Unless it happens to be Sean Avery or Jeremy Roenick talking, rarely in the hockey world do we hear someone openly criticize another player, coach, manager, etc. When asking an athlete about another’s talent level or overall ability, the usual answer given is a polite response, a formality, or the question is deflected to another topic. This is why I was surprised last week when I heard that Jeff O’Neill and Paul Stewart had written some very critical words about certain individuals.
O’Neill, the former Hurricane and Maple Leafs forward and current TSN analyst, took to Twitter to bash former Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. with three separate tweets. O’Neill started by stating that the Boston Bruins were about to hire the dumbest man in hockey by hiring Ferguson. He then went on to dub Ferguson as being a “micro-managing idiot” who tried to change team chemistry by altering the seating arrangement on team flights after a losing period.
O’Neill wrapped the Twitter-bashing up by calling Ferguson a “complete d**k,” and that this was the only executive he could say that about. Wow, you know you have made an enemy when a former player refers to you as a “complete d**k,” and has no sign of regret afterwards for saying it.
Shortly after the scathing words from O’Neill regarding JFJ, former referee Paul Stewart took to his blog (which is a very interesting and informative blog by the way) to discuss the NHL draft and the value of a player having good “character.” Someone who can provide leadership, a player that every team wants on their roster. He then provided an example of the “anti-character” player, that being current San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton.
Stewart said that Thornton’s lack of success in the playoffs can most likely be attributed to his lack of leadership and desire to win, and that Thornton is content on merely coasting through his hockey life, as he already has this sense of undeserved entitlement. Like O’Neill, Stewart was quite blunt and was not willing to hold back any punches.
Now, while I have already stated these comments are somewhat shocking and unexpected from these two, they certainly have their right to express their own opinion, are they justified though? Let’s find out with a new game, the justification game!
Taking a look at O’Neill’s comments about Ferguson, let’s break it down tweet by tweet.
Tweet number one said the Bruins were about to hire the dumbest man in hockey. Well, Ferguson is certainly a worthy candidate for that title. While JFJ did oversee the Leafs most successful season in terms of points in 2003-04, that was a team largely built by Pat Quinn. Ferguson’s main plan for continued success was to A) sign or trade for aging/washed-up veterans to add to an already aging team as “band-aid” moves, which included Eric Lindros, Jason Allison, Jeff O’Neill, Mariusz Czerkawski, and Mike Peca and B) trade away assets in moves that would hurt the team in the future, such as trading Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, and coughing up a first and second round pick to the Sharks for Vesa Toskala.
In terms of O’Neill’s claims that Ferguson is the dumbest man in hockey, he may be right, therefore his comment may be justified. Also, isn’t it funny that one of the criticisms of Ferguson was his trade for O’Neill in 2005, who was a bust, and now O’Neill is the one criticizing Ferguson’s past?
Regarding the latter two tweets, both should be justified as well. If the plane arrangement is true, that’s right up there with Punch Imlach’s move of taking the phone out of the Leafs dressing room to show he was in charge as one of the dumbest things ever done by a Leafs GM. As for the “d**k” comment, it’s hard to justify as I do not personally know JFJ, though I did see him wandering around the Mastercard Centre in Toronto last year with a smug, pompous attitude, as he talked with current Leafs brass, so comment justified.
Moving on to Stewart’s criticism of Thornton, it also appears to be justified. Stewart is not the only one who has been critical of Thornton’s lack of success. After Thornton gave a poor review of John Tortorella’s Rangers in 2011, Torts’ shot back with words of his own, stating that Thornton’s comments of the Rangers being “soft” were uncalled for, as Thornton had “never won a (expletive) thing in this league.”
“Jumbo Joe” has also been criticized by others for his lack of playoff success, and maybe the Sharks were trying to move Thornton in the last few weeks to try and change the scenery in San Jose, especially after blowing a three games to none lead against the L.A. Kings. With so many in the hockey world echoing Stewart’s sentiments, his scathing appraisal of Thornton appears to be on the money.
Don’t forget to check out our friends at Sports Injury Alert for the latest in NHL injuries.