Blowing It Up: D-Day?

Could this be the end of our long national nightmare? Could JFJ be relieved of his GM duties today or tomorrow? Last night the MLSE board of directors met to discuss the immediate future of the franchise and 'unnamed sources' (the professional reporters' version of "my buddy says") have told TSN and Tim Wharnsby that Cliff Fletcher will be returning as the interim GM. Damien Cox thinks that this move clearly shows that the impetus for change is waning. Here's another spot-on prediction:

The fact MLSE is snoozily rearranging the deck chairs on this year's Titanic-like voyage is just another way of expressing their utter disdain for customers and fans.

Hopefully Kim or Godd will have more on that hateful article but one last thing jumps out to me and serves to explain Damien's entire existence:

The arrogance of these people knows no bounds. They think because they can sell condos and sucker people into watching a horrific expansion soccer team that they know the right way to get things done in the hockey world.

Aside from the obvious that Damien hates condos, the bold (emphasis mine) sums up his approach to sports. Damien has absolutely no clue about what being a fan means. No wonder he hates MLSE so much. In his world, you would ignore a sport until the championship was on the verge of being awarded and then you'd cheer for the team most likely to win.

Here, he is insulting passionate soccer fans because they didn't stop going to games during the team's first season when it was clear that injuries had ravaged a promising season and exposed a lack of depth. Don't forget that there were 14,000 season tickets sold so for most people it was a sunk cost. Forget that going to those games constituted a lovely day out in the sun. Or that there is a massive soccer community in Toronto that reacted positively and organically to the opportunity to support a local team. Or that going to a stadium that featured the complete opposite of the manufactured noise and staid atmosphere of everything else in the city was a welcome change.

They shouldn't have gone because the expansion team didn't win the championship. That, in a nutshell, is Damien Cox. A man so hateful that he has to slam one of the city's great sports stories (and I can only imagine he did it to get the inevitable flood of angry e-mails. "Look boss! Tonnes of people read my drivel..errr...writing") just to get in a dig at MLSE. Don't they provide him with enough legitimate material? Next he'll write about what a bust the Grey Cup was in Toronto.

But I digress from my soccer-related rant. Bringing Fletcher in right now is a good move. As long as Fletcher comes in with a clear mandate to clear salary, get top value for the team's tradeable assets (ie Mats Sundin and Tomas Kaberle), and to rebuild properly then this is a good move. Forget Cox's ridiculously slanted take on things and remember that Fletcher did some good during his tenure. He made one trade that can be counted as the greatest in league history and another that comes awfully close. He moved the Leafs from the laughing stock that they were in the 80s to the team that we have now where a certain level of success is expected and demanded.

However, it appears that Howard Berger has a different source from Wharnsby and TSN because the deal he outlines is slightly different. The basics are:

  1. Cliff is going to get paid enough to let the $300K that Phoenix owes him slide. No problem there, the Leafs have money to burn
  1. No interim tag. In fact, Berger's source tells him that Fletcher wants a 'presidential-type role'. I hope he means that Fletcher wants to maximize his photo opportunities and not that he'll get the job that Scotty Bowman was offered and hopefully still wants.
  1. Make-up hugs and kisses from Larry Tanenbaum who played a huge role in getting Fletcher fired in 1997. Apparently, always the good soldier, Larry has been trying to prevent this move with all of his might. Maybe he can be fired along with Peddie. This request does make sense from Cliff's side because he doesn't need to get installed and have Larry scheming against him. Then again, neither did JFJ.
  1. A written promise from the board to sit on the sidelines and let the team run itself past the budget approval process. Amen to that.

1, 3, and 4 are reasonable but I hope that whoever told Howard about # 2 was the same guy that told him about Sean Avery's comments. MLSE owes it to the fans and themselves to wait until the summer to fill the role of Leafs' President.

As for JFJ's future, more and more articles are bringing up the possibility of him not actually being fired but being re-assigned as Assistant GM or scouting director. It sounds like MLSE to do that since they must not see the point in paying him until July 1 to do nothing. Either way, it will give him more time to write on his real blog.

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