All eyes on Fergy

As the youngest GM in the league, John Ferguson Jr. of the Maple Leafs may not be as bullet proof...

As the youngest GM in the league, John Ferguson Jr. of the Maple Leafs may not be as bullet proof as his predecessor Pat Quinn. (Toronto Sun File/Fred Thornhill)

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

If logic were the only consideration, John Ferguson's decision wouldn't be unduly difficult.

But a lot of other factors come into play -- factors like self-confidence, experience, job security, personal pride and even courage.

The decision in question? Whether the Maple Leafs should be buyers or sellers after the Olympic break.

Really, from a logical point of view, the choice is clear. All but the most rabid of the blue-and-white bleeders give this year's team no serious chance of winning the Stanley Cup. In fact, to objective observers, it won't come as a shock if the Leafs don't even make the playoffs.

And you can't blame the injuries. Granted, a fully healthy squad might have done better, but it surely wasn't going to win the Cup.

So if you can't win with this team, what's the sense in keeping it intact? Any improvement in the youngsters is going to be neutralized by a decline from the veterans. Put the entire roster on the market and see what you can get.

From the outside, that determination is easy to make. But Ferguson is on the inside. From there, the path to that decision is much more thorny.

For one thing, if he starts dismantling the team, the playoffs would almost certainly be out of the question. And if that's the case, he might be putting his job on the line.

The whispers in the business world are that there will be significant changes to the corporate structure of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment within a few months. The people on the board tend to be result-oriented and if Ferguson's new lords and masters look only at his record -- a second-round exit followed by a non-playoff season -- they may decide that a new general manager is needed.

And how would the fans respond? At the moment, there's no shortage of those who say that the team needs to be blown up and rebuilt. But would support for that approach still be there next year if the Leafs are in last place in mid-season?

Ferguson is the youngest GM in the National Hockey League. It's one thing to have the confidence to inflict a losing team on the world's premiere hockey market when you're a grizzled veteran of the NHL trading wars. It's another thing altogether to do it when your managerial experience is relatively non-existent.

But really, at the moment, there shouldn't be a single player on that team who is untouchable. From youngsters like Kyle Wellwood, Matt Stajan and Alexander Steen right up to veterans like Mats Sundin, Ed Belfour and Darcy Tucker, the market should be tested.

Not one player should be given away, but if there's a desperate general manager out there who wants to overpay, then the opportunity should not be allowed to pass.

And in hockey, the reality is that opportunities do pass. Opinions change and needs vary. There may be a good deal out there now that won't be out there in a week or in a month or in three months.

So if Ferguson is going to decide at some point during the summer that the Leafs need a major overhaul, then it would be better for all concerned if he reached that decision right now.

Deals are available. A lot of teams feel that they are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders if they can overcome a deficiency here and a shortage there.

But one of Ferguson's problems is that he works for a firm that pulls in mind-boggling revenues during the playoffs. A last-minute squeak into the playoffs and a fluky survival of the first round can mean six home dates -- and if you're the Maple Leafs, that's anywhere from $15-$20 million in gross revenues.

Does a GM cast that aside for a long-term gain?

A fan does it in a heartbeat. But for a GM, that decision is nowhere near as easy to make.


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