It's just a matter of when ... Love the signing of Roberto Luongo in Vancouver but I would have been more impressed if someone other than Alain Vigneault had been hired to coach the Canucks ... Before he signed with the Rangers, the Leafs made a pitch for Carolina forward Matt Cullen.
HEAR AND THERE
The best way to assess the Charlie Villanueva trade: A year ago, wouldn't the Raptors have been thrilled to pick the ultra-quick T.J. Ford with the seventh choice in the draft? ... Villanueva, though, left a large impression on the Milwaukee Bucks when he dropped 48 points on them in his rookie season ... For the record, Milwaukee is now a two-Villanueva town: Carlos Villanueva pitches for the Brewers .... Quickly disappearing: Every player Rob Babcock brought to the Raptors. Apparently, Joey Graham is on the clock ... Question: If your first pick is named Andrea, shouldn't you be selecting in the WNBA draft? ... The Raptors are a small forward away from being a playoff team ... This is the year we find out if Sam Mitchell actually can coach ... Scouting report on Marcus Williams, the point guard who borrowed some laptops in college: The guy was a steal by the New Jersey Nets ... Has anybody told Bryan Colangelo that he's no longer on west coast time?
SCENE AND HEARD
Intent on boxing until he no longer can utter an intelligible word, Evander Holyfield, winner of two of his past six fights, is making another ill-advised comeback ... With the next pick in the NHL draft, Bobby Clarke selects ... oh never mind ... Pat Gillick's squeaky-clean reputation is taking a hit in Philadelphia in light of the domestic mess surrounding banished pitcher Brett Myers and how badly the Phillies have botched their response ... There are eight or nine television jobs available -- who can count, really ? -- now that John Davidson has left the media side to become president of the St. Louis Blues. And someone should say this: Game in, game out, nobody has commented on hockey with more authority and accuracy than did Davidson ... Somewhere isn't John Avery thinking: I can do that ... Robert Baker's fumbles are beginning to factor large in Argos games. He cost the Argos in the Eastern final against Montreal and did it again during the comeback Friday in Vancouver. It's simple, Robert: Tuck the ball in when you run with it.
AND ANOTHER THING
Last season, you couldn't locate a Blue Jay to send to the all-star game. This year, you can make a case for five: Roy Halladay, B.J. Ryan and Vernon Wells should be locks. And cases easily are made for Alex Rios (if healthy) and Troy Glaus ... For a guy who barely escaped with his life after a motorcycle crash, word is Ben Roethlisberger didn't look half bad at the Mario Lemieux charity golf tournament outside Pittsburgh ... I'm sad: A whole week gone by and not a single closeup of the Wesley family ... When Bill Guerin learned he was being bought out by the Dallas Stars, was his first instinct to trash a dorm room? ... If I'm John Muckler, I'd offer $750,000 US to see if Tie Domi wants to play one final year with Ottawa and try to win a Stanley Cup ... Ed Jovanovski gets $6.5 million a year, Kubina gets $5 million, Chara gets $7.5 million. How much money did Kaberle leave on the table by signing early with the Leafs? ... And hey, whatever became of Joe Lundrigan?