He’s A Real Nowhere Man

This is Norm Ullman, maybe 1975. It’s a game in Maple Leaf Gardens and it might be a HNIC game (I remember the Caps played a game early, maybe year one or two, certainly with Greg Joly as a member of the team).

That’s probably Paul Nicholson on D (the Caps turned over players like mad, there were at least two #24′s in 74-75, Larry Fullan who was a forward and Nicholson).

I’d like a better photo of the boards but they’re also interesting in this picture.

As we sit down to dinner tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs are barbequing John Ferguson Jr on a spit behind the ACC. It is a shameful event which has immediate dividends in that it further exposes a ridiculous ownership and therefore makes worthy candidates gunshy about sending their resume.

Why on earth would they fire him now? Many of the best candidates (Bob Murray, Jarmo Kekalainen, Marshall Johnston, Jim Nill, Wayne Thomas would be my list, I’m sure NHL teams know very well the best options and there’s probably a dozen more names that should be mentioned) are not going to be available until summer so you’re limiting your options by doing it now.

AND if you bring in an interim GM (Cliff Fletcher?) the first thing he’s going to want to do is make changes and why would you let an “interim” anybody do anything?

The problems with Toronto’s beloved hockey team are fairly obvious:

  1. Many of their best prospects were traded (Boyes, Rask), injured early (Colaiacovo, Cereda) or are being pushed (for God sakes send Tlusty down and let him find the range).
  2. Too many first round picks were traded for too many goaltenders.
  3. They are top heavy in $5M defensemen.
  4. They have mortgaged the future for so long there isn’t one.
  5. They have held onto Mats Sundin like they should have held on to Frank Mahovlich and now they are left with dealing a guy at the deadline for picks and parts.
  6. They have been terribly arrogant AND mistaken about their ability to build a successful team since about 1965.
  7. The Leafs have so many riches available to them and they treat it like trash.
  8. They have NEVER lacked talent and in fact their 2002 draft ranks among the best team drafts in recent memory. The trading of Steen is probably right around the corner.
  9. They are such snots and have been for so long that normal, right thinking people who basically believe in fair play say their rosary with a line reserved for the Leafs continued distress.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have graduated into status reserved only for things and moments so incredibly stupid that we can only watch in amazement. Like the time George Bush said “Brownie is doing a heckuva job”, or Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook”.

Richard Peddie once said it was a mistake to hire John Ferguson Jr. I say he’s making a mistake hanging Ferguson out right now at there will be a price. What price?

The Leafs are now asking well known hockey people if they’re interested in taking Ferguson Jr’s job on an interim basis. Based on Peddie’s class and track record, I hope no one takes the job.

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16 Responses to "He’s A Real Nowhere Man"

  1. Oilman says:

    Those boards do look like they are made out OSB and painted with white tremclad

  2. Bruce says:

    Nice photo, same angle as most of the famous Turofsky collection, which were taken when the boards were actually that, a whole row of narrow boards. There’s a fine book by Andrew Podnieks, “Portraits of the Game”, featuring this HHoF collection of hockey photographs.

    AND if you bring in an interim GM (Cliff Fletcher?) the first thing he’s going to want to do is make changes and why would you let an “interim” anybody do anything?

    Fletcher would be a good interim choice IF the plan is to first tear down, then rebuild. He did a pretty good job of just that in an interim role in Phoenix, where he replaced Bobby Smith, oversaw the divestiture of the Tkachuk and Roenick contracts and the Khabibulin mess, and essentially cleared the deck for Mike Barnett who took the helm about six months later. Fletcher basically was a hatchet man in that situation, but to me he did a good enough job that maybe they shoulda stuck with him.

    The heavens know that Toronto needs to add by subtraction first, JFJ has them committed to something close to $40 MM next year, so watch for a fire sale of assets (a.k.a. “liabilities”) if somebody like Fletcher moves in.

  3. Mr DeBakey says:

    Those boards may not be too pretty

    But that’s a beauty player
    [as they say hereabouts]
    working them.

    The picture taken not too long before Ullman left the Leaves to finish off his pro career elsewhere – two seasons with
    YOUR EDMONTON OILERS.

    His first one was a good one, he centered two speedy wingers Rusty Patenaude & Rick Morris.
    Probably the best & most popular WHA Oiler line.
    He followed that with a fade-into-the-sunset injury filled season.

    Also
    Ullman, an Edmonite, started his career with the Edmonton Flyers.
    In addition to Ullman, the 54-55 Flyers team had
    Glen Hall
    Al Arbour
    Bronco Horvath
    Johnny Bucyk
    among others

    They won the Western League
    I had a copy of the Journal, mid-April 1955.
    The big sports story was the Flyers leaving for Quebec to contest the Edinborough Cup.
    Somewhere along the way, I lost the damn thing. And so did they actually.

