“We ended it a couple of weeks ago,” Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, told The Canadian Press on Friday.
So, what began as an unusual search after last season is now over without a hiring. Legendary coach Scotty Bowman, a paid consultant with the Detroit Red Wings, told The Canadian Press in July and the Globe and Mail again earlier this week that he had turned down an offer from the Leafs and didn’t want to leave the Wings organization.
“I did meet with Scotty Bowman – that’s no secret,” said Peddie. “But Scotty knows the search is over. I told him personally.”
Former Ottawa Senators GM John Muckler was also interviewed in early July. But, in the end, no senior adviser.
“It’s no secret that we thought John (Ferguson) could use some help,” said Peddie. “Anything that will make our team better and compete for a 14th Stanley Cup.
“We went to John and said we thought he could need help. We explored every position from president of hockey operations to a senior adviser. We talked to some people, and we started that prior to the July 1 start of free agency when there was still flexibility.
“It went on and in the end we never came up with what we thought was the right fit.”
Peddie said once the Leafs made their off-season moves, including a trade for goalie Vesa Toskala and the signing of free-agent winger Jason Blake, it made less and less sense to bring in an adviser.
“You reach a point where really all the cards are dealt,” Peddie said. “We’ve used up our cap room, we’ve signed what we think is a really good free agent, we made that big trade, we have some young kids coming up . . .
“John was open to it but all along he said, ‘Let my team do it. Judge us on what we accomplish.’ And even though he was open to it, his preference was to steady the course. At some point we just realized the course is set and it was time to end the search.”
It’s Ferguson’s team, sink or swim. The GM is in the last year of his contract and his further employment depends on his team’s fortunes this season after two years out of the playoffs.
“John wants to be judged on his record,” said Peddie. “He sat in my office and said, ‘You know, I understand that, that my extension is based on the job that I do and that’s the way I want it.’
“It’s really how he does this year. We’ve got to make progress, and he understands that.”