A stay of execution from governors?

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

The conversation might have been frosty on the flight west, but a couple of days in California might warm relations a bit between fighting hockey factions of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.

Chairman Larry Tanenbaum, president Richard Peddie and Leafs general manager John Ferguson are all in Pebble Beach for the start of today's NHL board of governors meeting, making it unlikely Ferguson would be axed in the next couple of days.

Ferguson, who is an alternate governor, is needed for input on matters such as scheduling and the debate about the drop in scoring.

After three days of public and media rants about the state of the team, and an admission from Peddie that he might have erred in thinking Ferguson was ready for prime time, there is growing belief that no move with the GM or coach Paul Maurice is imminent, unless the Leafs tumble right out of playoff contention next month.

But they need a win tonight in Atlanta or Saturday against Pittsburgh, if just to ease the public and media clamour for change.

"I'm not sure (one win) will have any effect on what's happening here," Maurice said yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena.

Today would have been timely for a hockey office move, the 49th anniversary of Punch Imlach's consolidation of power, setting the stage for four Stanley Cups in the 1960s.

But if there were doubts about Ferguson, the MLSEL board should have acted in the summer before big names settled themselves into their jobs for the season.

The Dallas Stars, who fired GM Doug Armstrong earlier this month, surveyed available candidates and ended up splitting the job between the in-house team of Les Jackson and Brett Hull.

Gerry McNamara, the most recent Leafs GM to be let go in mid-season (in 1988), was replaced by a three-man committee that included coach John Brophy, assistant GM Gord Stellick and scout Dick Duff. But while Maurice is knowledgable about league personnel through coaching, scouting and media work, letting him have a bigger role in the hockey office would be a last resort.

Sitting three points out of seventh place before last night, despite losing seven of its past eight, Toronto looked at tonight's game and ahead to a rough December with eight of 12 on the road until after Christmas.

"For whatever reason, we've rolled over and given away points," centre Matt Stajan said. "We've not gone on our winning streak yet, but look at Atlanta. They beat us in a shootout and they've gone (10-5) since.

Through a variety of calamities, such as a record of 1-6 in overtime this season, Toronto is last in its division.

"It's a fine line between second last and seventh place," Stajan said, repeating one of Ferguson's favourite sayings of late. "But we can't keep saying we're going to do it, we have to go out and do it."


Videos

Photos