No signs of giving up

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- The Maple Leafs don't have to worry about finding their identity any longer.

They're bona fide rebuilders, and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. should get moving on a new blueprint this week. If it means keeping general manager John Ferguson as general manager and/or Paul Maurice as coach under a caretaker for the remaining weeks of the schedule, so be it.

The best candidates are working elsewhere right now and little can be done with this group of expensive, hard-to-move contracts as it stands.

As long as the GM can live without committing to anything with long-term ramifications, such as a Mats Sundin trade, let he and his staff conduct necessary club business and even try to redeem themselves to a degree.

Ferguson and Maurice are nothing if not earnest men and anyone who watched the coach the past week in California must appreciate how he walked the line on game days. He tried to push all the buttons behind the scenes, had some fiery oratory behind the bench as time wound down in three straight losses and then faced the media, defending the same team that had just self-destructed and pushed him closer to the door.

When the officiating went against him, as in the third period of Saturday's 3-2 loss here, he wouldn't publically rip the zebras and then dealt squarely with the same reporters who were writing his obituary.

Only when he was asked if the players had made one last stand on his behalf in nearly upsetting the Sharks, did he unclench his lower jaw.

"They played their guts out, three games in four nights," he said. "With all the stuff they're dealing with and with the weight that's hanging on them, they came out and played hard and competed hard.

"They deserved a better fate. They didn't get it."

But it should be made clear there will be major philosophical changes in the coming weeks and months and that proceeding in the patchwork fashion of the five years since the club was in the Eastern Conference final won't do.

Ferguson has tried to be proactive in his four-plus years at the helm.

He claimed the versatile Dominic Moore on waivers last week and various reports have him in the hunt for Curtis Joseph and trying to trade Jason Blake. He was succinct when his turn on the hot seat came, stating "our record speaks for itself".

The hawks on the board of MLSEL could press to purge the hockey office sooner than later, to put people out of their misery before the National Hockey League all-star break.

Yes, there are 37 games to go and a new broom might be the impetus to make up the six points separating them from a playoff spot as of last night. But hoping for a desperation drive for eighth place, just to win a date with the first-place Ottawa Senators would be silly.

There's no reason to think a team that was swept in California, losers of 11 of their past 13 games, is going to get a second wind. From the start of the year, when they bemoaned the loss of players such as Kyle Wellwood and Mark Bell, to today's pining for Bryan McCabe and Carlo Colaiacovo, the claims that the cavalry is coming are futile.


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