Richard Peddie now admits he may have goofed in hiring John Ferguson four years ago.
In retrospect, putting a first-time NHL general manager into the hockey-crazed fishbowl of Toronto, where every minor move is dissected on a daily basis, probably was not fair, the president of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Ltd., said yesterday.
"To be honest, it was a mistake on my part for not fully understanding at the time what the job of being (the Leafs GM) in this market fully entailed," Peddie said.
"Let's face it. It probably was the wrong place for a rookie general manager to start. I mean, all GMs make mistakes, but they are not under the constant microscope and scrutiny that you have in Toronto, which is, in our opinion, the top hockey market there is.
"That is all hindsight now. John has had time to learn a lot since then."
Keep in mind that Peddie's stance had nothing to do with Ferguson's hockey background and knowledge. Son of former Montreal Canadiens tough guy John Sr., Ferguson comes from strong bloodlines and was well respected throughout the NHL for his previous roles as both the assistant GM and director of hockey operations with the St. Louis Blues.
There's the rub.
Operating in a smaller, non-traditional hockey market like St. Louis is an entirely different animal than working in Toronto, where fans lose sleep if they don't agree with that night's line combinations.
As a result, nothing in St. Louis could have prepared Ferguson for the pressure cooker that goes with running the Maple Leafs.
Ferguson got his baptism by fire on his first day on the job when he told reporters that healing forward Doug Gilmour likely was not in the Leafs' future plans.
Having shredded his knee against Calgary earlier that year, Gilmour's aspiration of reviving his career was a longshot, at best. But that didn't stop those supporters in Toronto who regularly drink the blue-and-white Kool-Aid from immediately ripping the new GM for bashing their beloved "Dougie."
It was the first of many valuable lessons learned by Ferguson about hockey life in Toronto, where he now is being crucified by fans and media alike.
Labelling the Leafs underachieving performance this season as "unacceptable," Peddie denied reports that the Leafs actively have been kicking tires for candidates to replace Ferguson and/or coach Paul Maurice.
"We have not had talks along those lines with anyone since the summer," Peddie said, referring to the off-season hunt for a senior adviser for Ferguson, a process that included interviews with John Muckler and Scotty Bowman.
With suggestions circulating around the city that Ferguson might not survive the week, Peddie said management will not make any knee-jerk moves, but, at the same time, is closely monitoring the team's woes.
"We're not reactionary in this tough time but we feel (the fans' anger)," he said. "We read the papers. We listen to the talk shows. We know, believe me.
"John and Paul are still under contract. Their focus is on winning games. We have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. They know where they stand."
Right now, the team stands in 14th spot in the Eastern conference at 8-11-5.
"We are disappointed in our start," Peddie said. "Expectations were higher out there this year, and were boosted when John and Paul stated in training camp that we would make the playoffs and compete for a Stanley Cup.
"I continuously review the situation. Losing six of seven is a concern, sure. But it's all a part of the methodical process we are taking."
Interestingly, if Peddie does pull the plug, many of the names being bandied about as possible front office hires -- Glenn Healy, Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Joe Nieuwendyk and Steve Yzerman -- have never held the post of NHL GM before.
According to Peddie's criteria, does that automatically take them out of the mix?