JFJ back in his element

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

At some point in the near future, John Ferguson Jr. will make his return to the Air Canada Centre press box.

We can hear the booing now. And so, perhaps, can he.

In his new role as the director of pro scouting for the San Jose Sharks, Ferguson will make his way past the Maple Leafs general manager's box, the digs he called home for almost five years, en route to his seat in scouts' row.

It will be a weird feeling. Coming back to these familiar surroundings for the first time since being relieved of his GM's duties last February, it has to be.

"I guess so," Ferguson said from San Jose last night. "I'll let you know when I do it. I certainly know the way."

This is how screwy the hockey world can be. Seven months ago, Ferguson was running the Leafs -- right into the ground, according to his legion of bashers -- while Ron Wilson was coaching the Sharks. Now Wilson is coaching the Leafs while Ferguson, representing the Sharks, will spend the occasional night up near the ACC rafters peering down at that same Ron Wilson standing behind the Toronto bench.

While the at-times elusive Ferguson refuses to look back on his once-promising vision for the Leafs, one that eroded into a train wreck by the end, he remains a scapegoat for all that is wrong with the team in the eyes of critics, many of whom were chuckling yesterday morning upon learning the Sharks willingly had brought him aboard.

Radio skits ridiculed him. Callers stated their disbelief. E-mails flooded in, all questioning what the Sharks could have been thinking.

So, Doug Wilson, what were you thinking?

"This is a different role than John had in Toronto," the Sharks GM said. "For the role we looked at him to fill, he's been very strong in that area. He was heavily involved in scouting with St. Louis. He ran their farm team in Worcester. He worked as part of the Canadian management team that helped win the 2007 world hockey championship. He has a resume that garners respect. In that sense, he can stand on his own two feet.

"John's been out here a while now and all we've seen from him is hard work. For hard workers like the Dave Taylors and Doug Armstrongs who have earned their keep in the game, there always will be roles.

"Besides, we are very familiar with John and his family."

John Ferguson Sr. worked with the Sharks for 11 years.

"I look forward to the challenge and to be a part of an organization where my father was," Ferguson Jr. said. "There were other opportunities out there that I was not interested in. This is a great fit and I embrace it."

There is no doubt Ferguson was hung out to dry in his final couple months on the job here, a lame-duck GM who already could see the writing on the dressing room wall. After team president Richard Peddie told Sun Media last fall that he may have erred in hiring a rookie GM -- Ferguson, in 2003 -- the humane thing would have been to simply let him go at that point and head in a new direction.

Ferguson needs to be accountable for his mistakes, of which there were many. Since he will continue living in Toronto despite his new job, he may hear about every last one of them, too.

Will he learn from those hiccups? He hopes to, especially since he plans on landing another GM's job in the NHL one day.

That little revelation should have tongues wagging around Toronto this morning, don't you think?

"Anyone who knows this business knows what transpired (in Toronto)," he said. "I know what my capabilities are and where my expertise lies, and that is every aspect of this business.

"Right now, though, my only focus is on the Sharks."

That's fine with Doug Wilson. He obviously believes in John Ferguson, even if an entire skeptical city of Leaf fans might not.


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