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Ferguson Jr., 36, hired to fill Quinn's shoes

TORONTO -- John Ferguson Jr. insists he has what it takes to be the general manager of one of hockey's most storied teams.

It's a good fit. John Ferguson Jr. is a young guy who'll bring with him some new ideas to the Maple Leafs organization. He's coming from a solid St. Louis organization, and hockey is in his blood. With his father having been a great player, general manager and long-time scout, Ferguson Jr. certainly has an NHL background. He also grew up in Canada, so he knows a thing or two about the Leafs.

With both Neil Smith and Steve Tambellini (who is a good friend of Pat Quinn's) available, I am a little surprised. But you have to assume there was a lot of stuff going on in the background that led them to this decision.

Certainly, Ferguson Jr. is walking into a tough situation in Toronto; it's something he's never seen before. But he will do a good job. It's important that he bring in some new ideas to a Leafs organization that might be a little stale right now -- that's a good thing.


He was introduced Friday as the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs,
and at 36 is the youngest in the NHL to hold such a job. Pat Quinn
gave up the general manager's job in June when a new ownership
structure assumed control of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.
Quinn remains coach of the Maple Leafs.

Ferguson was director of hockey operations for St. Louis. He
oversaw contract negotiations for the Blues, coordinated scouting
departments and ran their AHL team in Worcester, Mass.

He is the son of John Ferguson, who played on five Stanley Cup
champion teams with the Montreal Canadiens from 1963-71 and was the
GM of the Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.

The Maple Leafs were criticized for not hiring someone with more
experience.

"It fires me up," Ferguson said at a news conference. "It's
invigorating. The challenge is tremendous. The opportunity is
greater. We're ready."

Other finalists were former New York Rangers GM Neil Smith,
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson and Steve Tambellini, the
director of player personnel for the Vancouver Canucks.

Quinn had a say in the hiring process and favored Tambellini,
who worked with him. Ferguson is widely seen as a compromise choice
but Quinn said he was impressed by Ferguson.

"He's got some qualities that we're all going to like," Quinn
said. "He's a smart kid, and he's enthusiastic. I think he'll
prove to be the right guy."

Quinn has led the Maple Leafs to five straight playoff
appearances, but the Original Six club hasn't won the Stanley Cup
since 1967. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
by Philadelphia this past season.

Ferguson was an assistant general manager with the Blues for
five years before being promoted to director of hockey of
operations in 2001.

"I've grown up around the game and have been preparing for this
opportunity my entire life," Ferguson said. "I am ready and we
will succeed."

Richard Peddie, president and chief executive of MLSE, said
Ferguson's name kept coming up when he asked around the league
about potential candidates.

"He's a great candidate," Peddie said. "Give him a chance to
show it."

Ferguson's first task concerns defenseman Robert Svehla, who
says he's retired even though he hasn't signed retirement papers.
The Maple Leafs, desperate for a defenseman, want him to return or
officially retire so they can spend his salary elsewhere.

"Clearly, it will be best for all concerned if he made a
definitive statement either way," Ferguson said. "We're going to
look to make a resolution as soon as possible."