Peddie not ready to pull trigger on JFJ just yet

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Way up in his ivory tower at the swank Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. offices, Richard Peddie, we are sorry to say, might be poised to drop the axe on someone this morning.

Surely the president of MLSEL must have been bristling at the sound of boos cascading down from the rafters of the Air Canada Centre last night before the opening faceoff of the Maple Leafs-Florida Panthers game had even taken place.

Someone will have to pay the price for the fans' wrath, won't they?

Alas, those of you who have Oct. 19 in your When-will-John-Ferguson-be-fired? pools, it's not going to be the beleaguered Leafs general manager.

No, the probable victim likely will be the poor lass who butchered the American National Anthem prior to the game, eliciting loud jeers from the capacity crowd.

The poor anthem singers. They're always the first to go.

As for Ferguson, prior to last night's much-needed 3-2 Leafs victory over the Panthers, he has been the most criticized Toronto sports figure outside of Bryan McCabe in recent days. And after No. 24 ripped home a second-period goal -- yes, it was into the opposing team's net this time, you sarcastic wags -- Fergie might have reclaimed top spot on that dubious list.

The web, in fact, has been saturated with speculation of Ferguson's imminent demise. One report actually implied his performance would be re-evaluated after the 10-game mark of the season, which would come after Monday's home date against the Atlanta Thrashers.

"If someone says that is our plan, well, that has never come up," Peddie said, obviously riled at such a suggestion. "That entire concept is ludicrous. It has never been discussed in this company. Such talk is far too premature.

"I'd be blowing smoke if I said we like our record to date. We would love it if it was reversed. But I want to stress that it's early. Our expectations of John and Paul Maurice are that they can turn it around and make us the playoff team we expect to be."

Normally a vote of confidence in a coach or GM means the odds are in favour of them being eventually let go. At least that seems to be the trend in the hockey world, as backward as that might seem to be.

But this isn't even a vote of confidence. As Peddie puts it, it is far too early for any of this stuff.

"We haven't even played 10% of the schedule yet," he said.

Either way, Ferguson, in the final year of his deal, is in an unenviable position. When he didn't get the contract extension he believed was coming over the summer, he knew his fate rested with the Leafs won-lost record.

Just don't tell Peddie that the hockey team has a "lame duck" GM in Ferguson.

"In the business world people work based on their performance from year to year," Peddie said. "I never heard the term "lame duck" until I got into the sports world. I don't believe in the phrase."

WAIT AND SEE

Peddie feels such a wait-and-see attitude worked well with Raptors coach Sam Mitchell. With Mitchell in the final year of his contract last season, MLSEL opted not to renegotiate until the summer. By that time the Raptors had won the Atlantic Division and made a playoffs, earning Mitchell a hefty hike in pay.

"When we were recently in Italy with the team, Sam joked with me by saying I could have saved money (by signing him last year). I told him that he deserved the raise," Peddie said.

"It's no secret. You earn your future employment. John knows that."

Besides, it's amazing what one victory will do. In the jubilant Maple Leafs dressing room last night, both Peddie and MLSEL chairman Larry Tanenbaum, accompanied by Raptors swingman Jason Kapono, were shaking hands and patting the various players on the back.

Another losing streak, however, could sour the spirits of those suits in the ivory tower quite quickly.


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