Leafs courting Bowman?

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

The Maple Leafs quietly are attempting to lure an experienced senior executive to head up their hockey operation, Sun Media has learned.

Two high-profile National Hockey League executives have confirmed they were contacted by associates of the Leafs, seeking their interest in taking over the hockey operations of the struggling club.

Both men, who are under contract to other teams, say they were contacted during the recent Stanley Cup playoffs.

Both said they weren't interested and both asked that they not be named for obvious reasons.

Both said they thought others had also been contacted for the same position.

At the same time, it has been learned that Maple Leafs CEO Richard Peddie recently met with legendary ex-coach Scott Bowman in Buffalo to discuss a senior position, quite possibly as team president with the Leafs.

While Bowman denies having met with Peddie and denies having interest in a position with the Leafs -- "I have no interest at all," he said in a telephone interview -- Peddie was given the opportunity to deny he met with Bowman for several hours and chose not to.

"I'm not going to comment on that," Peddie said. "If we have things to do, we'll do it from the inside. I'm not going to go down that road.

"We're always looking at how we can be better."

Peddie did say he wasn't about to "speculate or ruminate" about beefing up the Leafs' hockey operation.

The hiring of a senior hockey person would not necessarily mean the end of John Ferguson as general manager.

The hiring, if there is going to be one, is being looked at as strengthening the overall operation and bringing a senior pair of eyes and experience to a foundering team.

"If you bring in Scotty Bowman, you're bringing maybe as good a hockey guy as there is in the world," Red Wings senior vice-president Jimmy Devellano said.

Devellano said he was "not aware" the Leafs had asked for permission to talk to Bowman, but others say Leafs had interest in Bowman, general manager Ken Holland and assistant GM Jim Nill.

Bowman, who is under contract to Detroit, says he is happy being part of its inner-circle.

"I'm set with Detroit," said the 73-year-old Bowman, who has won nine Stanley Cups as a coach, all of them since 1973.

"I like the team. I like the job. The Red Wings know my position. I told them, if anyone calls (for permission to talk), tell them I'm not interested."

It was Peddie, in concert with board chairman Larry Tanenbaum, who sought out Bryan Colangelo and convinced him to leave the Phoenix Suns for the Toronto Raptors a little more than a year ago.

Since Colangelo has taken over the Raptors, Peddie, Tanenbaum and other Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. board members have received a quick education in how a high-end sports franchise operates.

It has become clear to some that the Leafs' hockey IQ -- to twist an old Peddie basketball quote -- needs to be increased.

Watching Colangelo interact with Hall of Fame general manager Wayne Embry and European expert Maurizio Gherardini has demonstrated the levels of experience lacking in the hockey operation.

"One of the reasons Bryan came with us was Wayne Embry," Peddie said. "I admit, there is not a 70-year-old greybeard (on the hockey side). John has really beefed us his management team, working closely with Mike Penny and Paul Maurice and Paul Dennis. But you're right, there's not a greybeard there."

Peddie and others would like Bowman to be that grey beard and those close to the former coach say he hasn't lost a step.

"He's as sharp as he's ever been," said Holland, who admitted he knew nothing about a conversation between Bowman and the Leafs.

If Bowman is being truthful and has no interest in the position, there remains the sense that upper management wants to provide Ferguson with one final shot at getting the job done properly, this time with appropriate support around him.

"John Ferguson has a contract for next year," Peddie said.

"And John's going to have the job until then...We have to improve. If we do make changes (above him), we'll be the ones announcing them."


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