Kessel Among Many Ex-Leafs Hunting For A Cup Ring (Part 2)

A week or so ago, we decided to run through some of the more successful (and less than) exploits of fan-favourite ex-Leafs attempting to win a Stanley Cup with other teams here. Not that they gave up (in most cases, they didn’t) on the concept of doing so in Toronto, but as the last 50 years have demonstrated, neither it (or, kinda, St. Louis) are the cities that will be fruitful if you’re eager for that Cup ring.  Yes, the Blues went to three straight Finals but went 0-12 in those endeavours, getting swept twice by Montreal, and once by Boston (yes, “Flying/Celebrating Bobby Orr Picture”).  The Western Conference then truly was the Junior Varsity of the NHL.  We wiped the slate clean of 1970s/1980s Maple Leafs, as, for every success story like Lanny McDonald in Calgary in 1989, there were Leafs greats like Darryl Sittler and Rick Vaive, who never got any closer to a Cup challenge than they already had been as Leafs.  Plenty of Leafs can say they’ve gone as far as a Conference Final or league semi-finals before the geographic split in 1981-82, but few have gone the distance to win the prize.  But some have, and we start with one such case.

DAVE ANDREYCHUK

  • 32 years old, traded to New Jersey, March 1996
  • Seasons played after Leafs departure: 9 1/2 with New Jersey, Boston, Colorado, Buffalo, Tampa Bay
  • Stanley Cups won: 1
  • Playoff rounds won: 6

After being a 16th overall pick by the Sabres in the summer of 1982, Andreychuk became a very immediate part of some excellent Sabres’ squads, but getting out of the then-formed Adams Division was a tough task and Buffalo consistently fell short.  Buffalo only made it out of the first round one time (1983) pushing Boston to seven games in the Adams Division Finals, and even missed the playoffs in 1986, while having 80 points in 80 games, and more points than four other teams who qualified for the playoffs (damned Norris Division!).  The Sabres had a particularly bad playoff run from 1988-1992 when they made it every season of the five, yet won only ten of the thirty games they played.

Then in 1992-93, with Felix Potvin starting to steal starts and status from an older Grant Fuhr in the Maple Leafs net, Toronto decided to flip Fuhr to the Sabres, who were rotating veteran Daren Puppa and a rather late bloomer in 28-year old Dominik Hasek.  Andreychuk found his way onto a Leafs team that needed a scoring sniper, and he and an acquisition from the year before, Doug Gilmour, clicked, and Andreychuk went on a remarkable run to finish the regular season with 25-13-38 in 31 games.  He had a great playoff, as many Leafs did in the run to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Kings, finishing his 21 playoff games with 12 goals and seven assists.

A slightly less strong campaign the following spring in 1994 for Andreychuk, with just five goals and five assists in 18 playoff games, before the door, was slammed shut aggressively by the Final-bound Canucks in the West Final.  The Leafs went more quietly in the playoffs the next spring of 1995 despite a promising regular season but drew a bad matchup in an excellent Chicago team. Those Hawks, in the first year of the United Center, made it all the way to the Conference Finals, and it left the Leafs thinking more about a rebuild of an expensive payroll.

And rebuild they did, and though Doug Gilmour lasted in Toronto for one more season and some, Andreychuk was one of the several Leafs on the move, and defending Cup champs, New Jersey was where he landed.  But as fate would have it, New Jersey would miss the postseason on the final weekend of the 1995-96 regular season, and Andreychuk was left on the outside looking in. 

Much like his Sabres career, Andreychuk’s time with New Jersey involved lots of first-round exits, as well. After signing with Boston in 1999-00, Andreychuk despite decent production for a 36-year old as a Bruin (33 points in 63 games), he was tossed into a massive trade that sent Ray Bourque to Colorado in an effort for the Avalanche to get their second Cup, and Bourque to get his first.  Bourque had another year left on his contract, but Andreychuk didn’t, and was the true rental here.  The Avalanche got past hated rival Detroit in five games in the second round, but Dallas was waiting, and for a second straight year, the Stars defeated Colorado Game 7 of the West Final — the Stars would then lose to….New Jersey!  Andreychuk’s former team finally figured out their playoff issues and won their first of two Stanley Cups over the next four seasons.  More than enough, you’d concur, to make Andreychuk feel it was never going to happen for him.

