Strip Peddie's power now

Richard Peddie is facing heat from Leaf fans unhappy with the way the team is playing. SUN MEDIA...

Richard Peddie is facing heat from Leaf fans unhappy with the way the team is playing. SUN MEDIA FILE/Veronica Henri

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

Richard Peddie must remove himself -- or be removed -- from the process of determining the immediate futures of Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson and coach Paul Maurice.

That much is evident as Leafs fans await a sign that team ownership and management will in some way respond to the ongoing crisis that now envelops the 28th-place NHL club.

Peddie's dubious sporting accomplishments became even more of an issue in the wake of Scotty Bowman's interview Saturday night on Hockey Night In Canada.

In the pre-game interview, Bowman was clear to point out he was prepared to accept the senior position with the Leafs in August only to be thwarted by Peddie, the CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.

So how can you trust Peddie to make the appropriate decision now when he has a history in sport that indicates quite the opposite?

The Leafs made a mistake five years ago in hiring Ferguson. They can't afford a similar mistake again.

Trusting Peddie at this stage to make the right call, considering the history, is an enormous leap of faith.

In recent years, Peddie has a) hired Ferguson to be general manager of the Leafs; b) hired Rob Babcock to be general manager of the Raptors; c) promised Ferguson a contract extension at the end of last season and then didn't deliver; and d) began distancing himself from Ferguson this season by referring to his hiring as a mistake.

In addition to that, his dealings with Bowman, a nine-time Stanley Cup winner, indicate how little Peddie understands the culture that is professional sport.

Now Bowman, at 74, might not be the best choice to take over the Leafs. His history was much more about coaching accomplishment than it was about managerial success. But that's not entirely the point.

The point Bowman alluded to on Saturday night was clear: He was prepared to work for board chairman Larry Tanenbaum. He was not similarly enamoured with Peddie.

This, by itself, is telling, pointing to the ongoing tug of war inside MLSEL. Tanenbaum initiated the early contact with Bowman; Peddie thwarted it.

Tanenbaum wanted to have Ferguson replaced as GM; Peddie promised Ferguson a contract extension but didn't produce one. Tanenbaum wanted the Bowman position to be all-encompassing. Peddie downgraded the position to senior adviser.

Had Tanenbaum, not Peddie, had the power to bring about change with the Maple Leafs, the hockey team would not be in the mess it finds itself in.

So now what?

Depending on who you believe, there is or isn't a board of directors meeting tomorrow. A month ago, sources indicated there was a Jan. 15 board meeting. Peddie has since denied that any such meeting is scheduled.

Whatever the case, many in the hockey world are expecting some kind of imminent change with the Leafs in the coming days. Ferguson has ostensibly been rendered powerless by the collapse of his own team. His typically weak response recently to a failing club was to claim Dominic Moore on waivers from the Minnesota Wild.

The difficulty in replacing the GM is there no obvious successor. Ferguson hired such a weak or inexperienced staff there is no one employed by the Leafs prepared to take over.

The best candidates to replace Ferguson are working for other clubs. A caretaker to finish the season is the most likely workable scenario.

If they choose to replace Maurice, there are options. Greg Gilbert, the Marlies coach, has coached in the NHL. If need be, he could work in an interim situation. He's not the ideal choice, but these aren't ideal circumstances.

The question, as always, comes back to who exactly is making the decisions. If it's Peddie, there is almost no reason to believe the right thing will be done. If it's Tanenbaum, who wanted Ferguson gone and Bowman hired, there's a better chance of a reasonable solution.

Doing nothing at this stage paralyzes the Leafs' future. The trade deadline is six weeks away, and with $40 million US in salaries committed for next season and a lottery pick now seeming like a certainty, there are huge decisions to be made.

But please, not by Richard Peddie. From the sporting side, he is not qualified.


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