TORONTO -- Turns out Cliff Fletcher is here for a good time and a long time.
Unable to lure away the top candidates on their short list for their vacant GM job, the Toronto Maple Leafs have decided to keep Fletcher in the interim GM role likely through next season.
``Some people think hiring senior positions can be done quickly and easily,'' Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. ``It's not that way in any industry. In this case, we did a very thorough analysis.''
Peddie said the GM search committee, which includes himself and Toronto sports lawyer Gord Kirke, did its due dilligence in compiling a list of candidates but discovered none were available at this time.
They're now prepared to wait.
``We talked to everyone from league officials, to agents, to some media, to peers, to people in the industry, to see if there was some kind of consensus,'' said Peddie. ``And while the sample size was huge, no one got unanimous marks.
``With all of that data, we identified who we thought were the top candidates,'' added Peddie. ``Then we started asking for permission and started finding out they were under contract and that the free agency class in the spring of 2009 was pretty good. So it's unlikely Cliff will leave any time soon.''
Fletcher, meanwhile, was travelling to Arizona on Wednesday was not immediately available for comment. But on Tuesday, after making the hiring of head coach Ron Wilson official, Fletcher said he was fully prepared for the busy weeks ahead.
``(This is) a critical time of year for us with the draft and trades,'' said Fletcher. ``We're in negotiations with a number of teams over possible situations. And then there's free agency. So there's a lot on the table. ...
``We're quite well organized as a matter of fact as far as putting a plan in place and how we're going to approach July 1 (start of free agency). I feel very comfortable that we'll have a good chance to achieve what we're going to try to accomplish.''
The 72-year-old Fletcher was hired as the team's interim GM in January after the firing of John Ferguson and was to become a consultant once his successor was found.
It is Fletcher's second go-around as Leafs GM after building teams that went to back-to-back conference finals in 1993 and '94.