Fergie, Maurice get executive approval

LANCE HORNBY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 4:18 PM ET

Leafs general manager John Ferguson and coach Paul Maurice have received an enthusiastic show of support from the man holding their employment cards.

"What's not to like?" Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., said yesterday. "We're pleased with the Razor deal (of trading for Andrew Raycroft), the free agents and the way the kids have come along. There's a lot more cohesion."

The Leafs are at the quarter pole in the NHL schedule -- halfway to that "early new year" soft deadline that Peddie had suggested would be a good time to address a contract extension for Ferguson.

Peddie wouldn't bite when asked if the determining factor will be the day the Leafs either clinch or miss out on a playoff berth. There is a one-year option in Ferguson's current deal.

"We'll get to (the contract)," said Peddie, whose Leafs play host to the New Jersey Devils tonight. "We have to keep in mind it has only been 20 games."

Compared to the 2005-06 season, the Leafs have the same amount of wins (11), two more points and three more goals. But there is a world of difference elsewhere.

"It's just a lot more energetic group," winger Chad Kilger said. "It's a younger room."

Former coach Pat Quinn didn't start letting kids into the lineup until his final year, but a group including Matt Stajan, Kyle Wellwood, Brendan Bell and John Pohl have since earned jobs.

"You have a lot of kids eager to be in the NHL and that rubs off," said 10-year veteran Wade Belak.

Attitudes and accountability have changed as well. The team took 18.7 penalty minutes a game through 20 games last year, but it's down to 12.

There's more of a racket being caused by Leafs shooters, too, with 158 more shots on goal than last year. Part of that is the two-man forecheck Maurice installed, but a faster Leafs team that prizes good conditioning also is a factor.

"We're getting to more pucks," Kilger said. "And instead of passing it around to look for the tap-in goal, we're going to the net more and working for the ugly ones."

The Leafs are on pace for a club-record 106 points, but Maurice isn't getting carried away.

"It's not results oriented, as strange as that is to say in a market such as Toronto. We're ahead in some areas, behind in others."


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