PHILADELPHIA – There were some premature reports out there on Thursday night that the Bruins were hiring John Ferguson Jr. to replace Jim Benning for their vacant assistant general manager post. While it’s true that the former Maple Leafs general manager was hired by the Bruins away from the San Jose Sharks after six years as their director of pro scouting, Ferguson will instead fill a different role for the Black and Gold.
Longtime Bruins scout and player evaluator Scott Bradley was elevated to the assistant GM post in his 22nd year with the organization. It was Bradley that ran the pivotal 2006 NHL Draft that yielded Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand all in one fell swoop. Ferguson was hired in the director of player personnel job previously filled by Bradley, and will be part of the B’s front office chorus involved in long-range planning for the organization.
It’s a position and an opportunity that Ferguson is excited for after six seasons bouncing back and forth on both coasts as a key member of the Sharks' front office.
“It couldn’t be a better fit professionally, personally and competitively,” said Ferguson, who is based out of Rhode Island. “To join an organization of this stature with this kind of success behind them was a great fit for me. It was a great opportunity to join Peter and it’s a tremendous group with a record of winning. I look forward to jumping aboard, grabbing an oar and helping the club win.”
Some in Toronto made jokes about the hire doubling as the Bruins finally thanking Ferguson for the lopsided Tuukka Rask trade he made in 2006, when he dealt the rights to Rask in exchange for ex-Bruins goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who lasted less than two seasons in Toronto. That deal is regarded as one of the worst in Leafs history for a team that has searched unsuccessfully through a collection of flameouts for a franchise goaltender since making that move.
Ferguson was at the helm of a Leafs franchise that hit the rocks in his tenure as GM from 2003-2008. The inflated contracts given to Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe, among others, pushed Toronto to the bottom of the Eastern Conference despite seemingly unending financial reserves.
Ferguson made solid moves as well in Toronto and Peter Chiarelli came to his defense when discussing his resume.
“I spent time with him during his time in Toronto, and he got a raw deal...He really did. This is a smart hockey man,” said Chiarelli. “When you talk to him he’s a smart hockey man. He works hard and he knows players. In this business there are people that lose jobs. Look at our coach [Claude Julien]. There are people that lose jobs and they learn from those experiences.
“They get better. Claude is a perfect example of that. Whether or not he should have lost his job is another matter of debate and I see John as the same thing. He’s a smart guy, he’s a humble guy and he’s really going to help our organization.”
Ferguson agreed with Chiarelli and said the lessons he learned in Toronto have helped him become a better hockey executive in the meantime. In San Jose, he was the final, trusted pair of eyes evaluating an NHL player before GM Doug Wilson would make the move for him.
“I said at the time that I felt they had fired a better manager than they had hired,” said Ferguson. “The five years of experience there was invaluable in so many ways. To have that seat and have that experience is something you can’t adequately prepare for, but you learn about managing a staff, managing an ownership group and everything from the pro side, to the amateur side, to the medical side and the marketing.
“There are so many aspects to running an organization, learning how to manage people and being productive," Ferguson said. "There were many aspects that I felt prepared for, but there is no substitute for that experience. It was just learning what you do well, and other areas you needed to be better in. Certainly I didn’t do a good enough job managing expectations, and laying out where we were at. There were many reasons for that. But the entire [Toronto] experience was valuable, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Now, Boston hopes to use the valuable experience learned from past history to make it an even stronger, better organization as Ferguson acclimates himself to the Bruins Way of doing things.