After a one-year stop in Buffalo, which saw the Sabres win a playoff round, Andreychuk just prior to his 38th birthday, signed with a Tampa Bay team that had won only 24 of 82 games the previous year.  But there was promise unbeknownst to many, with a pair of 21-year-old future stars in Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier, and two 26-year old forwards with new leases on NHL life, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Prospal.  After a big contract to free agent goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, and the sprinkling in of some other veterans, the Lightning appeared ready to play with the bigger boys in the East, and that they did. 

After a modest 10-point improvement in Andreychuk’s first year there, Tampa zoomed from 69 to 93 points, capturing the regular season Southeast Division title.  They’d win the franchise’s first playoff round ever, beating Washington in six games, only to fall to eventual Cup champion New Jersey in the second.  

With Andreychuk on the verge of 40, it all came together for the Bolts the very next season.  They’d snag the #1 seed in the East, and demolish their first two playoff opponents (Isles/Habs) winning 8 of 9 games and earning decent periods of rest between rounds.  Then, the real work started.  Tampa outdueled a deep Philadelphia team in seven games, including a 2-1 win in Game 7 on home ice.  Andreychuk was held pointless in that game, and without a goal in the entire series, but had a pair of assists in both a Game 5 win, and Game 6 loss.  The scoring touch seemed to be fading, but Andreychuk was given a fair amount of minutes by head coach John Tortorella each and every night and was just one more offensive weapon for Tampa’s opponents to contend with.

Andreychuk wouldn’t score a goal in the epic seven-game Final with Calgary, but did dish up 4 assists in the first 5 games of the series. On the night of June 7th, 2004, after 1597 regular season games and 634 NHL goals, Andreychuk, the Lightning captain, raised the Stanley Cup high over his head.  So many playoff disappointments and wrong place/wrong time moments in April and May were vanquished.  

Despite the retirement of several of his prominent contemporaries like Mark Messier and Al MacInnis after the lockout non-season of 2004/05, Andreychuk did return to help the Lightning try to repeat as champions. But the year off hurt the whole organization, as did the departures of Khabibulin to Chicago, and Cory Stillman to Carolina (where he’d win a second straight Stanley Cup).  Andreychuk called it quits that summer, and still works for the Lightning organization, but is a pretty popular ex-Leaf and ex-Sabre when he shows up in those particular arenas.

Of note, former Leaf Fredrik Modin was a big part of that Lightning Cup-winner in 2004, with a remarkable 19-point playoff performance in the Bolts’ 23 games.  He was traded by the Leafs at the start of the 1999-00 season in a regrettable deal for blueliner Cory Cross and a late round pick.  He’d go on to play with Columbus and Los Angeles, but after 2004 never again got out of the first round.

DOUG GILMOUR

  • 32 years old, traded to New Jersey, February 1997
  • Seasons After Leafs Departure: 6 1/2
  • Stanley Cups Won: 1 (Calgary, 1989)
  • Playoff Rounds Won After Leafs Traded Him: 3

Sure, some would say Doug Gilmour had a charmed playoff life early in his career, but he was a huge part of his team’s accomplishments, so there’s that.  Helping the St. Louis Blues to a playoff round win at age 20 in 1984 with an 11-points-in-11-games postseason, then the Conference Finals at age 22, then the Cup victory in Calgary at age 25.

His Toronto playoff exploits are still the stuff of legends, no question about that. Depending on your birthdate, his performance and eventual game-winner in 1993’s Game 1 against St. Louis on that Monday night in early May 1993 is still raved about, and may be one of the most beautiful and dazzling playoff-OT winners in franchise history (not much to go on the past 12 years, is there?).  

I still would maintain Gilmour’s first two full Maple Leafs seasons (238 points in 166 regular season games, 63 points in 39 playoff games) are the greatest two seasons I’ve ever seen a Maple Leaf play in my lifetime.  Gilmour finished 4th in Hart Trophy voting (behind Sergei Fedorov, Dominik Hasek, and John Vanbiesbrouck) and based on this and watching him that season, you could easily make a case he was the best position player on the ice game in and game out, except when meeting Fedorov’s Red Wings.

But, I think we all can look back and be disappointed it didn’t end better (or end, period!) in Toronto for Gilmour.  If you’d time-travelled back from March 1997 to the summer of 1994, and told Leafs fans Gilmour would be dealt to New Jersey, without a star player coming back, it would be a devastating piece of news.  Strangely, by the spring of 1997 and after two first-round playoff exits the prior two seasons (Gilmour did his part with 14 points in those 13 games), there just wasn’t much uproar about Gilmour being shipped away. It was more of a sense of resignation, and it certainly put a very unfair burden on 22-year old rookie Steve Sullivan, who had to step right into the Maple Leafs lineup and absorb at least some of Gilmour’s production and minutes.  All that probably led to a hasty and short-sighted management call to place Sullivan on waivers early in the 1999-00 season — the Blackhawks were happy to oblige, and Sullivan went on to play another 14 NHL seasons, posting seasons of 60 or more points six times.

