Winnipeg Jets Memorial Site

Good Fergie, Bad Fergie

The following is a feature on the good and bad of longtime Jets General Manager John Ferguson. His rule was long, and whether you love or hate him, the name of John Bowie Ferguson is sure to draw a reaction among Jets fans. Here are a 'Top 10' list of his good and bad moves while employed by the Jets:
The Good
1 Drafting Dale Hawerchuk was kind of a 'no-brainer' pick in 1981, but Ferguson received many offers for the pick, and thankfully he resisted them all. Hawerchuk proved to be a dominant player on a mediocre team, and justly earned his selection to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
2 In what proved to be Ferguson's last draft as the Jets General Manager in 1988, he took a chance on a Finnish player named Teemu Selanne with the tenth overall selection. Once done with his enslavement to the Finnish military, he came to the Jets and scored 76 goals in the 1992-1993 season. He tore up the NHL as a Jet until he was maliciously shipped to Anaheim as the Jets' final season was winding down.
3 The first draft in the Jets NHL existence is most known for Jimmy Mann, but Ferguson's pick in the fifth round that season, Thomas Steen, played more games as a Jet than any other player, and is one of two players who have had their number retired by the team. Never spectacular, but always solid, as he played in a 950 regular season games and scored 817 points.
4 In March, 1984, Ferguson traded his first-round selection in the coming Entry Draft and future considerations (Moe Mantha) for a veteran defenseman from Pittsburgh named Randy Carlyle. He came and his tenure in Winnipeg outlasted his own playing career and the team's existence in Winnipeg. Carlyle contributed a number of quality seasons at the end of his career, then went on to serve as an assistant coach before taking over with the Manitoba Fighting Moose once the Jets left.
5 In July, 1981, Ferguson made a five player trade with the St. Louis Blues, acquiring Paul MacLean as a throw-in, yet he turned out to be the key player in the deal. A slow, lumbering forward that saw most of his points come from a five foot radius around the net, MacLean excelled in that role, and picked up 248 goals in 527 games as a Jet before being traded in 1988.
6 In March, 1983, Ferguson made an unpopular trade with the evil Oilers, sending Willy Lindstrom away for Laurie Boschman. While Lindstrom was near the end of his fine career, Boschman played seven full seasons for the Jets and certainly justified Ferguson's decision to make the deal.
7 With the 75th overall choice in the 1982 Entry Draft, Ferguson chose a college defenseman named Dave Ellett. Ellett played six full seasons for the Jets and went on to have a long, distinguished career after his trade to Toronto in November, 1990.
8 He was not the best choice of the 1979 Entry Draft, but Dave Christian, picked by Ferguson in the second round, went on to have a distinguished career of his own. He played more than three full seasons for the Jets before being traded to Washington, where he had the most success of his career. Though Ferguson later traded him, Christian's selection proved to be one of Ferguson's best picks.
9 Just before the Jets' first NHL game, Ferguson picked up a minor league player from Montreal named Ron Wilson for cash. Wilson was never a star, but a better role player was not to be found, and he went on to play nine seasons with the Jets until he was traded in 1990. His contributions as a penalty killer and all-purpose pest kept him with the team, and amassed 75 goals over 536 regular season games.
10 In November, 1983, Ferguson sent a third round choice for a once highly regarded prospect that had not yet developed. Robert Picard, once acquired by the Jets, did develop, and certainly proved his worth in his brief stint as a Jet. Though Ferguson traded Picard away two years later, his initial acquisition was one of Ferguson's better moves.

