Ok, for those of you that can't see the press conference I am going to liveblog it over lunch.
Update: Now that I have a bit more time here is a bit of a recap of the press conference. In terms of Peddie, he was repeatedly hammered by the press about the level of board interference, whether it would continue, and why he would even be part of a search committee for a new President/GM.
That in itself was the big announcement. MLSE will finally go go down the path it trod with the Raptors and create a President position for the Leafs. Peddie went to great lengths to emphasise the independence of the new post but I'll believe that when I see it.
As for Fletcher, he signed a 19 month deal which will see him act as the Interim GM until a suitable replacement can be found and then he will act as a consultant for the balance of his contract. It's hilarious to read this early assessment and the comments knowing that a. Damien was at the presser and b. most of the readers didn't see it. Absent from most, and most sadly Damien, is the recognition that Fletcher not only built the Flames Stanley Cup champion but he also turned around the Leafs' from laughingstock to a two-time conference finalist. Add to that track record the fact that Fletcher already addressed about how the Leafs were able to paper over any draft picks traded through their financial muscle. Cox also ignores the fact that Fletcher was under pressure to win now, a pressure currently absent if Peddie is to be believed, and when his team started failing it had to do with ownership meddling. Fletcher was forced to clear payroll and even had a proposed deal for Gretzky vetoed because it was too much money. But none of those facts will make it into a Damien Cox article or the thoughts of his sycophants.
Fletcher looked hungry to get started and at the very least Damien's questions were answered in what was said whether that is true in the actions going forward is another issue. Fletcher re-iterated that the NHL that is coming to this time is much different in terms of building a team than it was the last time he was in town. He indicated that the key was drafting and developing your own talent and developing the infrastructure to do both. He made it clear that that was the only way, in a league where 27 of 30 teams spent to 10% of the cap, to ensure continued success for the club.
Peddie spoke of the need for a short-term fixer and a long-term builder. Based on what Fletcher said, he will be the short-term fixer that will evaluate every aspect of the Leafs' organization, recommend a plan for how to approach the trade deadline in the next two weeks, and 'set the table' for the incoming President and GM. Peddie noted that Fletcher's presence will help to provide stability and the luxury of time as they look for the next President of the Maple Leafs. They both emphasised that the ideal candidate will have a long track record of success in the NHL, have a history of strong drafting and player development, and will be autonomous in the same fashion as Bryan Colangelo.
The full text of my running comments can be found by clicking, yup you guessed it, 'Full Story'
1:02pm - And it begins. The Silver Fox looks more like the Tanned Fox. He certainly looks happy to be back in charge in Toronto. Opening statements and then questions. Huge crowd of reporters as it to be expected.
1:04pm - Peddie is speaking and he labels Cliff as the Interim GM. Thank God that Berger was wrong...again.
1:05pm - Peddie certainly threw some nice laurels at JFJ. Didn't keep him from treating him terribly. Everyone is laughing at Peddie and he looks lost. Not sure what he said but let's all laugh at him anyway.
1:06pm - Holy Crap! Peddie just announced that he and Gordon Kirke will form the search committee for the new Leafs PRESIDENT and GM. They want a long-term builder, a talent evaluator, a good drafter, have lots of NHL experience, full autonomy, basically all that we have hoped for. Let's hope it's not just empty words.
1:08pm - Fletcher is happy to be the custodian. He is saying that he will start the process of moving the Leafs to the next level in order to compete with the top teams in the NHL. His first step will be to meet with everyone in the organization to get their input, thoughts, and ideas.
1:09pm - Cliff says that in the next two weeks, after all of the discussions, that they will be ready to philosophically address the trade deadline.
1:10pm - It's a 19 month contract with the balance post-GM time as a consultant. He has no interest in the GM job long-term. He wants to hand the club over to someone that will lead the team for a decade. Long-term vision? this won't fly with MLSE. Question time.
1:11pm - Peddie wishes that JFJ's saga wasn't played out so publicly. He kept JFJ in the loop the entire time.
