PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – California never looked so good to John Ferguson.
There couldn’t be a better time for the Maple Leafs general manager to leave Toronto and the hotseat he has been on recently. “I’ve said this many times, just another day in Leaf Land,” said Ferguson. “But it’s hard to top a couple of the ones recently.” Despite reports in the Toronto media that suggested he was on the verge of being fired, Ferguson arrived at the NHL’s board of governors meeting Thursday and took in Wednesday night’s Kings-Sharks game in San Jose.
“This was all planned,” Ferguson said of his California trek. “It’s good to get to see some teams in the West. Looking forward to a productive set of meetings.
“With me being here, it’ll be a good chance to speak with some of the guys (GMs),” Ferguson added. “I’ve got a few meetings set up. We’ll discuss some things.”
Ferguson also plans to attend Friday’s Avalanche-Sharks game after the board of governors meeting wraps up. While he will take the time to talk to other GMs, a trade isn’t necessarily the answer for his struggling club.
“You look around the league, there’s lots of teams that have gone on streaks, both positive and negative, that haven’t been spurred on by a transaction,” said Ferguson. “We’ve got to find a way to be more consistent, more productive, get out goals against down.”
Ferguson has received support from his fellow GMs during this week’s upheaval. Some have reached out to him as his job security made headlines in Toronto.
“We’re competitive but there’s also fraternity,” Ferguson said of his fellow GMs. “There have been a lot of people who said, ‘Hey look, your experience and credentials, et cetera, everyone goes through this.’ Our club is three games under .500, we’re not where we need to be. We just happen to be dealing with it in hockey’s largest market.”
Ferguson said he’d be keeping close tabs on Thursday’s Leafs-Thrashers game in Atlanta despite being in a board of governors’ meeting.
Ferguson’s father John, who died of cancer last summer, worked in the Sharks organization so San Jose GM Doug Wilson has known the younger Ferguson for years. He also feels for what the Leafs GM has gone through in Toronto.
“I think Pat Burns had a line the other day that I saw, ‘It’s the greatest place if you’re winning and it’s the toughest place if you’re losing,”‘ said Wilson. “Toronto’s a great hockey market, they live and die with their game. That’s the nature of that job there. I talk to John quite a bit and I know how hard he’s working, and on a personal basis on what he went through last summer with his father, so our relationships among GMs sometimes goes outside the business side and you feel for people going through that. You do.”
Ferguson paused when asked how tough this week had been on him on a personal level.
“It’s interesting, really to me it is background noise, I’m focused on my job,” said Ferguson. “Now, can we completely block it out when it affects family or children? No you can’t. And we stress to our players, make sure you’re focusing on the task at hand.
“I’m a proponent of controlling what you can control,” he added. “And that requires a great deal of mental strength. Just like any professional endeavour.”