JFJ tells Clarke to butt out

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- John Ferguson was not going to let Bob Clarke rip the Maple Leafs organization without firing back.

While the normally tight-lipped Leafs general manager wasn't about to engage in an all-out bitter war of words with the outspoken general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, he did offer some advice to Clarke yesterday.

"He should be more concerned with Lindy Ruff, the coach of the Buffalo Sabres, than he should with our next head coach," Ferguson said during a phone interview yesterday.

"I'm not in the business of telling others what's gone on in their own organization, but I'm sure he is aware that he's on his seventh head coach during his latest stint with the Flyers."

Ferguson was responding to Clarke's stinging criticism of the Leafs Tuesday, concerning the recent dumping of coach Pat Quinn.

Claiming Quinn was "(bleeped)" by the Toronto organization, Clarke wondered how the Leafs could axe a coach who missed the post-season just once during his seven seasons behind the Toronto bench.

"Who would want to work in Toronto? What's going to happen next year? Are they going to fire the new coach if he doesn't make the playoffs?" Clarke said.

For his part, Ferguson knows that Clarke and Quinn have known each other for decades.

Nevertheless, the Leafs GM is perplexed as to why Clarke would care about the trials and tribulations of the Leafs when his Flyers are trailing in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final against Ruff's Buffalo Sabres.

"I understand (Clarke) is sticking up for a friend and I respect that," Ferguson said.

"But I would remind him of the adage that people in glass houses (shouldn't throw stones). Remember, one of the coaches he had during his stint was Roger Neilson.

"I'll take the high road and leave it at that."

Among the more criticized acts turned in by Clarke during his tenure in Philly was his handling of the Neilson situation.

Back in 2000, Neilson, who had been forced to leave the team to undergo cancer treatments, wanted to return when he regained his health.

But Clarke claimed that Neilson did not have medical clearance and opted to keep Craig Ramsay behind the bench, even though Neilson said he was ready to go.

At one point, Neilson told a Toronto radio station: "They don't want a cancer patient who is a friend of Eric Lindros behind the bench."


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