Screen cap courtesy Leafs TV
It’s time for the worst of the worst. The biggest mistakes the franchise ever made come draft time. And who better to point them out then the Leafs biggest fan who loves to hate them? …And since she wasn’t available so they asked me.
But really, when you think about who was the biggest waste of time, the biggest waste of money, and simply just the weirdest choices, these are the picks that come to mind. These are the mistakes you pray they’ll never make again, but you know in your heart of hearts there’s always the potential for a pick like one of these to show up and just ruin your whole season before it’s even begun. (I find if you’re having a nightmare about the potential for a bad pick, or you’re just feeling sad that we didn’t get McDavid it’s helpful to sit down with a nice cup of tea and chant quietly ‘we have Babcock, things will be ok now.’ repeatedly).
With no further ado, lets get to the hate fest.
1. Tyler Biggs
I might be overstating it here, but Biggs may be the biggest disappointment in a generation of Leafs’ fans. He was, like so many others, the great hero. The talent that was supposed to save us all from another decade at the bottom of the heap. He could shoot, he could skate, he was intimidating… and he has yet to play a day in the NHL.
We were so excited about Biggs in 2011 we traded up 17 spots to nab him in the first round, 22nd overall. We were pumped, although I’m not sure why. In his 20 games played with the USHL in 2010-2011 he scored and mediocre 7 goals and 4 assists, but spent a whopping 41 minutes in the box. It was a repeat of the year before with 5 goals, 4 assists, and 49 minutes respectively. But sill, we had him and we were thrilled!
He appeared to mature in 2012-2013 and of the 60 games he played in the OHL that year Biggs scored 26 goals and 27 assists for the Oshawa Generals. He also spent 55 minutes in the box, a place that appears to be his second home. But there’s something to be said for that intimidation factor and lord knows I love a good hockey fight, so maybe this proved we knew what we were doing.
That year with the Generals looks like a fluke, and one to be cherished because it will probably be his best year ever. In three seasons and 108 games with the Marlies Biggs scored just 10 goals and 5 assists. He played 8 games in the ECHL this season for Orlando and is now on the injured list for a ripped achilles’ tendon. Good bye Tyler my old friend, whatever we paid for you it was too much.
2. Jeff Ware
For some reason the Generals have this weird history of handing us players who look like they’re going to be a good time at a party and then just end up being the dude that keeps messing with the playlist so that it’s “Baby Got Back” on repeat; fun the first time you hear it and then just more annoying as the night goes on.
Case in point? Jeff Ware.
Drafted in the first round, 15th overall in 1995, he garnered 13 points for Oshawa with 86 penalty minutes in his 1994-95 season, and an additional 2 points in the playoffs. The year before he’d done equally as well for the Wexford Raiders in the MerJHL. After his draft year he continued to do decently for the Generals, but when he started logging NHL ice time he choked. He played 13 games with the Leafs in 1996-97 which resulted in nothing. Another year in the AHL seemed to do him some good, but when he was pulled back up for two games? More nothing. He would repeat this cycle again for for the Florida Panthers and then hang up his skates in 2002.
Not everyone can be Syd Crosby, and you need players in the middle to prop up the super stars, but Ware shouldn’t have been a 15th overall pick. This was just never going to pan out.
3. Steve Bancroft
I’m reaching way back for this one, but Bancroft’s story as a draftee seems just so bizarre to me that it has to be told. Steve Bancroft was born in Toronto in 1970 and played semi-professional and professional hockey from 1987 to 2006. A first round draft pick, 21st overall in 1989, Bancroft was a decent defenceman for the Bellville Bulls prior to being acquired by the Leafs. In a time when fighting was much more prevalent and a decent indicator of your worth, Bancroft scored 10 goals in 53 games and took 135 penalty minutes in 1989-90. But his career highlights seem to stop there.
He spent the next 16 years bouncing around between IHL and AHL teams playing in Saint John, Huston, Cincinnati, and Las Vegas, among others. He played a total of 6 games in the NHL, one for the Blackhawks in 1992-93, and five for San Jose in 2001-02, where he posted no goals, got one assist and just a single penalty. Now he’s apparently a Century 21 broker.
I’m not sure why he went so high in the first round, why we wanted him, or why he spent so long bouncing around various AHL and IHL teams before hanging up his skates. This is one of those cases that just leaves me scratching my head and wondering if everyone’s time and money couldn’t have been better spent.
The Leafs definitely have a history of taking solid if mediocre players and turing them into has-beens.
4. Justin Pogge
Which brings me to our third round, 90th overall pick for 2004, Justin Pogge. A goalie.
Playing just 372 minutes with the Leafs with 27 goals against and an average of 4.36 it was, ironically enough, the best Pogge has done in his entire career. But with a percentage of 0.844, it was also the worst. He was awarded the fan choice award in 2006-07, but would spend the rest of his North American career bouncing around AHL affiliate teams. Now he plays for the SweHL.
The year he was drafted Pogge had 107 GA and 966 saves in 44 games with the Prince George Cougars, giving him a 0.900 percentage. He was a good solid choice, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as the last line of defence, a goalie’s got to be fearless and he’s got to have stamina. A mediocre netminder is never going to last long and Pogge’s 2.83 in the WHL was never going to translate into 2.83 in the NHL.
5. Luca Cereda
Ok, so as much as everyone likes to rag on Cereda for being a bad pick, I’m not sure he is. He’s on this list namely because he’s on every other ‘draft picks that sucked’ list and my poor weeping heart wants to address this.
Cereda was praised as a rock star. He was called smart and fast, and given his 1998-99 record of 16 points — six goals and two assists — with only eight minutes in penalties, he was a solid choice and probably looked like his talents could be developed when he was drafted 24th over all in the first round in 1999.
Not long after that Cereda was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect which took him out for a full season for surgery. Not long after his hockey career disappeared. He played a few more years in AHL and Swiss-A hockey, with mediocre results, and was never heard from again.
An argument could be made that he should have gone later in the draft, and I might be inclined to agree, but still, his lack of ice time was not a lack of skill or a lack of spirit, it was just a tough break. His and the Leafs. But that’s hockey. Heck, that’s life. You move on.
Luca Cereda, I hope you’re happy and living a good life wherever you are.
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