TSN has picked their All-Time Leafs Team. We have thoughts…

TSN damn well knows it’s an impossible task to get this kind of thing 100% right and that people are going to debate it heavily online. We thank them for that. That’s the kind of good natured sports discussion we should be shooting for. Before looking at the TSN lists, or our lists, I want to review the criteria they used. It’s important because it’s not as straight forward as just picking 18 great players and 2 goalies…

TSN All-Time Team Eligibility Criteria
□ Team: two goalies, six defencemen, 12 forwards and one foundational player
□ Members must have played at least 225 games with the Leafs
□ At least one member of the all-time team must be from the 2019-20 Leafs
□ Players are slotted in positions they played with the Leafs
□ One line must be comprised of defensive standouts, aka a checking line
□ One pair must be comprised of suffocating defenders, aka a shutdown pair
□ Lines and pairs are put together because they fit together, not because they are necessarily the first, second and third best at their positions
□ Foundational players are defined as players part of the fabric – the DNA – of a franchise
□ Last cuts by position are exactly as advertised, the players who just missed selection to the all-time team

The TSN List

So I guess the first thing we’ll notice is the complete lack of Darryl Sittler, a victim of the Leafs historic center depth. Secondly, TSN loves their Grandpa’s more than we do, I guess, as King Clancy, Allan Stanley, Red Horner, Syl Apps, etc. make appearances here and not on the the TLN list below, although our writers did consider them.

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I’m assuming someone really liked Bob Pulford’s shutdown work a lot, because he didn’t factor in at all for us. We had the restraint to leave Zach Hyman off, I don’t know why TSN didn’t show similar restraint. Beyond that, this list is fairly agreeable. There does seem to be a fondness for the past over respect for the present or recent history, but a historic Stanley Cup drought will do that. I have some thoughts on how confident we can feel in abilities of players we’ve never seen play, and that’s why our list skews towards the early 90s more, but I don’t have pitchforks out for TSN, with the exception of their decision to leave Darryl Sittler off.

You can find the full reasoning for TSN’s list here.

Our writer’s lists

Mark Norman’s team:

Busher Jackson – Syl Apps – Charlie Conacher
Frank Mahovlich – Mats Sundin – George Armstrong
Hap Day – Darryl Sittler – Rick Vaive
Wendel Clark – Dave Keon – Ace Bailey (Checking Line)
Borje Salming – Ian Turnbull
Tomas Kaberle – King Clancy
Allan Stanley – Tim Horton (Shutdown Pair)
Turk Broda
Frederik Andersen (2019-20 Leaf

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Johnny Bower (Foundational Player)

(Disclaimer: I am not a 90-year-old man. I have no recollection of those glorious Toronto teams of the 1920’s and 30’s. But I did try to remove from the equation my personal biases about players I’ve actually seen, which is especially important for a team that has been around for so long and has had so many great players come through its system.)

My roster includes 15 Leafs who have had their numbers retired by the organization, 14 Hockey Hall of Famers, and nine former Captains (no, Phaneuf didn’t make the cut).

Up front, this team would have looked entirely different if I was just picking 12 forwards, but having to stick to the positions they played with the Leafs really complicated matters. Case in point: the Leafs have had so many good centremen over the years that I had to cut my childhood hero, Doug Gilmour (I’m so sorry, Dougie). Down the middle, I went with Dave Keon, Syl Apps, Mats Sundin and Darryl Sittler. Sundin and Sittler were no brainers as the two top scorers in team history. Keon and Apps were before my time, but they were voted #1 and 2 respectively as part of the Leafs’ The One Hundred listing in 2017 and have the stats to match. My checking line consists of defensive marvel Dave Keon, the speedy Ace Bailey and the moustachioed terror on ice, Wendel Clark. Just missed the cut: Doug Gilmour, Ted Kennedy.

On the back-end, we have two pairings that actually played together with the Leafs: Salming-Turnbull and Stanley-Horton. The latter pair is my shutdown pairing, as they were a critical component of a Leafs team than won four Stanley Cups in six seasons in the 60’s. Rounding out this group is King Clancy and Tomas Kaberle, who is 2nd in all-time scoring among Leafs defenders. Just missed the cut: Bob Baun, Carl Brewer.

