Medical mysteries haunt Leafs GM

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

Medical issues continue to plague the troubled reign of Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson.

Never mind that the micro-managing GM has fired his team doctors, replaced his trainers more than once and even fired a dentist along the way, it hasn't solved the apparent medical mysteries that haunt the Leafs.

If it wasn't Ed Belfour's back or Owen Nolan's knee it was Eric Lindros' wrist. It has almost always been something. Now, just days after Ferguson claimed, in words too convoluted to repeat, that Kyle Wellwood would not need surgery, the young winger is out eight weeks after an operation for a sports hernia.

Now, after all was apparently on the mend with Darcy Tucker -- well enough for him to come back and skate (see Lindros' wrist) -- he is fitted for a cast and his season is significantly set back until further notice.

If any of this happened once, you could let it pass. If it happened twice, it might be a coincidence. When it has marred Ferguson's entire run with the Leafs -- how much did that Nolan decision end up costing the Leafs financially? -- there is much to be answered for.

Just another reason, along with bad free-agent buys, a weak roster, a team out of the playoffs, and an invisible plan, to wonder how it is Ferguson keeps his job.

THIS AND THAT

The NHL all-star game was terrible, the skills competition was worse, but the YoungStars game was truly unwatchable. Maybe putting all this on Versus, the American network no one has heard of or can find, was the right thing to do after all. That way nobody of sound mind in the U.S., would have seen this mess that has nothing to do with the game we love ... Why was the all-star game so much about new uniforms? The answer: Economics. Reebok pays the NHL $11 million US for the marketing rights which, for the record, is $11 million more than the league gets from NBC. So, who are they beholden to, the jersey sellers or the TV people? ... Chris Chelios gets all the attention for going after NHLPA boss Ted Saskin but my spies tell me that behind every great man is a former boss of the PA pulling the strings in the background ... It's a month to the NHL trade deadline and almost no sign of any sellers out there. The buyers market is going to be flooded with the frustrated.

HEAR AND THERE

Loved Nelson Millman's line about replacing Warren Sawkiw with Alan Ashby on Blue Jays radio broadcasts: "I think Warren is a great, great guy who did an exemplary job in tough circumstances," said the radio boss at The Fan590. Translation: That guy stunk and we had to save our lousy broadcast by getting rid of him ... Next up for the ambitious Rogers people: Finding a way to fix their own television baseball broadcasts ... The NHL all-star game wasn't just a bust nationally in the U.S., it was a bust locally too, where local ratings in Dallas drew an audience of 11,900 homes. Give Gary Bettman a few minutes and he'll find a way to rationalize that, too ... Can't remember anything as silly as Ron MacLean's reconstructed NHL that included a franchise in Halifax. Can't remember how many AHL franchises folded or changed names in Halifax over the years, where there is not the corporate base to support big-time sport. Winnipeg, maybe. Saskatoon, possibly. But Halifax? Never.

SCENE AND HEARD

Nice quiet pickup by J.P. Ricciardi, bringing in Tomo Ohka under the radar. If his shoulder is fine, he instantly becomes the No. 4 starter. The guy has made two more career starts than Ted Lilly, has a lower career earned-run average (albeit in the National League) and comes about $8 million cheaper ... Can't remember a more precise and commanding athlete than Roger Federer. He doesn't play his sport, he owns it ... Now that Serena Williams has come from the buffet line to win the Australian Open, what's next? The world's strongest woman competition? ... Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of Wide Right. And why did everyone expect Scott Norwood to make the 47-yard field goal on grass in the first place when the longest of his career on grass was from 48? .... Good for Tracy McGrady, admitting that Steve Nash, not he, should have been voted to start on the Western Conference all-star team ... And good for the ever-emerging Raptor Chris Bosh, being voted in for the first time along with his draft mates LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

AND ANOTHER THING

Did you know that Lovie Smith's first NFL job was working as a linebackers coach for Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay? ... You know this is an historical time for sport when the Professional Bowler's Tour (not to be confused with football's Pro Bowlers) has its first female participant, Kelly Kulick ... A sign the Raptors are for real: Good teams win games when they play badly at home. The Raps did that twice this week ... Yet another Steve Buffery lookalike: Wayne Huizenga ... Bryan Colangelo is way too driven not to be investigating every possibility of adding another part to the Raps prior to the Feb. 22 trade deadline ... You want to sell basketball in Canada? How about a Phoenix Suns game of the week on national TV? Right now, it's the best show in sports ... Coming to a TV panel near you: Bill Parcells who, when not having disdain for the media, becomes one of us ... Happy belated 89th to Ernie Harwell, happy belated 46th to Wayne Gretzky, and a happy 50th to the missus ... And hey, whatever became of Paul Gardner?


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