Gilmour joined old friend Dave Andreychuk in New Jersey, but after two uneventful playoff runs, his time as a Devil was up.  He’d sign as a UFA in Chicago at age 35 in summer 1998, but it was the wrong time to be a Hawk — they’d end up blowing things up, including moving Chris Chelios to rival Detroit at the Trade Deadline in 1999.  Gilmour would be moved to Buffalo in 2000 at the next year’s deadline, but the Sabres were trounced by Philadelphia in five games in the first round.  He’d be part of a Sabres team the next spring that got to Game 7 of the second round before losing to Pittsburgh, and as a Montreal Canadien in 2002, he’d have a very productive playoffs (10 points in 12 games) but the Habs would lose a 2-1 lead in a second-round series against Carolina, and crash out in six games.

Then a few months away from turning 40, Gilmour was added as depth to his beloved Maple Leafs in 2003 for a possible Cup run, along with Owen Nolan, Glen Wesley, and Phil Housley (oh, the picks headed out the door, but I digress!).  As we all may recall, it ended very crushingly for Gilmour (and Leafs fans) hoping that he could be at least a minor part of the Blue and White making a Cup Final.  That dream ended ridiculously early in his first game back as a Leaf in over six years when he ripped apart his ACL after a collision with Flames captain Dave Lowry.

It wasn’t just the last Maple Leafs moment for Gilmour, it was the last NHL moment as well, and Gilmour retired after a Hall of Fame career and with that 1989 Stanley Cup ring, and counting playoffs and regular season, over 1650 NHL games.

FELIX POTVIN

  • 27 years old, traded to NY Islanders, January 1999
  • Seasons After Leafs Departure: 4 1/2 with Islanders, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Boston
  • Stanley Cups Won: 0
  • Playoff Rounds Won: 1

Again, another incredibly awkward Maple Leafs departure for a player who probably deserved a little bit better ending.  So the story goes, the Maple Leafs after a 1995-97 period of one playoff miss, and two first-round exits, liked what they had in Potvin as a goaltender, but when the potential was there for a serious upgrade, they pounced, and landed Keswick-born Curtis Joseph, as the prime free agent goaltender on the planet in the summer of 1998.  No one could argue with Joseph’s accomplishments, and at age 31, the Leafs were hoping he’d have at least a half-decade of upper-echelon years left as an NHL goaltender.  On that count, they were correct, but they’d neglected to manage the asset that was Potvin very well in the process.  

After the $24M/4 year deal for Joseph was signed, expectations were that Potvin would moved to a team looking for a starting goalie better than their own as well, and with a reasonable contract, and decent seasons behind him, it was a safe bet there’d be a great market for the 27-year old Potvin.  Well, either Leafs GM Ken Dryden was looking for too much on the market, or simply thought he’d get more as the early part of the season progressed, but it became a bit of a circus.  Potvin would get only five starts in the first two months of the season as Joseph’s backup and then a nagging knee injury sidelined him all of December.  

Early January finally saw movement and an unhappy and eager-to-leave Potvin was sent to Long Island as the Leafs got former #1 overall pick defenceman Bryan Berard back in exchange.  

Unfortunately for Potvin, the Isles were in the middle of a streak of seven straight seasons out of the playoffs, and the next time they’d get back in, Potvin was long gone, and Chris Osgood was their starting goalie against the Maple Leafs in 2002 (Osgood went through a similar shunning, after the Red Wings acquired Dominik Hasek, three summers after Osgood was the Stanley Cup-winning starting goalie for Detroit).

After a couple of lean seasons in Vancouver, Potvin was traded to Los Angeles before the 2001 Trade Deadline, wound up as the starter, and guided the Kings to a shocking first-round upset of heavily-favoured Detroit. After losing the first two games of the series, Potvin would allow only 8 goals in 4 straight wins, with a save percentage of .927.  He’d play even better against high-powered Colorado in the second round, shutting out the Avalanche in back-to-back games (5 and 6), forcing a Game 7 in Denver, where the Kings’ Cinderella run would end with a resounding 5-1 loss.  

