May 13 2016 03:53PM
Lots of fascinating and compelling debate about Phil Kessel among Maple Leafs supporters, given he's on a team only eight (maybe seven, or six, by the time you're plowing through this) wins away from a Stanley Cup ring. His former team, the Boston Bruins, won the Cup a mere 21 months after trading Kessel to Brian Burke's Leafs to begin the 2009-10 season. Despite the progress and excitement of younger players and a fortuitous lottery ball bounce a few weekends ago, the Leafs aren't within range of that most elusive of goals that they've been chasing as a franchise for a half-century.
But what about all the other stars who left Toronto, be it of their volition, or against their will and had Cup-winning opportunities that ended in either triumph or just more disappointment? I thought it'd be fascinating for me, and for you, the reader, to run down the list. I didn't include every single Leaf selected to the All-Star Game (sorry Bob Manno & Robert Picard), but pretty close, beginning with the iconic Leafs leader for anyone my age (44), or a few years younger or older.
May 02 2016 06:05AM
Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY SPORTS
It's come to this, hasn't it? What a weekend for Toronto Maple Leafs fans. As team president Brendan Shanahan put it succinctly and bluntly on CBC -- "we needed a win". Truer words haven't been spoken in a long time from a Leafs executive. From those who carry undeserved arrogance to unedited bluster to just being in over their heads, it's a rare acknowledgement from a Maple Leafs executive in the post-Pat Quinn run of things and the eleven years out of twelve it's been where the playoffs are a television show for the franchise and not a participation sport.
April 28 2016 04:00PM
We're getting there. It's Part 3 of a 7-essay series on the Leafs Top 5 Draft picks since expansion, giving they'll be making another such selection near the end of June, barring a trade or some sort (for the record, you can't go wrong dangling that pick for a 3rd line 35-year old centre who can teach the Leafs' kids lessons on winning and how it all gets done).
April 17 2016 07:17AM
Welcome to the second in a seven-part series on the Maple Leafs and their history of making picks in the Top 5, given they'll add another superstar/casualty who will be indispensable in building a Stanley Cup contender/crushed under the unfair expectations of a fanbase starved for any form of team success imaginable. You decide.
We profiled the 1973 #4 overall selection of Lanny McDonald in our last edition. Despite the looming (and soon to be larger) presence of owner Harold Ballard, the Leafs made out like bandits in that 1973 Draft, also scooping up Bob Neely and Ian Turnbull in the first round, quickly posting a 22 point improvement in the 1973-74 season, and being one of the eight teams in a sixteen-team NHL to make the playoffs.
Playoff results continued for the Leafs as they won the league's Preliminary Round in five straight seasons, the pinnacle of which was getting to the semi-finals in 1978 against the Canadiens, after beating the Islanders in the quarters.
But by the end of the 1981-82 Maple Leafs season, the results had ceased to exist, and the atmosphere around Maple Leaf Gardens was rancid. The team made the playoffs both of the prior two years with under-.500 records, and were slammed out quickly in three-game sweeps, in 1980 by the Minnesota North Stars, and in 1981 by the in-the-prime-of-their-dynasty New York Islanders. In a 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15 (and so on, and so on) playoff format, the Islanders/Leafs series WAS the 1-16 matchup, with a 39-point disparity between the two clubs -- the Isles with 110, the Maple Leafs with 71. The Islanders outscoring the Leafs 20-4 in those three games a mere four years after the Leafs had bested the Isles in that playoff series, demonstrated both the quick growth of the Isles into a powerhouse, and the equally fast devolution of the Leafs into bottom feeders.
April 11 2016 05:08PM
Certainly some frightening moments down the stretch for Maple Leafs fans in this 2015-16 season, but the "goal", if you will, of finishing last overall for the first time in franchise history since 1984-1985 has been met. Back then, the team ended up drafting Wendel Clark 1st overall, & in his rookie year, "roared" to a NINE-point improvement after being 21st of 21 teams.
As noted, this was far from easy, and though the Leafs won but one of their first ten games this season, finishing 30th looked damned near impossible heading into January after a November/December in which they stunned all onlookers by performing at a 13-8-5 pace. How? What? Yeah, feels like forever ago, I know.
A season sweep over the Dallas Stars? Yes, did that.
A 6-2-2 run to start November? Sure, exactly.
December wins in St. Louis, Colorado, Long Island, and Pittsburgh? I'm telling you - it wasn't a dream!
But January's harsh cold and winds also brought the Maple Leafs back to a reality that November and December's results ignored. They weren't a very good hockey club, and, as importantly, nor were they intended to be.