JFJ taking high road

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

John Ferguson is confident he will have a job in NHL circles for many years to come, even if he appears be on the verge of losing the one he has with the Maple Leafs.

"Without a doubt," the beleaguered Maple Leafs general manager said when asked if he expected be employed somewhere in the league for the long haul.

With the axe seemingly poised to fall on him, Ferguson ended his self-imposed silence with the media for the past several days by yesterday acknowledging that predictions of his firing by both the media and the public go hand in hand with the position.

"That aspect of the business is there any time," he said. "But it does not influence the decisions I have made or that I am going to make. And it does not take away from my focus."

To that end, Ferguson plans on being on a plane today bound for Edmonton, where he is scheduled to take in the Top Prospects game with a number of team officials including Doug Gilmour.

While the unflappable Ferguson is proceeding as if it is business as usual, expectations are increasing that an announcement concerning his future -- and that of former Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher -- should come in the next 48 hours.

Unless there is a last minute change of heart by either Fletcher or Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd., Trader Cliff appears poised take over as interim GM.

One NHL general manager told Sun Media yesterday the aforementioned scenario was all but a done deal.

"Yes, I think it's for real," another league executive proclaimed to Sun Media via email. "(Fletcher) buys (the Leafs) time until the off-season (when) there is a better list (of GM candidates) to choose from."

Fletcher did not return calls yesterday while Richard Peddie, president of MLSEL, declined comment.

Whether Fletcher would retain Ferguson for the remainder of the season remains unknown, although it might make for an uncomfortable relationship.

Ferguson, who understandably would not address the subject of Fletcher, claims he has not allowed the speculation concerning his potential replacement to be a distraction, especially since he still is employed by the Maple Leafs.

"The events surrounding what we do are incidental," he said. "We have to be focused on the task at hand. We understand what we need to do."

Through all the scuttlebutt, Ferguson has not allowed himself to lash out at either his bosses or those calling for his head on a platter.

"I conduct myself the same way as I demand of our athletes and players," he said. "Everything is secondary to family and health.

"This is a business like any other. It is a business of expectations and results. And I expect to be judged and held accountable."

For St. Louis Blues general manager Larry Pleau, Ferguson's former boss in the Gateway City, seeing his friend endure these tough times has been difficult.

"We all get fired," Pleau said yesterday. "But you hate to watch John go through what he has been forced to go through. No GM in our league should go through what he has been through.

"I guess we'd all like to say we know what he's going through. But in reality, every city is different, with the spotlight being brighter in some than others.

"I saw him on a TV interview recently and he handled himself so well. I sent him a text right after that telling him to stay strong.

"People should understand just how much he knows about the game. We had a lot of success in St. Louis together, and I know this is a guy who will be in the game for a long time."

But where?


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