The Bad
1 Throughout Ferguson's tenure, he did everything in his power to make Winnipeg fans forget about the WHA era, which remains as the most successful period in the history of the Jets. While understandable that he would want the team to look to the future and attempt to contend for the Stanley Cup, the prolific teams that wore the Jets uniform did not have to be forgotten. He could only hope to have teams like the Jets had in the WHA, something that he was never able to accomplish.
2 Though this is not a trait unique to Ferguson, the high turnover in coaches, along with the poor decisions made in hiring some, plagued the team throughout their NHL existence, and particularly so under Ferguson's reign. The names of Tom McVie, Dan Maloney, and Tom Watt certainly don't bring many positive feelings from Jets fans. There was seemingly no coach alive who could satisfy Ferguson, and he kept sending coaches through a never-ending carousel that only ended when his own tenure did.
3 The name of Jimmy Mann will bring a groan from any Jets fan. Mann was the first player the Jets selected in their first NHL draft in 1979, 1st round, 19th overall. Mann proved to be nothing more than a goon, yet Ferguson stayed with him for four seasons until he found someone to take Mann off his hands, as he was dealt to the Quebec Nordiques for a fifth round draft choice on February 6, 1984. Mann accumulated all of nine goals in 202 games, but nearly 600 penalty minutes. His most memorable moment was sucker punching Paul Gardner of the Penguins, which earned him an assault charge in Manitoba, resulting in a $500 fine. Gardner missed 21 games as a result of a broken jaw. Making this choice even worse was that Mann had a rap sheet as long as his arm before he ever knew where Winnipeg was, yet, knowing this, Ferguson still drafted him. For interest, the player taken immediately after Mann in the 1979 Entry Draft was Michel Goulet, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. For a look at what might have happened if Goulet had been selected instead of Mann, click here.
4 Trading Dave Babych for Ray Neufeld is one of those trades that Ferguson should have slept on before making, but sadly, he didn't, and on November 21, 1985, he pulled the trigger on what is arguably his worst trade. Originally drafted by the Jets second overall in the 1980 Entry Draft, Babych never developed into the star that Ferguson envisioned, but he certainly had a fine career, and played a lot longer than Neufeld, who toiled in mediocrity for the Jets for parts of four seasons before being traded to Boston for Moe Lemay on December 30, 1988.
5 Upon entry into the NHL, the Jets had the opportunity to protect two skaters. For his first choice, Ferguson chose Morris Lukowich, coming off a 65 goal season in 1978-1979. For the second choice, he chose Scott Campbell rather than Kent Nilsson, coming off of two consecutive 107-point seasons. Nilsson's rights were reclaimed by the then-Atlanta Flames, and the enigmatic Nilsson tormented the Jets during his time in a Flames uniform, and at the very least, would have commanded a much higher trade value than Campbell, who had far less of a distinguished career than Nilsson. Ferguson made up for this move somewhat by acquiring Paul MacLean in the trade that sent Campbell to St. Louis, but the decision to protect Campbell over Nilsson was still a bad one.
6 Andrew McBain was the Jets first round choice in the 1983 Entry Draft, and was selected eighth overall. McBain was a big man who had talent, yet most Jets fans think 'floater' when McBain's name comes to mind. He had size and talent, yet was a bust, and what limited numbers he put up in a Jets uniform came courtesy of linemate Dale Hawerchuk. Not only did the decision to draft McBain prove ill-fated, but more importantly, how McBain was handled as a young player may have been worse. Early on, McBain was quoted as saying 'Mr. Ferguson said that I'm going to have to earn a job this year', which kind of says it all. Some long bus rides in the AHL early in his career may have done wonders for McBain's career, but that never happened.
7 The name of Steve Penney will bring yet another groan from a Jets fan. Ferguson traded Brian Hayward for Penney and the rights to Jan Ingman on August 19, 1986. Hayward went on to further a decent career, but Penney was a complete bust. Penney played in all of 15 games over two seasons, accumulating an embarrassing 3-8-2 record, a 4.63 GAA, and an .828 save percentage.
8 Few Jets fans even remember the name of Ryan Stewart, who was the Jets first round choice, 18th overall in the 1985 Entry Draft. As you would expect, he was highly touted, but only played three games for the Jets. Those three games came in an emergency recall due to a rash of injuries. This draft yielded Daniel Berthiaume and Fredrik Olausson for the Jets, and Sean Burke, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Richter were all taken in the next 10 selections after Ferguson selected Stewart.
9 If you can't remember who the Jets got out of the 1987 Entry Draft, don't worry, not to many others do either. The Jets selected eleven players, only Bryan Marchment and Markku Kyllonen ever played for the Jets, and Kyllonen only played in nine games. If the names Don McLennan, Ken Gernander and Joe Harwell don't ring a bell, there's no reason to think you've forgotten some memorable part of Jets history, but they were among the selections in the 1987 Entry Draft that never played for the Jets. This undoubtedly was John Ferguson's worst draft during his tenure.
10 Lacking a first-round selection, the 1984 Entry Draft yielded precious little talent for the Jets. Ferguson made twelve selections, only three ever played for the Jets, and none of the three made any significant impact. This was another draft year that blew up and helped to bring Ferguson down in 1988.