Craig Button Tees Off On The JFJ Maple Leafs Era

There are always three sides to every story. Literally, there is one side, the other side and then the truth which usually lies somewhere in between the two. So when we read Craig Button’s account of life under John Ferguson Jr. we have to take it with grain of a salt, knowing that there has to be more to the story. I am not calling Button a liar, on the contrary, I am saying he is human, and he is good at telling a version of the story that best suits him.

Having said that, in reading a couple of excerpts of Leafs AbomiNation: The Dismayed Fan’s Handbook to Why the Leafs Stink and How They Can Rise Again, by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange, I am intrigued enough to want to read the rest of the book. The Toronto Star ran a piece today, as did the Globe and Mail. It appears to be a book that most Leaf fans will want to read as it provides an inside look into what was happening on the inside of our team. None of the stories on their own surprise me. What does surprise me is just how bad things were. I mean, we as fans always heard tales. There have been rumblings about the ways of Richard Peddie, and the competency of John Ferguson Jr. but I don’t think that anyone every REALLY believed that either was as bad as the pundits made them out to be.

“A big reason I left is there’s got to be a fit. When you don’t feel you’re contributing, when you don’t feel anybody’s paying attention even, it’s difficult to stick around,” says Button. “I cannot begin to tell you how non-communicative John Ferguson and Mike Penny were. I’m talking, not even, `Good idea.’ “You’d send stuff to them – nothing. Somebody asked me once, `What’s John like in private?’ I said, `Exactly like he is in public.’ And I’m not trying to rip on John. I think he was overwhelmed. I think he was like a deer in the headlights and he didn’t know what to do.”

This type of story by Button is the exact thing I used to hear about JFJ all the time. He didn’t listen to anyone’s advise or counsel EVER. Despite the fact that he was a rookie GM, he always considered himself the smartest guy in the room. What’s surprising about this is not only that it comes from Button, but that stories were true. Button tries to salvage Ferguson’s reputation by blaming those who hired him. While I am the first to admit he was a brutal hire, not listening to those around you is a character flaw. It’s not the responsibility of Peddie or anyone else. Either Ferguson is smart or he isn’t. He either listened to advice or he didn’t. Being overwhelmed usually means you are smart enough to get help. Typically when someone is overwhelmed they don’t try to do everything themselves.

“”I think it’s the dumbest thing they ever could have done. Putting [prospects] under the scrutiny of Toronto? I can’t think of anything dumber. How do you live in a city like Toronto when you’re a young player making $50,000 a year? But that was a business-side decision. They thought they were going to make a ton of money off the Marlies. They thought they’d make something like $3 million or $4 million a year. And they’re losing $3 million or $4 million a year. So they were off by $6 or $8 million.”

It’s actually pretty funny. We on this site say it all the time. the Marlies are on of the poorest run organizations off the ice in sports we have ever seen. While I don’t like the fact that a smaller market lost their team, I think moving the team to Toronto was a good thing. It allows the kids to get lots of exposure, to be seen by scouts and it’s a great way for the Leafs brass to keep an eye on them. It cuts down on travel and makes moving players around a lot easier. MLSE had no clue how to run a minor league franchise, and as late as the playoffs last season it was apparent they still had lots to learn. Toronto remains an event driven market, and a Maple Leaf market. It is not a hockey city. The only way they are going to ever fill the building is if the find a way to penetrate the kids leagues and groups. They also have to find a way to make the games into an event. They have to sell more sizzle and less steak.

Button’s story about his recommendation to sign Fabian Brunnstrom is epic. Button recommended signing Brunnstrom while he was in Europe long before he was on anyone’s radar:

“”It was a no-brainer,” says Button, looking back. “I mean, here was a free agent you can sign for next to nothing? It’s a no-brainer.”

But when Bergman brought the plan to Ferguson and the GM’s lieutenant, Mike Penny, the no-brainer became a flat-out no.

“Mike Penny, with John Ferguson right there, said, `There’s no f–king way we’re f–king signing a guy and having him play in f–king Sweden. What the f–k is this bullshit?'” says Button. “I’m sitting there thinking, `Okay. Don’t listen to me. That’s okay. But you hired this guy, Thommie Bergman, and this is his job, to find talent in Europe, and this is how he gets treated?’ But that’s exactly what was said.”

Again, who knows how true any of this is. Either way it’s hilarious. It totally sounds like the Ferguson that the media portrayed him out to be. I can’t imagine that Button will be getting Christmas cards from MLSE anytime soon.

The book sounds like a great read. I have yet to see if it is available on my Amazon Kindle. When I read it I will try to post a full review. I would love to hear more from others who have read it or who have planed to read it.



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