"I made a mistake."
After another summer of high hopes has been all but crushed by another lackluster start, the ownership is starting to feel the heat from the glare of the Toronto media, intensified through the magnifying glass that is held over every aspect of the Blue and White.
The story broke today in the Toronto Sun, making the front page—which showed a picture of the seemingly hapless John Ferguson, Jr. underlined by the words of his boss.
In the story, Peddie revealed that he may not have fully understood the implications of handing such a high-profile position to a first-time general manager, at the time he hired Ferguson.
This is not the kind of thing Leafs fans want to hear from the President of the Toronto Maple Leafs—him saying, "I didn't know."
However, the rest of the interview consists of Peddie stating his support for the embattled GM, which can be interpreted as nothing less than a slap in the face of the fans.
This report broke only a day after it was reported that Ferguson attempted to have coach Paul Maurice fired, but was blocked by the Board of Directors. If that story is true, it speaks volumes as to the troubles facing the Leafs, both as a team and as an organization.
But sadly, fixing these troubles is not as simple as just firing Ferguson—not by a long shot.
As discontent starts to boil over in Toronto, Richard Peddie faces an unenviable task: He either has to rectify the mistake everyone told him he was making in hiring Ferguson, as well as finding a suitable replacement mid-season.
The bureaucracy of the current Toronto Maple Leafs ownership has been well publicized. The ownership groups, comprised of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (58%), CTV Globemedia (15%), TD Bank Financial Group (14%), and Kilmer Sports (13%) are represented on the Board of Directors commensurate to their ownership stakes.
While not YET advertised league-wide, it has become slightly more than rumoured that the Board of Directors has final say on everything Ferguson says and does. However, given the last two seasons, the question must be asked: "Does the tail wag the dog?"
But who is this clandestine bunch—and more importantly, what are their qualifications in regards to overseeing a hockey team, let alone the most storied franchise in the league? Let's start at the top.
Richard Peddie, Team President and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, graduated from the University of Windsor in 1970 with a degree in Business Administration. After graduating, he worked 20 years between Colgate Palmolive, General Foods, Hostess and Pillsbury. He was named President of the Toronto Raptors in 1996.
Prior to his hiring, Peddle's only sports experience was three years as President and CEO of Stadium Corporation Ltd, the company that owned the SkyDome at the time. He was given an executive position by Maple Leafs Gardens Ltd.—later to be renamed Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, 28 days after they purchased the Toronto Raptors.
Larry Tanenbaum, Chairman of the Board, graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Social Science. He built up an asphalt-paving company and facilitated its sale before chairing a group with Richard Peddie in 1993 to bring NBA basketball to Toronto. It failed, but did ultimately lead to the NBA viewing the city as viable for a franchise.
James Leech, President and CEO of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, graduated the Royal Military College with a Bachelor of Social Sciences. His bio on the OTTP states that "during his distinguished career, Mr. Leech has gained recognition for his expertise and leadership in the private equity industry and as a former CEO."
Robert Bertram, is Executive Vice President in charge of investments for the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. He graduated from the University of Calgary with a BA, and his resume's sterling accomplishment is growing the Pension fund from $19 billion to $106 billion.
Rounding out the list is CTV President Ivan Fecan, Dean Metcalf of the Teachers' Merchant Bank, Robert McLellan of TD Bank Group, and Dale Lastman of Goodman LLP. All these men are known solely for their business savvy, with no background in sports.
And therein lies the issue with the Toronto Maple Leafs: The only person in upper management to have played a single game in the NHL has to answer to eight men who don't have a single game of professional sports between them, and whose professional acumen lie solely in generating revenue.
And it is this bureaucracy that has managed to make the Toronto Maple Leafs to GM candidates what the Edmonton Oilers are to free agents.
A deal was in the works by Chairman Larry Tanenbaum to bring in Scotty Bowman, but it was all but killed when Richard Peddie would not agree to allow Bowman total control, which would have included cleaning out the front office, and full license on trades, signings and contract negotiations. He countered with an offer of a position as a senior advisor/consultant to Ferguson.
One could only hope that Scotty killed two birds with one stone by displaying whichever Stanley Cup ring happened to be on his middle finger at the sheer audacity of Peddie's "compromise."
Paul Maurice should feel comfortable in his position. He has managed to keep the Leafs at least somewhat respectable, despite the fact that in his tenure as coach, he has been given neither a bona fide scorer, nor a clear-cut number-one goaltender.
Maurice has managed to guide Andrew Raycroft to the franchise record for wins in a season, and has motivated Nik Antropov to earn his top-six slot, as opposed to simply slotting him there because of the mind boggling excess of centremen.
Change has to come from the top, and until Richard Peddie and Company learn the food chain of the NHL, quality management candidates will continue to be as elusive as Stanley Cups in Toronto. If John Ferguson Jr. loses his job in the coming weeks, it will be solely to produce a sacrificial lamb, and the next candidate will be faced with the same bureaucratic stigma Ferguson did.
History looks unkindly at Harold Ballard's reign in Toronto, but he enjoyed two things foreign to the current ownership: experience and autonomy.
In the commonalities column however, it seems neither have a problem taking money from the fans' pockets while running the team into the ground.
On The Bleacher Report, I'm Andrew Castaneda.
With files from the Toronto Sun,MapleLeafs.com,WikiPedia,CBC.ca,TSN and SportsNet