  4. Black Dog says:

    Best Peddie moment was the Raptors St. John’s fiasco when he explained the team’s leaving the disappointed fans without even an autograph as necessary because of the danger from same fans.

    A1 pinhead.

    Even the most critical amongst the media are delusional however – calls to trade Blake and Tucker and Bell.

    Um, who is going to take these guys?

    Comparing them to Philly last year? Flyers had a number of quality young players and cap room. Leafs have neither.

    And the way they are treating poor JFJ and the way they sloughed off Scott Bowman – why would anyone in their right mind come here?

    It warms my heart.

  5. Dennis says:

    Someone has to give someone the authority to come in and tear down that club and build it from the bottom. And, hey, the Leaves have that luxary. This isn’t Poile making the Forsberg trade in nsh and saying he gave up a lot for a Cup run because it might be the only way to energize the fanbase and thus save the club. If the Leaves tear down and suck for two or three years, it’s not like they’re attendance will suffer.

    The Leaves as a brand name are as strong as anything in pro sports. So, people have to realize that and take “advantage” of the fan’s goodwill.

    The other thing is that there’s so much bloody money being made that the Leaves could buy their way back to near respectibilty just by farming some of their terrible contracts, thus not having them count against the cap, and then try and make subsequently better decisions. This is an idea a couple of us have thrown out for the rich teams to use, and it’s on Al Strachan pimps from The Score to HNIC but no one ever seems to acknowledge it’s an option. Lamarellio did it with all of McGillis, Mogilny and Matvichuk but no one’s talking about that anymore.

    Things don’t have to be so dark for the Leaves but I guess it would be a tough sell to go to the board and convince them to pay Kubina to play for the Marlies thus increasing salary expendatures beyond the cap limits.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I hope the Leaves don’t think and spend outside the box like this but I’m just saying it’s an option. Personally, I enjoyed the funereal tone of HNIC this past Sat. I remembered the Oilers playing the Flames last year when we were on our death march and the most we got out of HNIC was Hughson and Millen laughing at us but now the Leaves are terrible and a hockey show mourns.

    Let’s hope it continues.

  6. Ribs says:

    “The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced that they have named Phoenix Coyotes Assistant Coach Rich Tocchet interim General Manager as John Ferguson Jr. resigned from his position.”

    HAHAHA!

    I wouldn’t doubt it if it were true.

  7. Oilman says:

    Peddie: I’ll bet you twenty dollars I can get you gambling before the day is out!
    Tocchet: No!
    Peddie: I’ll give you three to one odds.
    Tocchet: No.
    Peddie: Five to one.
    Tochett: No.
    Peddie: Ten to one?
    Tocchet: You’re on!
    Peddie: I’m gonna get ya!
    Tocchet: Nu uh!
    Peddie: I don’t know how but I’m gonna get ya.

  8. Tyler says:

    Let’s not forget that their fanbase is utterly loathsome as well.

  9. Steve says:

    Even the most critical amongst the media are delusional however – calls to trade Blake and Tucker and Bell.

    What’s Blake making, again? Because his play’s picked up, of late, and I think that it’s the first half of the season that’s the anomaly for him. The others, not quite so much.

  10. pboy says:

    They already have the blueprint in house but they don’t appear smart enough to follow it. When the Raptors were in need of a makeover and they were dumping Glen Grunwold, they had the interim GM (I want to say Wayne Embry) dump a few of Grunwald’s mistakes and then they threw a ton of money at the best available GM. There is no cap on how much cash an organization can spend on management salaries so they could go and offer some outrageous money to a guy like Ken Holland after the Cup Final and see if he bites. Spend a ton of money on scouting and have your “interim” GM make any unpopular but neccessary decisions;ie trading your captain, without it tainting your incoming saviour. That’s pretty damn close to how the Raptor’s did it but something tells me the Leafs won’t follow suit.

  11. Bruce says:

    I just love threads like this, so many different well-thought-out viewpoints. Right on Steve re: J.Blake who has been absolutely snakebitten under the heat of the spotlight / magnifying glass combination that is hockey in the COTU. And Tyler I feel your pain w.r.t. the “utterly loathsome fan base” as a collective, bearing in mind that there are individual Leaf fans who are not so much loathsome as lost souls. I have some in my immediate family.

    But collectively they have a sense of entitlement and self-importance that would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic. For example, on Saturday I watched the popular CBC show Hockey Night in Leafs Nation. For the first time in about eight fucking years the Leafs weren’t featured in the 5 p.m. game, as they were on the west coast preparing to lose to the Sharks in the late game (and effectively bumping the Battle of Alberta to Sunday night). The early game instead featured a rare great match-up between Detroit and Ottawa. So in the first intermission Ron asked Don about the game between the two best teams in the league and Don showed us his blue-and-white maple leaf tie and his blue-and-white maple leaf cuff links and immediately launched into a diatribe about (you guessed it) the fucking Maple Leafs.

