When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, because of the intense media market that it is, GMs and head coaches are always under so much scrutiny; however, the tandem of Cliff Fletcher and Ron Wilson that is now in place under MLSE may finally have what it takes to build a winning team.
To start with, I am going to discuss former General Manager John Ferguson Jr. Now I may not be the perfect person to write about Ferguson, as I have never been a fan of the General Manager.
After Pat Quinn left the position of general manager to concentrate on the head coaching job, myself always being a fan of Quinn would obviously not have liked whoever was hired to replace him. Unfortunately for Ferguson, he was hired as Quinn's replacement. I will say that Ferguson has made several moves that I have been happy with, most specifically signing Jason Blake, whom I am a big fan of, even though he struggled last season.
However, while I may have been happy with some of his moves, I do not believe they were significant enough to warrant him remaining in his position much longer. I very much agreed with his firing and I do believe that Cliff Fletcher is a much more capable replacement. In my opinion, regardless of how the Leafs had done last season, it was only a matter of time before he was replaced, especially since MLSE looked for an advisor for Ferguson throughout the summer, approaching such legends as Scotty Bowman and John Muckler. It was clear at this point that Ferguson was no longer their man.
In my opinion, Cliff Fletcher is a much more capable GM than Ferguson could have ever been. During his first tenure with the Leafs, he proved that he wasn't scared to make the trades and do the deals that, while controversial, still managed to improve the team in the long run.
Even in the short time since his appointment as Interim GM, it is clear that he wants to make the Leafs legitimate contenders in the years to come. With the drafting of D Luke Schenn, as well as through the signing of such players as D Jeff Finger, LW Niklas Hagman, G Curtis Joseph, and C Mikhail Grabovski, it is easy to see that Fletcher is the man to get the job done. The job in question is building a better and younger Maple Leaf team.
Now in terms of the head coach, I believe that the Leafs made a good decision in hiring Paul Maurice as Pat Quinn's replacement a few years back. He was a good coach, he had a lot of experience (having been to the Stanley Cup final with Carolina), and most importantly to me, he was sure to give the young players their opportunity to shine. However, regardless of whether or not I liked Maurice, I do believe that he deserved the same fate as Ferguson Jr. The Leafs finished poorly overall, leaving MLSE and Fletcher no choice but to fire him.
As for his replacement, I believe the Leafs hired the best possible candidate in Ron Wilson. He was proven over and over again that he is a high caliber NHL head coach, and I do believe he will be able to effectively alter the skill of this new, younger Leafs' roster.
Ultimately, I do believe that the Leafs have made the necessary steps to start their rebuilding process. A team all starts with its management and its coaching and with the hiring of Wilson, along with Fletcher at the helm, it is easy to see that the Leafs are beginning to make the changes that are necessary to end their 41 year Stanley Cup drought.
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