Simmons Says

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

John Ferguson is on the Babcock clock.

Just how long he remains as general manager of the Maple Leafs will be determined by what kind of start the club has over the first two months of the National Hockey League season.

A poor opening to the first months of the season -- and the Leafs play the Ottawa Senators four times in their first 11 games -- almost certainly will doom the third-year GM. And just as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. wasted little time in dismissing Raptors GM Rob Babcock there is sentiment among some board members that Ferguson's reign should be ended shortly.

This is the final year on his contract and only a reasonably strong Leafs season will earn him a new one.

Ferguson's closest allies, the unaccomplished Mike Penny, Jeff Jackson, with his first NHL appointment, and the soon to be hired Doug Gilmour (being used for all the wrong reasons), hardly builds confidence from those watching from the outside.

THIS AND THAT

One strange sidelight to the apparent Gilmour hiring: When Gilmour was trying to make a comeback, he was skating regularly at the Leafs practice facility. That was until Ferguson ordered him off the ice. Only Ferguson didn't have the stones to tell Gilmour. Typically, someone else had to do it .... If you add up the numbers Ed Belfour, Owen Nolan and Tie Domi will be paid more in buyouts and grievance money than any Leaf other than Mats Sundin will be paid. How's that for effectively managing assets? ... Both the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens inquired about Domi, but it's all but certain the longtime Leaf will call it a career ... How is it that an American, Bernard Williams of the Argos, banished from the NFL for failing drug tests, gets charged in Toronto with sexual assault and then is free to leave the country while out on bail? Whatever happened to having to surrender your passport? ... My three favourite sporting Andres: Andre Agassi, Andre (Moose) Dupont and Andre the Giant.

HERE AND THERE

Every year that Roy Halladay contends for the Cy Young Award and the Blue Jays don't is an opportunity wasted. This season, with the collapse of the Red Sox, the troubles of the Twins and the White Sox, it just hurts a little more ... Had J.P.Ricciardi said five years ago: "I don't think we're going to make the playoffs on $70 million (US)," do you think Paul Godfrey and Herb Solway would have hired him?... Terrell Owens, Steve Smith and Hines Ward all have similar injuries and similar talent. How come the drone of one injury goes on and on and on? ... Cassie Campbell was never the best Canadian female hockey player, just at times the most visible. Her role as a builder of the women's game never can be understated ... Sunday fact you can't live without: The George Steinbrenner character you never saw on Seinfeld was played by Larry David ... Other than Agassi, the best reason to watch the U.S. Open: That black sequined evening gown that's disguised as one of Maria Sharapova's tennis dresses ... The Leafs are funny. They are trying to trade Nik Antropov and insist he's a first-line winger, all at the same time.

SCENE AND HEARD

Used to love hockey pools. Used to love rotisserie baseball. Fantasy football blows them away. It's just more fun ... Poor John Avery. For three years, he has been talking about being a great running back and as soon as he starts showing it, he gets hurt. And by the time he gets healthy, Ricky Williams should be ready to return to the Argos ... It's hard not to like Ron Lancaster but you've got to remember, the last time he coached Hamilton the team had a 1-17 record ... Seems the only protection quarterback Matt Leinart paid attention to while at USC had to do with his offensive line ... Eight years after having sexual assault charges thrown out in Toronto, former Giants back Dave Meggett was charged with second degree rape yesterday ... Charles Barkley wanted to help out with Hurricane Kartrina but refused to donate money to the Red Cross, figuring too much would get lost or wasted. Instead, he bought $1 million worth of homes for others. "That's probably, to this day, the great thing I've done in my life," Barkley said.

AND ANOTHER THING

Reason for Raptors optimism: The international players again took care of the NBA Americans, and the Toronto team is going international ... This is how tough NFL training camps are: Even the kickers, Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt, are injured ... A mindless early Super Bowl prediction: Indianapolis over Carolina ... A CFL quarterback in waiting: Shayne Boyd, cut yesterday by the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The guy has a big arm and running back speed ... Pat Gillick must be the luckiest man on earth. He traded away Bobby Abreu and Corey Lidle, gave up on the season, and suddenly his Philadelphia Phillies are in the wild-card race. And they don't play a team with a winning record for the entire month of September ... And this gem from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Lawyers representing Pluto say they are confident their client will be reinstated as a planet as soon as the B sample comes in." ... In between sentences, Reed Johnson got hit by a pitch ... And hey, whatever became of Clarke Wilm?


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