June 26, 2007
Bowman turns down BudsBut Leafs have Muckler on list
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media
A nine-time Stanley Cup winner has decided he doesn't want to work for the Maple Leafs.
Which moves a five-time Cup champion into a position of negotiating strength.
Scotty Bowman has turned down the overtures of a three-year contract worth at least $6 million because he determined he couldn't, or didn't want to, work for CEO Richard Peddie.
Bowman's reluctance has opened the door wide for former Ottawa Senators general manager John Muckler to wind up as the senior hockey decision-maker in the Leafs operation.
Muckler was not identified by a search firm hired by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. as a candidate for the position. It was the same American search firm MLSEL used to identify Bryan Colangelo for the Raptors, but after leading candidates declined, Muckler became a compromise choice.
Stanley Cup champion general manager Brian Burke was another high-profile executive who was identified by the Leafs but he declined to even discuss the matter.
Bowman met with Peddie and, after talking to numerous people in the hockey community, cancelled a meeting yesterday with chairman of the board Larry Tanenbaum. That cancellation ostensibly indicated he was no longer a candidate for the position of director of hockey operations or club president of the Leafs.
Previously, Bowman had publicly denied any interest in a position with the Leafs, denied meeting anyone from the Leafs, but has privately been meeting and talking with different representatives, both on the telephone and in person, for almost a month now.
He will remain in his contracted position with the Detroit Red Wings, where he consults the front office and the coaching staff on almost everything related to hockey matters.
"He is an invaluable resource to our front office and our coaching staff," Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "I don't know what we'd do without him."
Bowman, apparently, wanted to make serious changes in both the Leafs front office and coaching staff but balked when asked by Peddie if he would sign general manager John Ferguson to a new contract.
Dealing with the compromise candidate Muckler might not be as sexy, but it may keep all sides happy in the annual positioning of hockey people with the Leafs. Muckler, who happens to be represented by agent Gil Scott, who also represents Ferguson, isn't likely to have any similar options of this magnitude.
Like Bowman, in his 70s, Muckler hasn't slowed down a step but is not considered an elite hockey mind the way Bowman is. His value to the Leafs, in particular to Peddie, is that he is: a) available; b) experienced; c) has a track record of some kind; d) isn't about to demand Ferguson's dismissal.
Peddie has been very protective of Ferguson's status while other board members -- who determined a search was necessary in the first place -- have not been so trusting.
The reasonable question to ask in all this is: If Ferguson is considered capable of winning with the Leafs, why does he require any additional senior management around him? And doesn't that just complicate the front office more than it is complicated now?
Either Ferguson is or isn't the man. But by pretending he might be if he gets the right kind of help around him, is myopic and wishful thinking.
Bowman, who has never been one to mince words, was prepared to bring in a young executive as the general manager in waiting. He even had discussions with at least one person about the position and discussed the roster of talent with many around the NHL.
Peddie, possibly, didn't like what he heard from Bowman. Bowman didn't like what he heard from Peddie. The rest, like all Leaf seasons, was history.