Peddie politics

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Richard Peddie currently is evaluating senior staff with the Maple Leafs before determining the course of the hockey operation.

(Insert laughter here ... or better yet, insert tears.)

The very notion that Peddie -- considering his weak sporting history -- will make a recommendation on the future of either John Ferguson or coach Pat Quinn is beyond ridiculous. But unfortunately, this is what we have come to expect from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., the company that requests playoff money for teams that don't make the playoffs.

The real difficulty with the Leafs now that it's decision time, are the questions at hand: Who, in fact, is responsible for determing who will manage and coach the team next season?

And what, in fact, are their qualifications?

Begin, if you will, at the top of MLSEL. By definition, Larry Tanenbaum is the chairman of the board, even though he remains a minority shareholder. In most companies, the chairman of the board is the big boss, setting the tone for the operation.

MLSEL isn't most companies.

Tanenbaum, as chairman, has next to no power. He is one vote on a board that he can't carry most of the time himself. He has a nice title that gives him some voice in the public, and earns him some heat, but he is not, repeat not, in charge of much of anything.

Peddie is the CEO. Under normal circumstances, that should mean he is answerable to Tanenbaum. According to flow charts, that's the way it is supposed to work.

Peddie actually got his entrance into the professional sporting business after Paul Godfrey introduced him to Tanenbaum. That, you would think, would make him loyal to the chairman.

Only it doesn't work that way at MLSEL.

But once Peddie came to realize that Tanenbaum didn't have significant power on the board of MLSEL -- and that representatives of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan did -- Peddie played the part of politician.

He dumped loyalty in favour of his power and pulled an end-around on Tanenbaum, cuddling up to the Teachers.

Tanenbaum and Peddie now tolerate each other. They don't like each other. They don't trust each other. Each would probably prefer the other disappear.

Nice way for your favourite hockey team to be run.

Peddie has undergone two significant general manager hunts for the Maple Leafs and the Raptors in recent years and come away with two neophytes on the job.

The Raptors, not selling tickets, and with no one watching on television, finally said goodbye to the uninspiring Rob Babcock.

The Leafs sell tickets and people even watch the Leafs' network -- which means they could afford to fire TV executive John Shannon for what they called insubordination -- so Ferguson remains employed even though he stands on ground so shaky you wouldn't build condos on it.

Ferguson brought in Jason Allison, Alex Khavanov, Eric Lindros and Marius Czerkawski this season as free agents signed after the lockout. The Leafs started winning consistently only after Allison and Khavanov were hurt, Lindros already was out for the season and Czerkawski was traded to Boston.

Some general manager.

Ferguson's key trade of the summer was to bring in Jeff O'Neill from Carolina for nothing. The Hurricanes got the better of the trade.

Now Ferguson, after signing J-S Aubin for next season, has $2.6 million invested in goaltenders -- assuming Ed Belfour is paid his $1.5-million option money for being let go -- without having a legitimate No. 1 goaltender. He has but two players under the age of 30 -- Tomas Kaberle and Alex Steen -- who legitimately can play on the first or second line of a successful team.

You need any more evaluation than that?

Pat Quinn likely will be sacrified because Peddie hired Ferguson and Peddie sits in the same box with him at Leafs games and because Peddie has to justify his own decisions.

Quinn deserves his share of blame. But unlike Ferguson, he has a track record with real success. If Quinn goes, Ferguson should go with him.

But Richard Peddie won't make that determination to the board. Firing John Ferguson would, in essence, be firing himself.


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