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Cliff Fletcher To Remain Leafs' GM

Thanks to Eyebeleaf for the heads up as David Shoalts reports that Cliff Fletcher's tenure as GM which was meant to last until October will now be stretched to next summer.

Reading the comments in that article, and I would guess any article about the development, will give you a good idea of the extent of the anti-Leaf sentiment that drives opposition fans more than devotion to their own squad. The funniest and most uninformed is that the Leafs are doing more of the same. MF37 outlined that, if anything, the Leafs have taken a distinctly different approach to the way that they conduct business:

John Ferguson Junior - arguably one of the worst GMs in Leafs history: Fired
Paul Maurice - qualified for the post-season three years out of 11: Fired
Randy Ladoceur - assistant coach and special teams failure: Fired
Steve McKichan - Raycroft's goalie coach: Fired
Dallas Eakins - assistant coach: Demoted
Mike Penny - assistant GM: Demoted

Not to mention that the hiring of Ron Wilson was also a change that harkened back to the last coaching hire that Cliff Fletcher made without any contraints: Pat Burns. In both cases Fletcher identified the coach that he thought that the Leafs needed - one that would instill a defensive identity, change the culture of the team from the mediocre malaise that had set in, and that was the best candidate available - and he made contract offers that could not be ignored. Now, the search committee looked at who was available and decided that the current crop was not what the Leafs' deserved. Rather than settling for the best available candidate the Leafs have a game plan that potentially sets them up to have a much greater pool of applicants to choose from:

Along with Burke, the list includes David Poile of the Nashville Predators, Doug Wilson of the San Jose Sharks, Darcy Regier of the Buffalo Sabres and possibly Doug Risebrough of the Minnesota Wild. In addition, Jim Rutherford is believed to have an escape clause in his contract with the Carolina Hurricanes if he is offered the Leaf job.

I've already written that keeping Fletcher is okay by me. The problems with the Leafs are well documented and the tools available to Uncle Cliff in the short-term are no different than what would be available to any incoming GM other than Cliff's had months to pore over the decisions while a newcomer would have hours to do the same. It basically boils down to if you think that Cliff Fletcher is a good GM. If you have a personal vendetta against Fletcher than you will use your mailbox tomorrow to lambast MLSE, Cliff, Kirke, Peddie, Tanenbaum, and repeatedly remark that the Leafs are doing things like running from second base to first base (which isn't always crazy). So MLSE incompetence run wild will be theme # 1 in the reaction tomorrow.

Theme # 2 will be tampering and can we please give it a rest? There is absolutely no evidence that the Leafs have been anything other than completely above-board in their actions. Good thing MLSE isn't as quick with a lawsuit as Sean Avery. What they are doing is preparing for a bumper crop of free agents. Sound familiar? It happens each in year in sports as teams try to shed contracts in order to take a run at high-profile free agents. Sometimes they even announce that they are clearing the decks to take a run at specific players like when the Clippers let their interest in Kobe Bryant be known. It's not tampering, it's good planning. Earl Sleek's BoC post this morning noted that after next season the Ducks are set to only have a core group of six players under contract which will give them an inordinate amount of flexibility. By having Fletcher in place now the Leafs have a great hockey mind ready to look after things until they have a chance at getting one of the free agents mentioned.

And the entire GM being hired after the coach issue is basically a non-starter except for The Omen and his Chicken Little acolytes. The Leafs are moving forward and they are in good hands.