Potvin wouldn’t get to the playoffs again, being on a Kings team the very next season that massively disappointed with 78 points, and played his last NHL season as a member of the of 2003-04 Boston Bruins. He backed up Andrew Raycroft (!!!) in his stunning rookie season — Raycroft played all the minutes in the team’s first-round defeat to Montreal.

CURTIS JOSEPH

  • 35 years old, signed as UFA with Detroit, July 2002
  • Seasons After Leafs Departure: 6
  • Stanley Cups Won: 0
  • Playoff Rounds Won: 1

Maple Leafs fans who think fondly of Curtis Joseph’s time with the Maple Leafs are easy to find now in 2016.  They were a little harder to track down in the summer of 2002.  Early in the morning on July 1st, Joseph and the Detroit Red Wings (losing Dominik Hasek to retirement, his first of fifteen of them) agreed to a 3-year, $24 million deal.  Later than day, the Leafs acted quickly with Pat Quinn announcing Ed Belfour had signed a 4-year deal averaging between $6-7M per year.  But Joseph was castigated by many (and this is still rather primitive days of the internet, mind you) for being a sellout and chasing a Cup win, and not necessarily going to a place easier to win them.  Detroit, after three seasons of not winning acquired a lot of end-of-career mercenaries like Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Hasek himself to win it all in 2002, and they did that.  But wasn’t the Leafs core still slightly younger?  Wasn’t the Eastern Conference still easier to negotiate your way through without getting blasted out?  Certainly Carolina in 2002, and Tampa the very next season in 2004 proved that.

Either way, Joseph was gone.  But it truly couldn’t have gone worse as a Red Wing.  I covered that team extensively, and you could tell very early on, Joseph felt the pressure of expectations. Not that they weren’t there in Toronto — but in Toronto, he could have been the first, not Felix Potvin, not Grant Fuhr, not Mike Palmateer, to get the Leafs to a Cup Final since 1967.  In Detroit, Mike Vernon, Chris Osgood, and Dominik Hasek did all that, and quite quickly, as well, AND they won.  There was a line of succession, and Joseph seemed to sense that, and though his post-practice and post-game quotes didn’t end up revealing much, it seemed obvious to me and others, something was amiss.  Having an overmatched head coach in Dave Lewis replacing the legendary Scotty Bowman wasn’t helping matters either.

None of this impacted Joseph’s play — he had a 61-game regular season, a GAA of 2.49, but a save percentage of .912 (higher than the .906 in his final Leafs season).  But the playoffs are where everyone starts paying focus in Detroit. Things that aren’t the goalies’ fault become as such because of all the uneducated takes, on sports radio, and elsewhere, from hosts and writers who don’t speak the game well from October-March, and now are experts because the games mean more.

The 2nd-seeded Detroit (110 points) played a 7th-seeded Anaheim team (95 points) they were heavily favoured to beat.  The Ducks had a young 39-year old head coach in Mike Babcock, recently given his NHL shot after winning everywhere else.  Both Joseph and JS Giguere combined for an insane 105 saves on 108 shots (Detroit outshot Anaheim 64-44) in a game that ended on a Paul Kariya goal at 3:18 of triple overtime.  Joseph wasn’t as great in a Game 2 home loss, losing 3-2 (20 saves on 23 shots, while Giguere’s legend was just beginning 36 saves on 38 shots).  

The Red Wings’ offensive well would run dry in Orange County also, scoring just three goals for Joseph in 3-2 and 2-1 (Game 4 OT) losses.  See you, Stanley Cup Champs.  The Wings would score just six goals in almost 15 periods of hockey while Joseph finished the round with a .917 save percentage and a 2.08 GAA.  Most logical Red Wings fans blamed the offence.  Some didn’t, and the illogical even resided in Detroit’s front office and behind their bench.

The Red Wings with Joseph still being signed for two more seasons (!) made an overture to Dominik Hasek and his agent Ritch Winter to consider returning and playing for the Red Wings again.  More amazingly, at age 38, Hasek agreed.  Joseph was beyond devastated and felt betrayed — and he had every reason to be.  The Red Wings were in a state of flux to some extent as well with the departure of Sergei Fedorov as a free agent to the very same Anaheim team that swept out the Red Wings.

The Red Wings tried to trade Joseph, but the $16 million left on his deal wasn’t easy to force a team into absorbing (especially with the common knowledge that a lockout and future salary cap was certainly not far away for NHL owners and general managers).  

