TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs ended a five-game losing skid Tuesday by beating Carolina 5-4 at Air Canada Centre, but that doesn’t mean their long-suffering fan base believes the franchise has suddenly discovered the right path to a Stanley Cup.
Indeed, after a week filled with heavy speculation about the future of GM John Ferguson and head coach Paul Maurice, Leafs fans seem hungrier than ever to see serious changes to the team’s management structure.
“People want a public hanging,” Bruce Cameron, visiting from Calgary, said Tuesday. “I think you have to make serious changes. And it’s awful, because then you’re looking at three-to-five years before you have a contender again.”
“I feel sorry for anyone who loses their jobs on the ice or behind the bench, but as far as upper management goes, they definitely need a full-scale revamping,” added Burlington, Ont., native Kerry Blakey, whose family has held Leafs season’s tickets for 42 years. “Nothing against John Ferguson Jr., but this is an Original Six team, and I just don’t understand why they didn’t go out and get a proven GM.
“It’s not like Ferguson is an idiot, and I understand his hands are tied by ownership, but it would’ve been nice to have somebody like a Bob Gainey, like a Scotty Bowman, to come in and run things. At the very least, I think the fans deserve somebody who knows what they’re doing.”
Toronto resident Dan Martin said that, despite the perception Leafs ownership is more interested in making money, a lack of championships would ultimately hurt their bottom line in the boardroom.
“There’s too much focus on their profit statement than on having a winning hockey team,” said Martin, 23. “But it seems like a smart businessperson would know that if you have a team that wins Stanley Cups, the team value is going to be much greater than if you have a losing team for 10 years.”
Chants of “Fire Ferguson” could easily be heard in sections of the ACC in the late stages of Toronto’s win, a reflection of the severe dissatisfaction fans have with the organization of late. But the arena had a sold-out crowd of 19,444, indicating once again the team will enjoy support regardless of their win/loss record.
“The sad thing is, if we were to say we weren’t going to come anymore and give up our (season’s) tickets, then we’re on a waiting list for another 10 years to get season’s seats again,” said Blakey, 37. “So what do you do? It’s really depressing.”