Getting the Job Done
A couple of final thoughts on the departure of John Ferguson. . .
RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR
It's an interesting contrast that while so many want to focus on only the good things that happened during Cliff Fletcher's first swing through Toronto from 1991-97 and are so willing to shield their eyes from all the bad things, JFJ could never, ever get any credit for anything positive he accomplished and the focus was always on his errors.
Give Ferguson the Fletcher treatment, and all you'd hear about is how cheap the Leafs got Tomas Kaberle for, or how wise it was to hang on to Nik Antropov, or how under his watch the Leafs have again become a team sporting significant numbers of drafted players.
The two mistakes that dogged JFJ were the huge contract he gave to Bryan McCabe and the decision to trade for Andrew Raycroft and try to force feed him to the Toronto market as a bona fide No. 1 goaltender.
But of the players he invested heavily in, none let him down more this season than Darcy Tucker.
By giving Tucker a four-year, $12 million no-trade deal last winter JFJ believed he was getting a truculent, heart-and-soul team leader and a consistent 20- to 25-goal man.
Instead, Tucker has become almost a total non-factor, has six goals in 43 games and seems most intent on making sure people blame all these injuries he's supposed to have rather than him.
If Tucker plays like what Ferguson believed he was buying, you could argue the Leaf season never gets quite so desperate and JFJ still has his job.
Now, with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Alex Steen both out, Leaf fans better get ready for increased doses of Tucker. Against Washington on Thursday night, he skated 17 minutes and 54 seconds, about double what he was starting to receive on a regular basis.
For that, Tucker delivered no points, two shots on goal and another minus. On Washington's winning goal, Tucker was easily banged off the puck by Alex Ovechkin, then seemed frozen as Ovechkin hustled back into a dangerous position to begin the sequence that led to the goal.
Other than the big clatter he causes when he misses yet another hit and hits the glass, you'd have little reason to notice Tucker on most nights. He's now been infected by Tie Domi syndrome, a player who consistently vocalizes his value and his determination and his team-first attitude, but rarely actually shows any of it on the ice.
It's reasonable to suggest the majority of Leaf fans were happy to see Ferguson go and happy to see Fletcher return.
Now we'll see if any of the players truly responsible for the state of this 14th place team - like Tucker - turn their seasons around.