They were unsuccessful and started training camp and eventually, the regular season with a most uncomfortable goalie group of Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph, and capable backup Manny Legace.  All played quite well as the Red Wings started the season strong, but Hasek’s troublesome groin acted up and limited his starts to just four in November, and two in December.  Early January 2004 saw Hasek announce, to the surprise of the Red Wings management and medical staff, that he was shutting it down for the season.  Now the Red Wings were relieved they hadn’t traded Joseph, but strangely, Legace continued to play as well, if not better, than Joseph.  In a strange call, the Red Wings elected to go with Legace as playoff starter for the first round against Nashville, with Joseph on the bench in a ballcap.  

Lewis, though, didn’t give Legace a very long leash. Despite Legace winning the first two games against heavy underdog Nashville, the Wings losing Games 3 and 4 by 3-1 and 3-0 scores meant Joseph had the starting gig back, and he allowed just one goal over the next two games, advancing Detroit to the second round and a meeting with Calgary.

What happened in this series was almost a carbon copy of the power outage that plagued Detroit’s scoring forwards against Anaheim the spring prior.  Goals were practically impossible to come by.  Joseph allowed just nine in the first four games, but the Wings found themselves tied in the series at 2-all.  In Game 5, not only would they lose the game 1-0 in regulation, but they’d lose Steve Yzerman as well to a gruesome eye injury off a deflected puck.  Facing elimination, they’d go to Calgary for Game 6, and yet again, they couldn’t solve Miikka Kiprusoff — he’d make 38 saves for an OT shutout win to end the series, while Joseph made saves on 43 of 44 shots, but not the Martin Gelinas rebound OT winner.  Joseph’s 2004 playoff numbers?  A 1.39 GAA, and a .939 save percentage.  But, yeah, his fault, dumb Wings fan. 

The lockout year would end Joseph’s Red Wings tenure as his contract ran out, but to be honest, the whole experience probably was a relief to Joseph that it did end when it did.  The Red Wings struggled in their 2006 playoff series with Edmonton, with Manny Legace significantly overmatched as a starter. The Wings brought back Hasek and Chris Osgood in 2006-07, and by spring 2008, Hasek’s days were done and Osgood took over the job, and proceeded to win a Stanley Cup against Pittsburgh, followed by a crushing Game 7 loss on home ice to the Penguins in their 2009 effort to repeat as champions.

Joseph, with little fanfare, played the first two post-lockout years in Phoenix with no playoffs, and then signed in Calgary in 2007-08 as a backup to Kiprusoff. He’d get a playoff win in Game 3, coming in for a relief stint in the 4th minute, down 3-0 to San Jose — Joseph would shutout the Sharks the rest of the evening, and get the win, giving Calgary a 2-1 series lead. It was the only action he’d see until mop-up duty in a blowout Game 7.

Joseph, at age 41, signed with the Maple Leafs for one last NHL season, and he was embraced universally by the fanbase, backing up Vesa Toskala, and late in the season, Martin Gerber, before retiring that summer.  Cujo had just 132 playoff games to his credit, but he has to be considered, along with Rogie Vachon, one of the best goalies ever not to advance and play in a Stanley Cup Final game.  I think Mike Liut belongs in that conversation as well.

TOMAS KABERLE

  • 31 years old, traded to Boston, February 2011
  • Seasons played after Leafs departure: parts of 2
  • Stanley Cups Won: 1
  • Playoff Rounds Won: 4

Certainly a case where it ended quite well for a player rumoured to on his way out almost from the moment Brian Burke became Maple Leafs GM in November 2008.  Kaberle, similar to Mats Sundin and others, had a lot of power in his contract to control movement to other teams. Though there was interest in him (at age 28) for potential trades during that long and meandering 2007-08 season, interim GM Cliff Fletcher couldn’t get a deal done for him without Kaberle’s approval. Most famously, a deal was nixed with Philadelphia that would have seen Jeff Carter and a 1st round draft pick coming back to Toronto.

Rumours heated up in summer 2010 that Kaberle would be moved. By that point Kaberle, having been on a non-playoff team five straight seasons, seemed a lot more in tune with the idea, but leading up to an August deadline where Kaberle’s NTC kicked back in, Burke still was unable to find the right partner.  Kaberle played 58 games for the Leafs in 2010-11, including a controversy where Frantisek, his father, a former international player with the Czechoslovak National Team criticized Leafs management and head coach Ron Wilson. Eventually, Kaberle was moved to the Boston Bruins, in exchange for Joe Colborne, a 1st rounder in 2011, and a 2nd rounder in 2012. They’d waive Colborne off the roster in fall of 2014 to make room for both of Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr.  Colborne, now 26, just completed a 19-25-44 season in 73 games in Calgary.  Yes, dumb things happened in Leafs transactions the past several years, shockingly.

