Leafs: No shortcut to Cup

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

If Steve Yzerman is looking for a management position beyond the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, he can scratch Toronto from his list.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. chairman Larry Tanenbaum said yesterday the rising Red Wings' executive doesn't have the experience the Leafs are looking for if and when they replace Cliff Fletcher.

Tanenbaum, in a rare media scrum with Toronto reporters at the Air Canada Centre, was no doubt thinking of the mistake the Leafs made in handing the rebuilding plan to neophyte John Ferguson Jr. four years ago. Yzerman, a Wings vice-president with some Team Canada experience, indicated in a recent interview that the crowded Detroit hockey office might make it tough for him to advance.

"Steve needs to be a general manager some place," Tanenbaum said. "We don't want a rookie. Cliff is the interim right now and we're working on the right individual to hire for the long term, the next five to 10 years."

Anaheim's Brian Burke will be among a number of proven candidates the Leafs are expected to chase in the summer of 2009, but Tanenbaum cited the perennially competitive Wings as his model. Repeated attempts by the Leafs to buy a championship died with the old CBA and they're back to the drawing board with Fletcher stripping the roster of unwieldy contracts in favour of developing more in-house talent.

"I'm not putting a time frame on (a Cup)," said Tanenbaum, who is also chairman and CEO of Kilmer Van Nostrand, a multi-faceted construction company. "From an ownership level we look at the long term."

Having waited 41 years for a Cup, Tanenbaum is convinced Leafs Nation would now oppose any plan to mortgage future draft picks on trades or free agents in pursuit of one Cup if it meant five years of ensuing mediocrity.

"If someone would say we would win a Cup one year and go from first to worst and stay worst for a long period of time, would they actually take that?

"It would be an interesting survey. The answer from the ownership point of view is absolutely not."

On the same subject, Tanenbaum is sick of talk that the billion dollar MLSEL empire has lost touch with its fans, that the lure of the buck has superseded its desire to please fans and bring a Cup back.

"This whole (unfeeling) corporate entity thing is B.S.," Tanenbaum said, whacking his seat with a copy of the Leafs roster. "We truly care, I care, my fellow shareholders care. We want to bring the Cup back to Toronto. That is the objective, I promise you that."


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