    Just to prove Don wasn’t a lone gunman, the second intermission featured the Hot Stove League going on and on about (you guessed it) the fucking Maple Leafs.

    Luckily I had to go out shortly thereafter, so while I had to hear about the fucking Maple Leafs, at least I didn’t have to watch them.

  12. Bruce says:

    The picture taken not too long before Ullman left the Leaves to finish off his pro career elsewhere – two seasons with
    YOUR EDMONTON OILERS.

    Great post, Mr. D, I always enjoy your stuff. Norm Ullman was indeed a beauty player who didn’t have much left when he came back home, but always gave 100% of whatever he had.

    I was born the year of those 1955 Edmonton Flyers so by the time I tuned in seven years later those guys you listed were all established in the NHL, many of them — including Ullman — big stars. Ullman, a native of Provost who starred with Edmonton Oil Kings (56 goals and 101 points in just 36 GP in ’53-54), was unlucky in that he joined both the Red Wings and the Leafs just after their last Cups in 1955 and 1967 respectively. He had his biggest NHL season in 1964-65 when he led the NHL with 42 goals (no Richard Trophy in those days) and finished second to Stan Mikita with 83 points. In the playoffs that season he set a record that still stands with 2 goals in 5 seconds against former Edmonton Flyers teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Glenn Hall.

    After many great seasons in Detroit, Ullman was traded to Toronto with Floyd Smith and Paul Henderson in a huge deal that saw my hero Frank Mahovlich head the other way with Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger (also a future Oiler) and the rights to Carl Brewer. Not a bum in the bunch.

    The three ex-Wings became a high-scoring line in Toronto, a team whose fortunes had just gone permanently south (it was 1968). But that was not because of Norm Ullman, who was a shining light for that sorry squad for years. In all he scored over 50 points for 18 consecutive seasons, racking up 490 goals and 1229 points in 1410 GP. I seem to recall them making a big deal of his 500th major league goal early in his first season here in Edmonton.

    I watched Ullman play a few times those two years, and was always impressed with his relentless pursuit of the puck, even in slow-motion. I caught him about 15 years later in an old-timers game when most of his teammates were about his age when he retired. He was the oldest guy in the game but he was exactly the same, eyes piercing, hunched over, skating hard on the forecheck, his body swivelling this way and that like a telltale with every change of direction of the puck. This guy could write the book on dogged forechecking.

    I still remember my wife saying to me at that game that Ullman was so gaunt she was worried he was sick. I replied that Ullman has been dying for about thirty years and will probably go right on dying for another thirty. As far as I know he’s still going strong, aged 72.

  13. Black Dog says:

    steve – I think Blake is making 5 per for 4 years.

    I agree that the first half is likely a bit of an anomaly but then again so was last year.

    The fact is too is that the guy has the big C (amazing that this gets so little play) and I would doubt nobody bites on that contract.

    One reason why the Leafs will not hire a Bowman type – with the Colangelo hiring Peddie’s power base has already eroded quite a bit. I’d really be surprised.

  14. PPP says:

    Blake is on $4M for 5 years. I think that part of the reason that his cancer doesn’t get more play is that when the story broke he and the team made such a concerted effort to explain the treatment and reassure fans/media that it wouldn’t be a hindrance to his performance.

    And the way they are treating poor JFJ and the way they sloughed off Scott Bowman – why would anyone in their right mind come here?

    That’s right on. The first move in my opinion is to get rid of Peddie.

    pboy – the Raptors example is perfect. So is the TFC one where Mo Johnston has a budget and aside from that he works alone on the team while Paul Bierne does the business side.

    And Black Dog, you hit the nail on the head for why a Raptors/TFC situation won’t happen with the Leafs: Richard Peddie’s powerbase won’t let him get replaced.

  15. cl says:

    As insufferable as the Leafs and Leaf fans are, all these complaints about TV coverage and what not would be so much worse if the team’s house was in order and they were one of the best teams in the league year-to-year, like Detroit or Ottawa. (HNIC and TSN would practically talk about nothing else.) Seriously, we should count our blessings.

  16. Dennis says:

    cL, I think the coverage is equally blanketing just as long as they’re at the polar opposites. When the Leaves were actually pretty good and were getting bested by NJ in some playoff rounds, which wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, it was all Leaves all the fucking time as well. Fuck, remember Lonny Bohonos in the ’99 playoffs? Remember how CuJo showed up in TO and everyone at HNIC forgot where he came from? And now that they’re terrible, it’s full-on again. Fuck, I can’t log into tsn.ca or or the globe’s site or else it’s Shoalts, Duchatchek and Brunt sharing Leaves time. I guess they only get the go-ahead because it sells but it still drives me nuts.

    Of course, I don’t hate the Leaves like I do the Habs though they’d never get the coverage like TO does.

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