But for Kaberle, he found a good situation in Boston with lots of defensive depth that pushed him just to stay in the lineup.  He skated for 20 and 28 minutes respectively in the Bruins’ opening two playoff games — losses at home to Montreal, and soon after, found his playing time diminished.  He found himself as a healthy scratch at times in the second-round series against the Flyers but worked his way back into the lineup, settling into a 5-6D role and logging on average 13-16 minutes of ice time.  

By the time the Stanley Cup Final came around, the ice time held, and Kaberle was able to contribute a 2-assist game in Game 6 in Boston to keep the series alive with a 5-2 win.  He’d play 9:14 in the Game 7 triumph in Vancouver, but after 13 full NHL seasons, Kaberle had won the Stanley Cup.

Strangely, it all sped away from Kaberle quickly after that point — he’d sign in Carolina as a UFA that summer, the organization his brother, Frank, had won the Cup with in 2006 and finished his NHL career with in 2009.  It didn’t fit well, and he was publicly criticized for effort and conditioning by Canes GM Jim Rutherford, before being traded to Montreal, where he played sparingly on a Montreal team that missed the playoffs badly, finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference.  He was back in Montreal in the lockout-shortened season, but was a healthy scratch on many nights, and his contract was bought out in summer 2013. He’d play the whole next season in Kladno, Czech Republic, and though he did accept a training camp invite to New Jersey in fall 2014, he didn’t make the team, ending his NHL career.

OTHERS

Given how many players played their part in those 1999-2004 Maple Leafs playoff teams, it might be surprising not only that few got to experience a Cup triumph like Kaberle did, but that for so many, they’d never get that close again.

Kaberle was preceded by former teammate Hal Gill, traded to Pittsburgh for a 2nd rounder and 5th rounder. He’d fit in Pittsburgh perfectly as physical depth and as a PK blueliner, and went to both Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, winning the latter, and then being on Montreal’s 2010 team which won two rounds.

After being a playoff warrior for the Leafs in 58 postseason games, Darcy Tucker had a lengthy deal bought out, wound up in Colorado, and in his second season there, got into the playoffs with a surprising Avalanche team. But, after six games, they went out to the San Jose Sharks, and Tucker retired.

Bryan McCabe was traded to Florida in summer 2008, missed the playoffs his first two years there, and then was traded to the Rangers for a playoff run in 2011, but that ended after two rounds, and he promptly retired as well.

Mats Sundin famously didn’t have a team or contract until signing with Vancouver in early December 2008 — he played 41 games in Vancouver, putting up 28 points, plus 8 points in 8 playoff games but the Canucks were bounced out by the Chicago Blackhawks in Sundin’s final season.

Quietly, former Leaf Alex Ponikarovsky had one of the longest Cup runs of recent vintage, in 2012 with the New Jersey Devils, going all the way to Game 6 of the Final against Los Angeles.  This, after stops in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles — he’d then sign in Winnipeg in summer 2012, only to be traded again to New Jersey at the Deadline, but the Devils would miss the playoffs, and Ponikarovsky has played the last three full seasons in the KHL.  But, hey, the Leafs got Martin Skoula and Luca Caputi for him! 

Though he wasn’t a Maple Leaf a long time, Dominic Moore has had some wonderful playoff experiences the last few years.  First, as part of the Montreal team that went on a surprising run all the way to the East Finals against Philadelphia in 2010, then as part of a similar run to Game 7 of the East Finals as a Tampa Bay Lightning, only to be eliminated by eventual Cup winners, Boston.  He signed with the Rangers in summer 2013 and found himself in the Stanley Cup Final the following spring, and falling just short in 2015 of getting there again.  All in all, Moore has played 89 playoff games for various teams, following his 101 games as a Maple Leaf.

There certainly are other stories to tell of ex-Leafs — just as it’s playing out right now, most notably with Phil Kessel, but as well with James Reimer, Roman Polak, and Nick Spaling in this Stanley Cup Final.  Alex Steen made it further than he ever has in the postseason — there obviously is the hope at some point that it gets back to Maple Leaf fans cheering for their team to do magical things in Aprils and Mays, instead of vicariously watching ex-Leafs do just that.