TLN’s All-Time Greatest Maple Leafs Team: Lanny McDonald

Since we’re nearing the close of the TLN All-Time Leafs Team
posts, I thought I’d take a slightly different approach with one of my
favourite Leafs of all-time.

Lanny McDonald is a player I learned to love as a Leaf
Benjamin Button style. As a child of the 80s I grew up knowing Lanny McDonald
as a star player on the Flames, and as I started collecting hockey cards,
Lanny’s Colorado Rockies cards were some of the favourites in my collection. It
wasn’t until I moved to the GTA that I embraced Lanny as my favourite
historical Leaf. It’s unlikely that McDonald’s time with the Leafs will ever
see his number honoured (7 is already honoured for King Clancy and Tim Horton)
and he’s probably not likely to earn a spot on Legend’s Row, but McDonald
should be remembered as one of, if not the greatest scoring right wingers in
Leafs history.

L is for the
Love, Lanny makes me feel for the Leafs and the love Lanny had for the Leafs.
McDonald’s middle name was King, after King Clancy. Despite the way the
organization discarded him, Lanny has been an active participant in Alumni
events.

A is for
All-Star. Twice named an all-star with the Leafs as well as being named to the
2nd All-Star team in 1977, which seems low considering that he had
four straight years averaging over a point per game.

N is for the Net,
which Lanny found regularly with four 40 goal seasons in Toronto.

N is also for
Net, he filled them just that much, 219 times in six and a half seasons.

Y is for, Why did
Imlach have to trade you away? Losing Lanny led to protests outside of Maple
Leaf Gardens, and Harold Ballard attempting to reacquire him a year later
(Ballard was threatened with tampering charges for it).

M is for Machine
Gun Lanny, McDonald’s junior nickname. It’s worth noting because it’s not
completely awful like every hockey nickname that exists today.

C is for Canada,
as Lanny was chosen to represent Canada in the inaugural Canada Cup. He would
also later play against the Soviets as a member of NHL All-Star team in 1979.

D is for Draft,
Lanny was taken 4th overall and should serve as an inspiration to
Mitch Marner. Historically the Leafs have done well when picking fourth overall
landing Marner, McDonald, Iafrate, and (the exception that proves the rule)
John Wright.

O is for October
10, 1973. Lanny made his debut that game, he picked up two assists and a
concussion as the result of a Rick Martin hit. It was the only professional
game that McDonald ever played without a helmet.

N is for net
because he finds the net a lot. I thought I mentioned that, but he had 20 goals
in 45 playoff games.

A is for all the
assists. Lanny had 240 of them as a Leaf and helped him keep nearly a point per
game pace in Toronto. Playing with Darryl Sittler certainly helped that. In
fact looking at the 70s Leafs roster it’s clear they had some really great
teams, but just not good enough to match up with real powerhouses in Boston,
Philadelphia, and Montreal.

L is for Legacy.
Lanny’s legacy is one attached to the difficult relationship Toronto has had
with talented players. Lanny was dealt in an attempt to drive Darryl Sittler
out, which is equally stupid idea (if not more so). Blowing up the late 70s
Leafs committed the Leafs to over 15 years of failure. While the Leafs
struggled, McDonald would go on to be an All-Star two more times, receive votes
for the Hart, be named to the second All-Star team for a second time, with the
Masterton and Clancy awards, and winning the Stanley Cup in his final NHL game.

D is for  Duster. Obviously you can’t talk about Lanny
without mentioning the stache. It may have taken on a life of its own in
Calgary, but it was born in Toronto and set the stage for Wendel Clark’s stache
and to a much lesser extent, the staches of Mike Brown and Ian White.

  • Gary Empey

    He was aptly nicknamed machine gun as Lanny had a devestating quick release of a shot similar to Mike Bossy.

    I watched him play in junior and was delighted to learn that he had informed the Canuckleheads that he wouldn’t play for them but would jump to the rival W.H.A. if they had the audacity to draft him.

    Fortunately the leafs as usual had a high draft pick and thus picked him as the number 4 pick.

    It took a bit of time for Lanny to get his N.H.L. legs but once the leafs put him with Darryl Sittler and speedy Errol Thompson, Lanny became a star. This was one of the best lines in the game in the 1970’s.

    MacDonald hit it off both on and off the ice.

    Lanny was a money player whose crowning achievement in playoff action was his game winning goal in game seven in o.t. against a powerful Islander team in 1978. It was a Bobby Baun moment as Lanny had an injured wrist and broken nose in this hard fought series.

    Turmoil as usual surrounded the leafs in the 1970’s as the insane Ballard allowed 9 leafs to jump to the rival W.H.A. in one year as he penny pinched. Players such as Bernie Parent, Rick Ley, Jim Dorey , Wayne Carleton and Jim Harrison all left the big smoke. This one year alone set the leafs back big time.

    Ballard being the foolish clown he was got the bright idea of bringing back Punch Imlach who was as effective as 73 year old Phil Jackson is with the New York Knicks. Unfortunately for Lanny, Imlach got into a feud with Sittler and thus in spite Imlach traded Lanny even though his wife was expecting in two weeks and number 7 had just bought a home in Toronto. It was one of the worst leaf trades of all time.

    Leaf fans were furious but it was what you expected from the crazy Ballard who had his lap poodle media people like Brian MacFarlane telling leaf fans every game how Mr. Ballard wanted to win a Stanley cup so bad. Man even thinking about that comment from MacFarlane makes me want to barf even now.

    Lanny got his wish for a Stanley cup when in his final year he got traded to a strong Calgary club. I still picture a proud MacDonald lifting Lord Stanely and parading around the ice with the Cup.

    Despite the garbage treatment by leaf management Lanny became involved with the leaf alumni years later after he retired.

    I think that the degree of respect that this classy gentleman has in hockey was aptly illustrated when he was asked to fill the shoes of the late great Pat Quinn on the Hockey Hall of Fame committee.

    Truly one of my all time favourite leaf players who exemplified class and character on and off the ice. Great selection Jon.