Peddie on Leafs: 'We failed'

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

"We failed."

With those two stinging words, Richard Peddie, president of Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment Ltd., yesterday pointed the blame for yet another disappointing Maple Leafs season directly at the entire organization, not just the team's players and coaching staff.

Less than 24 hours after the Leafs guaranteed themselves of missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season -- the first time in 80 years the storied franchise has accomplished that dubious feat --Peddie, in a wide-ranging interview, admitted the team is not in prime shape to make a run in 2008-09 either.

At least not at this point anyway.

"It's simply not acceptable," said Peddie, indicating that the accountability for the Leafs' shortcomings runs from himself to the board of directors all the way down the ladder.

"It's very disappointing and very upsetting. We're smart people, people who are very savvy in business. We thought we had a solid plan to move ahead but that's not the case. In fact, we're not set up that great for next year either.

"It's very humbling to know we failed."

Peddie said simply reaching the post-season is not the goal.

"It's more than making the playoffs," he said. "It's about moving toward a championship. And, frankly, we made no progress toward that end."

Peddie bristled at the suggestion the team should have tanked weeks ago in order to improve its drafting position and, perhaps, get a shot at local kid Steve Stamkos, the favourite to go first overall.

"It's not (a notion) our board would ever entertain," he said. "In fact, I ran into (commissioner Gary Bettman) recently and told him: 'You can't accuse us of tanking.' I can assure you it was a concept that was never discussed."

While not particularly painting a rosy picture of the Leafs prospects for next season, Peddie cautions that the ultimate state of the franchise will be determined by interim general manager Cliff Fletcher and, subsequently, the incoming president/general manager.

"The next president/general manager will have complete autonomy, both on the ice and off," he said. "The person will have the title of president/general manager. Once in place he can do what he wants. If he wants to hire a general manager at that point so he can concentrate full time on the president's role, he will have that authority."

In the meantime, Peddie has confidence in Fletcher to run the show for however long it takes to get a new head of hockey in place.

"We said when we hired him that we have the luxury of having an experienced GM in Cliff," said Peddie, who will be featured in a sit-down chat with Elliotte Friedman during Hockey Night In Canada's Inside Hockey segment tonight. "He's the acting GM until we make a hire and is proceeding with what he needs to do to take the team forward while setting the table for the incoming GM. We have complete confidence in him.

"Trades, free agency, the draft, sending guys to the minors, even buyouts, he has complete freedom to do what he needs to do, and we have the financial resources to back him."


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