1:12pm - Peddie was asked about Maurice and he deferred to Fletcher. Good start. Maurice and his assistants will remain until the end of the season.
1:12pm - WOW, tough question about why Peddie is on the search committee instead of Fletcher. Peddie mentions that Fletcher is still a resource but as CEO he has to be part of finding the President.
1:13pm - He was asked about his long-term builder/short-term fixer line. He says that Cliff is the short-term fixer and the new guy will be the long-term builder.
1:14pm - About the 19 month timeline, Peddie says that it gives him the luxury of a detailed and thorough search.
1:15pm - The Raptors' model was brought up. No idea who mentioned that before but it's a good idea ;)
1:16pm - Peddie mentioned that the new President will have Colangelo-type freedom. I am crying right now.
1:17pm - Fletcher is outlining the shift from old to new NHL and the declining value of the Leafs money in terms of players. 27 of 30 teams were within 10% of the cap. He is talking about player drafting and development being the only way to get sustainable success. Somewhere pigs are flying.
1:18pm - Cliff was asked about alternatives to blowing it up (THERE IS NONE!). Cliff is highlighting how important every draft pick is to success. His pre-requisite for building is to bring a focus to developing a core of young players. Where is that draft-schmaft quotation Damien?
1:20pm - They just asked Cliff about Mats. He wants to do what's right for Mats (trade him). Follow up - isn't what's best for the Leafs the most important (that's from Damien) Cliff points out that Mats has a no-trade clause so the two are intertwined.
1:21pm - Peddie was asked about JFJ's job in historical context. He says that ultimately he didn't meet the clubs' goals but he has a long career ahead of him.
1:22pm - Peddie is addressing the 'myth' of board interference. He is lying through his teeth. "In my ten years the board has never turned down a request from any of our GMs" is his quote. Peddie is getting a little terse in his answers.
1:23pm - Peddie got asked about why JFJ wasn't fired in the summer instead of letting him be a lame duck. Peddie argues that it was similar to Sam Mitchell's situation a couple of years ago. I don't really see it.
1:24pm - Fletcher just pointed out that the team today is much better than the one he inherited in 1991. So I guess we can expect a Cup in 2009. Woo-hoo! He emphasised that he wants to set the table for the new incumbent.
1:25pm - Peddie is again being asked about the board's interference. I have never been so proud about the Toronto media. He just got asked about the 2005 JFJ rebuilding plan that was shot down. Peddie slyly sidesteps the question.
1:26pm - They are asking about the changing dynamics of making deals at the deadline. Fletcher recognizes the changes. This is a guy that is giving the impression that he is supremely prepared to do this job. He would probably be on the phone right now if he could. I feel...confidence. It's weird. Now can Peddie get fired?
1:27pm - Peddie gets asked about what the threshold for a board approval might be. He replies that some things have to go by and others get advised as they happen. He mentioned that the Carter trade was approved by the board. Holy crap. That's shocking considering how awful that trade was.
1:28pm - Peddie was asked about missing the playoffs a few more years and he said that he would listen to Fletcher and the new GM/President and if that was the reality then they would accept that. I call bullshit and hope he's being sincere.
1:30pm - Berger just asked Fletcher why he would come back. Fletcher says that he still thinks that he can make an impact and that it's a good situation. Plus he sucks at golf.
1:31pm - Friedman asked about any management changes. Fletcher noted that he'd keep it as is until the new GM comes in and set his staff up.
1:31pm - Peddie is being asked about the fans' impression that MLSE wants profits and not Cups. Peddie is aware of the stigma and he says that the board are made up of true blue fans. He re-iterates my point about how winning is good business. I don't like how he mentions about how good it would be to just make it to the finals. We aren't the senators. You make it to win.
1:32pm - It's weird that I can recognize so many of these guys by voice. Fletcher's last point is that, in response to a question about being succeeded by two neophytes (Dryden and JFJ) what he wants to see in the next GM, the next GM needs a long track record of success and experience.
1:33pm - And that's it. One-on-one interviews are starting. That was quick and informative and full of hope which should be met with a fair amount of skepticism. Shows us with your actions boys.