Eye-opener for Peddie

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- The Maple Leafs have cancelled a team photo planned for early next week, indicating that yesterday's player moves could be just the start of an organizational shakeup.

Mired at 28th of 30 teams in the NHL after two lifeless losses in California, and subjected to a torrent of anger from Leaf Nation via the media, the board of directors of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., wants answers from president and CEO Richard Peddie, who is on this road swing.

Chairman Larry Tannenbaum said in early December that a board review of general manager John Ferguson would take place this month and, while Peddie says no formal meeting is imminent, he said a conference call could be arranged instead to deal with the whole situation. Peddie, facing a third year without playoff revenues under the GM he hired, could not deny Ferguson's future, or that of coach Paul Maurice, won't be a talking point here in California in the next few days.

"I owe it to them not to speak to the media about it first," Peddie said yesterday. "I can tell you we expected to compete and make the playoffs. But if you extrapolate the numbers right now (a record of 16-20-8 with 38 games to play and five teams to pass for eighth place) it won't happen. Less than half the season remains to get to that magical 91 or 92 points."

With a sold-out Air Canada Centre, Peddie has previously sloughed off the Leafs' struggles and given Ferguson lifelines at tough times in his tenure. But Peddie has already gone on record as saying it was a mistake to hire such an inexperienced GM and said yesterday that seeing the team struggle first-hand on this trip has been an eye-opening experience.

Back in Toronto, survivors of the tumultuous Harold Ballard years are drawing comparisons to this top-to-bottom boondoggle with no direction up top and a losing mentality on the ice.

"I've seen all the clippings from the Toronto papers today and I'm seeing a lot of fans who paid to come out to two or three of the games here," Peddie said. "They know who I am. They know the club and the players. I feel their angst. We're all disappointed."

Peddie accompanied the team for what was going to be a business/pleasure trip to see the three arenas in California, but he could be presiding over a demolition job if the Leafs don't show some signs of recovery in San Jose tonight.

Ferguson can't hope to survive without making the playoffs and it's doubtful Peddie and the board would let him get too ambitious with trades. Ferguson said yesterday the calls have started from other GMs, likely sensing a fire sale or Mats Sundin action.

The GM's big-ticket signings such as Jason Blake, Pavel Kubina and Darcy Tucker have not brought the playoffs any closer, the younger Leafs are having their growth stunted by the losing streak and now Justin Pogge is the third goalie Ferguson has called upon this year to spell off Vesa Toskala.

Ferguson didn't try to sugar-coat his position.

"Our results speak for themselves," he said. "You are what your record says. We've had some slow starts and tough finishes."

Ferguson admitted the goal of winning 25 of the past 40 games was in doubt and realized he'll be on the hot seat when the Leafs fly home tomorrow.

"To hear that anyone is not disappointed with the effort recently would be surprising," he said. "We're always accountable. I'm resposnibile for everything that goes on here."


Videos

Photos