If we’re being honest with ourselves, this season was really the catalyst that brought about the steaming tire fire Shanahan finally managed to (hopefully) put out this summer.
Yes, the team finished the season with over .500 pts%. They also missed the playoffs, made a lot of really insignificant trades to jump-start everyone after a season away from the game, and then kind of became embroiled in a lot of Pat Quinn drama (that, if we’re honest, has never really ended). Some key injuries kind of derailed the season, but the front office tension caused by John Ferguson’s very existence in Leafsland overshadowed what wasn’t altogether that awful of a year.
Oh, and then the Leafs did a thing at the 2006 Draft… but let’s not talk about that yet.
- GM John Ferguson, Jr. re-signs fan fave Tie Domi and two free agents – Jason Allison and Eric Lindros, both of whom were considered risky pick-ups due to injury histories. Those risks manifested pretty quickly: between the two, only 99 NHL games are played.
- It goes kind of unmentioned from a 2005-2006 standpoint, but Ferguson actually inked Ed Belfour to a three year extension right before the lockout began. Since Belfour essentially spent the lockout recovering from back surgery, the team had to pay him anyway and he never really played the same again. Woe is Toronto.
- Tomas Kaberle got re-upped to a five year, $21.25M deal mid-season. This pretty much marks the last time Toronto made good choices with player retention.
Looking back, no one could have known that 2005-2006 was going to be the tipping point for the Toronto Maple Leafs; after a full season lockout, it was nice to just get back to hockey.
There’s not a lot to say about the 2005-2006 campaign. Overall, despite missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1998-1999 season, it was a ‘good, just not great’ year for the Leafs – which was overshadowed by the addition of the shootout (which no one likes).
Mats Sundin would have yet another 30-plus goal season, topping the team’s scoring list and captaining Team Sweden in Turin at the Winter Olympics. Jason Allison would do a lot of really weird shit, then get hurt and finally retire. Ed Belfour managed to somehow surpass Terry Sawchuk in all-time franchise wins while still having what amounted to a pretty garbage year for him.
Let it be said right now: Pat Quinn, who was dismissed at the end of the year for failing to drag the semi-animate corpse that was his spring roster into the post-season, was probably the scapegoat with whom the team sent any rationale and sense of order out the door. The team would actually finish the year only two points out of a playoff spot, yet Quinn was shown the door (after more or less drafting, developing, and coaching some of the team’s best players) and Ferguson established his dominance in the front office once and for all.
Then, of course, came that draft.
I feel the need to include the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in the recap of the team’s season, because it basically encompasses all of my feelings about John Ferguson, Jr. as an NHL head executive.
Knowing that Belfour was basically finished as an NHL starter, Ferguson went out and traded for a new starter. It was considered kind of general consensus that the goaltending market that summer was less than desirable, and many use that to justify Ferguson’s decision to trade prospect Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft.
This is a huge problem, though – because citing ‘a weak goaltending market’ as a reason to justify the move completely ignores the fact that Ferguson addressed his old, regressing goaltender by dealing the team’s highest-regarded goaltending prospect for another old, regressing goaltender – this one seemingly worse than the one that was already in the system. Raycroft and the Boston Bruins were absolute trash in 2005-2006; Ferguson decided this meant he had to have their goalie. This was an incorrect assumption.
The team had a couple of high notes, though. There was this one game where they absolutely manhandled the Atlanta Thrashers, finishing with a score of 9-1 and recording seven of those goals on the power play. There’s also that time Jason Allison ripped a dude’s helmet in half, which was weird as shit but also kind of cool.
Team scoring leaders
Goal Leader: Mats Sundin (31)
Assist Leader: Bryan McCabe (49)
Points Leader: Mats Sundin (78)
PP Points Leader: Bryan McCabe (45)
PIM Leader: Bryan McCabe (116)
Highest SV%: Jean-Sebastian Aubin (.924%)
Best GAA: Jean-Sebastian Aubin (2.21)
Most Wins for a Goaltender: Ed Belfour (22)
Rethinking the 2005-2006 Toronto Maple Leafs
The team went 14-5-3 to end the year, going 7-1-2 in the final ten-game stretch when the majority of the team’s old, semi-decrepit core was injured. Despite this, Ferguson still decided that the problem was Pat Quinn – which many accused him of doing to remove the puppet strings controlling his moves.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, the Leafs were just a few good transactions away from being competitive again. Had they chosen not to deal Rask for Raycroft that summer, instead holding on to that year’s backup Mikael Tellqvist (who was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes for Tyson Nash that fall), it’s likely the Leafs wouldn’t be in the mess they are now. Instead, though, Ferguson gained control of his own re-signings – which resulted in a series of contracts that had literally no rhyme or reason to them.
The best things that could be taken from this season, I guess, were the draft selections. The 2005 Draft yielded two top-tier NHLers in Tuukka Rask and Anton Stralman (although the Leafs would ultimately retain neither) and the 2006 Draft was basically a home run in terms of drafting. Jiri Tlusty, Nikolai Kulemin, James Reimer, Viktor Stalberg, and Leo Komarov have all played in over 100 NHL games. Only Korbinian Holzer, with 52 GP, and Tyler Ruegsegger, who never hit the NHL, failed to earn that distinction.
Overall, though, this was the last time that Toronto really had a good grasp on what they were doing. Considering that was ten seasons ago, we’re about to relive some dark times here at Leafs Nation.