Scotty Bowman, who has coached nine Stanley Cup winners in three cities, seems to have taken himself out of the running for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top job.
Bowman told the Detroit Free Press he’s staying put as a consultant to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. But Bowman, who had an uncharacteristically talkative weekend, also told Hockey Night in Canada he was close to becoming the Leafs’ new head of hockey operations in August.
In the dysfiunctional – albeit filthy rich – family that is Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Bowman was caught in the ongoing crossfire between Larry Tanenbaum, MLSE chaiman of the board, and the company’s president and CEO, Richard Peddie.
Bowman asked for what MLSE has given Raptors boss Bryan Colangelo: total, unquestioned control. The problem is while MLSE execs realize they don’t know jack about basketball, these schmucks consider themselves hockey experts – notwithstanding a 40-year run of futility that suggests no one in the operation knows chicken droppings from chopped liver.
So if not Bowman, who?
Darren Dreger floats several names in his TSN blog, including GMs Holland, Brian Burke and Jim Rutherford, all of whom would have to be end-of-the-season hires. Dreger thinks the Leafs might pull a Dallas Stars scenario in which Doug Gilmour would play Brett Hull’s legend-turned-admninistrator role.
Other GM-coach possibilities: Colin Campbell-Steve Yzerman and my favourite, just because it would be a fiasco, Glenn Healy-Mark Messier.
I still think Bowman will get the job. And I suspect he wants it, if only to put a Cup ring on the only finger that lacks one.
On the other hand, Bowman is 74. And the Leafs face a rebuilding process that will take at least five years. If Bowman getrs them to the Promised Land, the Cup parade may have to be interrupted for his nap.
I don’t think the Leafs can wait until summer to make changes at the top. If MLSE comes to the logical conclusion that they have to blow everything up, Toronto will be a seller in the days leading up to the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
There will be no shortage of buyers for the team’s most valuable assets: Darcy Tucker and this year’s version of Peter Forsberg, only healthier and better: Mats Sundin.
The Leafs will want a package of prospects and draft picks for Sundin. The problem iis any picks from a Cup contender, such as Detroit or San Jose, will be non-lottery choices – and the 29th or 30th pick in the draft is not going to help Toronto much.
(Anaheim might be interested, and the Ducks have Edmonton’s pick as a consequence of the Dustin Penner RFA signing.)
Having extracted value from the Leafs’ few bona-fide assets, the new head honcho will still be stuck with three highly-paid and totally untradeable stiffs: Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina and Jason Blake. Nor is the Leafs’ phone ringing off the hook with questions about the availability of Andrew Raycroft.
The Leafs are 28th in the league and a number-six-defenceman $700,000 under the cap. Thanks John Ferguson, Jr., you’ve done a helluva job up to and including the 2007 draft, in which Toronto’s first pick was the 74th player selected.
Can Scotty Bowman fix this mess?
Let’s hope so.
Don’t count me among Montrealers who glory in Toronto’s travails. The absurd homerism of Don Cherry, Glenn Healy et al is stomach-turning (and in Cherry’s case, it should be Homerism of the Doh! variety). But Canada’s largest city – populated by fans who know more about hockey than the good burghers of Nashville and Phoenix – deserves an exciting, competitive team.