Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson has made a good point. The problem is, he's also made a completely ridiculous one.
I'm not exactly sure what got into the water up there in Toronto, but from this article published in The Star, it seems like the GM has come down with a case of foot-in-mouth-disease.
First things first. Ferguson brought to light a fairly important question; why was Sean Hill of the New York Islanders allowed to play nearly two months despite the league's knowledge of his use of performance enhancers? A week, maybe even two or three, to investigate the incident and confirm the results is certainly acceptable. In a matter that can be potentially career threatening if there is a conviction, the league should be absolutely certain that it's test is correct. Two months? The argument could be made that amount of time is a bit excessive.
That's about all the water Ferguson's argument holds.
The rest of the article is something that you might expect to hear from a Maple Leaf 'homer,' and not something someone who represents an NHL organization should say. When asked if the delay in Hill's suspension affected the Maple Leafs' playoff chances, Ferguson went full speed ahead into playing the blame game.
Let's recap for a second. The Islanders made the playoffs on the last day of the season by defeating the New Jersey Devils. Thanks to that game, the Leafs finished one point behind the Islanders and missed the playoffs. Had the Islanders lost or tied, Toronto would have been given the distinction of getting steamrolled by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the playoffs.
What makes Ferguson's argument completely ludicrous is that, if he's going to blame circumstances outside of the organization's control for it's own shortcomings, he picked just about the most far fetched place to start. Hill's impact for the Islanders in the final months of the season was almost nonexistent. You can see the statistical impact for yourself (3 points, -11 +/- since March 1st), or just take it from someone who watched most of the Islanders' stretch run; Hill more or less mailed it in down the stretch.
In any organization, there are always numerous places to place blame when a team fails to qualify for the playoffs, so I'll overlook all that went wrong with the Maple Leafs themselves (and there was a good amount). I'll bite. I'll play Ferguson's lame game of placing blame elsewhere, and show him where his blame would have been better placed.
- Blame the New York Islanders as a whole. They overcame uncanny odds to win their final four games of the season and sneak into that all important eighth playoff seed (I use the term important loosely).
- Blame them for beating the Leafs on April 5th.
- Blame Islander net minder Wade Dubielewicz. The career minor leaguer stepped up in Rick DiPietro's absence, recording a GAA under two during their final four games.
- Blame Lou Lamoriello. In that fateful final game, Sweet Lou started Scott Clemmensen over future Hall of Famer Marty Brodeur. Conspiracy theories, anyone?
- Blame the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. All of the aforementioned teams lost to the Islanders during their four game win steak. Did I mention the Maple Leafs also lost to the Islanders during that time?
I could keep going with this, but it's getting late and I digress.
The point is; it's about time Toronto took a look in the mirror and tried to fix things from within. That's what any good organization should do when they miss the playoffs. It's too bad that after 40 years without so much as a SC Finals appearance, blame is still being placed outside the organization.