Everybody loves Ferguson

LANCE HORNBY and MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

The Maple Leafs dressing room was pleased at news of the John Ferguson contract extension, if for no other reason than they'll be spared the same questions as the general manager about being in a lame-duck environment.

"It's always tough working on the last year of a deal, especially in Toronto where it can be a distraction," Wade Belak said.

Belak, a holdover from the Pat Quinn era, had a twinge of doubt about his future when Ferguson first arrived in 2003.

"There's always a chance that a new guy comes in and wants to put his stamp on the team. That happened to me in Calgary. But as long as you don't give them a reason to get rid of you, it helps."

Bryan McCabe, awarded a four-year, $28.75-million US deal by Ferguson in the summer, joked that he had no complaints about the GM's return.

"He has done a great job bringing in the right people and a great coaching staff who has us pointed in the right direction," McCabe said.

Coach Paul Maurice is relieved, too. Any change at the top would have long-term repercussions for him, a Ferguson appointee.

"I'm happy for me and for my staff," Maurice said. "He creates a good environment that as a coach, you love to work in."

FATEFUL MEETING

Maurice says the Leafs job was the furthest thing from his mind when he accepted Ferguson's invitation to lunch during the 2005 world championships in Austria.

"We went out to eat and he started talking about the American Hockey League," Maurice said.

"I had just met with another GM about another AHL job and I had gone through a list of reasons why I wasn't really interested. I was still optimistic about coaching in the NHL again.

"Then I went home to Carolina where Jim Rutherford called me and said 'there's one American League job you might want to consider. It's not like the rest.'

"I still wasn't sold on the idea. But John and I met. I bet 15 minutes in, I was ready to take the job. What it meant, what his vision was that the Marlies were going to be ... he did a real good sales job."


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