In net, we have Turk Broda, the Leafs all-time leader in games played by a goaltender, and our 2019-20 Leaf: Frederik Andersen. Andersen’s up and down season may have soured a few on him, but he’s second all-time on the team in save percentage among those who fit the 225+ GP criteria and has been a top-10 starter in the league since coming to the Leafs.

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Trying to fit a player from the 2019-20 Leafs was really hard: who comes out of the middle for Matthews? Who gets taken off D for Rielly? Andersen’s inclusion was essentially by default to fit the criteria. Just missed the cut: Curtis Joseph.Lastly, we have foundational player Johnny Bower, a man known both for his fearlessness on the ice, and his kind and generous spirit off of it. No player in Leafs history has ever been as universally loved as Johnny, by new and old fans alike. He is the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Scott Maxwell’s team

The first things I did when selecting positions was get the checking line and shutdown pair out of the way, because if I could find really good players to fit that bill that would’ve been in the lineup anyways, that leaves more open spots for other good players. My definition for good defensive players, since it’s hard to really quantify how good a player was defensively past the 21st century, was if they got votes for the Selke or the Norris. Since Gilmour is the Leafs only Selke winner, he was an automatic selection, and I filled it out with Roberts and Courtnall, the only RW to play for the Leafs to get a Selke vote. For defense, that ended up being Salming and Horton, who were consistent Norris candidates.

After that, I filled in the rest of the lineup based on games played and points, to try and get a grasp as to who played a lot for the Leafs, and also played well for them. Matthews is the obvious candidate as the 2019-20 player, while Rielly made it more because of his skill and his longevity through the rebuild. As for goalies, I went mostly based on their success with the team, so the obvious candidates were Bower and Broda, although Potvin and even Andersen were really close. Once I had the team selected, I picked the best player left (Dave Keon) as the foundational player.

Now, to quickly address the elephant in the room, Kessel was a really good player, sometimes one of the best in the league, in a really bad era for the Leafs, and had one of the highest points per games among right wingers. I know he didn’t have the best reputation, but that was mostly because the media always gave him a hard time because he didn’t always like them. Regardless, he was a really good player on a team that only had a few of them.

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The TLN Team

I guess I get to have the last say, and I took elements of the teams that Mark and Scott put together, and used some of my own philosophy on the group as well. As much as I wanted to include Peter Zezel as my checking line center, I had to concede that the group that is in that role seem like the most obvious choice, and could be a top six line on most other Canadian teams. I thought I could make it up by having Sylvain Lefebvre and Bob Rouse as the shutdown defense pairing, but I thought the better of that as well.

A few other tough cuts include Darcy Tucker and Gary Roberts for the checking line duties, Phil Kessel, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner all got some consideration for the right wing, and frankly there are too many of my Dad’s and my Granddad’s Leafs on this list that could have factored in. No Teeder Kennedy is probably most noticeable.

The Team:

Busher Jackson Mats Sundin Lanny McDonald
Frank Mahovlich Darryl Sittler Charlie Conacher
Dave Andreychuk Doug Gilmour Rick Vaive
Wendel Clark Dave Keon George Armstrong

I’m not a big fan of Rick Vaive, but I read the room, and the TLN staff want him on there. Charlie Conacher was an elite goal scorer before such things existed, so he got the edge over the more recent players, who might be more deserving.

I love Andreychuk too much to leave him off, so that one is for me, but let’s all just enjoy that beautiful shutdown line of Clark-Keon-Armstrong. That’s why Zach Hyman didn’t make the cut.

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Borje Salming Tim Horton
Tomas Kaberle Ian Turnbull
Dmitri Yushkevich Bobby Baun

The top pairing is probably a no brainer, and honestly so is that second pairing, although Al Iafrate was a player I wanted to include, again largely for selfish reasons.

Yushkevich was arguably the last great shutdown defender the Leafs had, and Bobby Baun sneaks in largely off of the playoff legend status.

As for the goaltenders, it’s probably not a surprise that we went with Johnny Bower and Turk Broda. Felix Potvin being left off hurts, and I’m sure some people feel the same way about Curtis Joseph, but such is life. For the record, Bower is our starter.

As for Foundational Player, we’re looking a bit more to the future than TSN was, and this is were our current roster player sits. Auston Matthews is the foundational player, because he has the pressure of erasing the 53 year and growing Stanley Cup drought. I say he does it.

So flame away. What did we get right? what did TSN get right? Yell at us in the comment sections.

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