Cliff's moves may be all for naught in '09

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Cliff Fletcher's remodeling of the Maple Leafs received approval from his boss yesterday, but a new president/general manager is still the plan for next year and that man could undo some of Fletcher's work.

Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., couldn't get the man he wanted in Anaheim GM Brian Burke, however he bowed to Fletcher's experience in revamping the front office, getting a new coach, signing free agents and the execution of buyouts.

Fletcher believes that any new president/GM would approve of his decisions and has since hired the respected Ron Wilson to run the bench and a couple of his old Calgary Flames' pals, Al Coates and Joe Nieuwendyk, to management roles.

Fletcher's interim GM tag was removed in May, but Peddie says he will still look at hiring a replacemnt a year from now, and that man will have the final say on staff.

"If there is a clash of ideals next year, the new guy would have the trump card," Peddie said. "But we're not close to making that call.

"Cliff has made us a younger team and I'm looking forward to meeting (top draft picks) Luke Schenn and Nikolai Kulemin this week at the prospects camp. Sometimes, it's a sixth-rounder and not a first-rounder that surprises you. But we want to hold on to our young guys.

"I really like hiring Ron Wilson and both Cliff and I agreed a while ago that Joe was one of the best (newcomers) anyone could get. I think we have one of the deepest front office teams now.

"But of course, it all depends on what happens during this season."

Peddie said there is a risk the next GM comes in with his own agenda and has to rid himself of Fletcher contracts he doesn't agree with. But it shouldn't be to the extent Fletcher was burdened by predecessor John Ferguson's big-ticket deals.

With Mats Sundin still a possibility, a lack of big-name centres available on July 1 and a limited salary cap, Fletcher was more conservative in free-agent shopping than Ferguson.


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