Nov 15, 2009

Until we retire certain numbers from our team the ghosts at the ACC that migrated over from Maple Leaf Gardens will never rest.

And the Leafs will never win....

So I will symbolically retire these numbers and give my reasons as why I do so. Below is a list of "Honoured Leafs Numbers" and the players that wore those numbers.


Johnny Bower
Turk Broda
Hap Day
Red Kelly
King Clancy
Tim Horton
Charlie Conacher
Ted Kennedy
Syl Apps
George Armstrong
Borje Salming
Frank Mahovlich
Darryl Sittler


Mar. 11, 1995
Mar. 11, 1995
Oct. 6, 2006
Oct. 6, 2006
Nov. 21, 1995
Nov. 21, 1995
Feb. 28, 1998
Oct. 3, 1993
Oct. 3, 1993
Feb. 28, 1998
Oct. 6, 2006
Oct. 3, 2001
Feb. 8, 2003

These are the numbers that should be retired in my opinion not simply "Honoured"

The Number 14 is a totally different topic and I can honestly say it's an embarrassment that this number is not "Honoured" never mind "Retired" so I'll leave that be for now.

The Number 1

Johnny “The China Wall” Bower:

"John William (Johnny) "The China Wall" Bower "
Bower helped show that it was possible for a goaltender to carry his team through the playoffs, and helped prove that a hot goalie can make the difference between an early exit and a berth in the finals.

Johnny Bower was twice awarded the Vezina Trophy as top goaltender, was a First Team All-Star, was picked by fans in 1995 as goalie on the All-Time Great Leaf Team, and backed Toronto to four Stanley Cup victories. Not bad for a goalie who bounced around the minor leagues for 13 years before finally breaking into the NHL for good. Despite winning the Les Cunningham Trophy as the American League's most valuable player three times, and the Larry Holmes Trophy as leading goaltender three times, Bower didn't get a real shot in the NHL until the 1958-59 season.

Bower compiled 220 wins, 33 shutouts and a goals-against average of 2.53 in his 11 seasons with Toronto. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976. Johnny Bower served as a scout with the Maple Leafs for more than 20 years after retiring in 1970, and is still one of the most active and recognized Maple Leaf Alumni in and around the city.

• Honoured Jersey Number, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1994-95
• Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 1976
• Awarded J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1965
• Awarded Vezina Trophy as Top Goaltender, NHL, 1964-65
• Awarded J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1964
• Awarded Vezina Trophy as Top Goaltender, NHL, 1960-61
• NHL First All-Star Team Goalie, 1960-61
• Awarded J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1960

Turk “The Fabulous Fat Man” Broda:

"Walter Edward (Turk) "The Fabulous Fat Man" Broda"
The 1940s were dynasty years for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team won five Stanley Cups in the decade, all with the unflappable Walter 'Turk' Broda in net. Broda helped further decorate the glorious decade for the Leafs by adding two Vezina trophies (1940-41 & 1947-48) to the team's collection of awards and honours.

Broda's career goals-against average in the playoffs was a remarkable 1.98 over 211 games. He was selected three times as an All-Star, and by the time Broda was done blocking shots for the Maple Leafs he had collected more shutouts (62) and wins (302) than any other Leaf goaltender. These are records that still stand today. Walter 'Turk' Broda was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967.

• Honoured Jersey Number, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1994-95
• Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 1967
• Awarded Vezina Trophy as Top Goaltender, NHL, 1950-51
• Awarded Vezina Trophy as Top Goaltender, NHL, 1947-48
• NHL First All-Star Team Goalie, 1947-48
• NHL Second All-Star Team Goalie, 1941-42
• Awarded Vezina Trophy as Top Goaltender, NHL, 1940-41
• NHL First All-Star Team Goalie, 1940-41
• Leaf record for career shutouts (62) and wins (302)

The Number 4

Hap Day:

Hap Day
Hap Day was the most prodigious winner the Toronto Maple Leafs ever had. He was a great captain and a Hall of Fame player. Over a 10-year span beginning in 1927, his Leafs made four trips to the Stanley Cup finals. In all, Hap Day captained, coach or managed the Leafs to seven of their 11 Stanley Cups. "I think that's something you need to remember about my Dad," said Kerry Day. "How many Toronto players have their names on seven Stanley Cups?"
Players such as Ted Kennedy considered Hap Day the best coach they ever played for. "We won five championships," said Kennedy, "basically because of our coaching."

Day was a taskmaster who demanded the most from his men. Much to the dismay of some on-ice officials, he knew the rule book inside out and could quote it verbatim. "If Day argues a call," Hall of Fame official Bill Chadwick once said, "you have to wonder if you were wrong." In all, he won five Cup championships as coach of the Leafs: in 1942 and 1945, then three in a row from 1947 to 1949 - the first coach in NHL history to accomplish a Stanley Cup hat trick.

The Number 7

Tim Horton:

Miles Gilbert (Tim) Horton
Tim Horton played 18 straight seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Horton's career is a glowing example of dedication, especially when looked back on from today's era of shifting player loyalties and big-dollar free agent signings. In his almost 20 years wearing jersey #7 for the Leafs, Horton was selected to six All-Star teams and won four Stanley Cups. The quiet leader is arguably the best defenceman in Maple Leaf history, and in 1995 was voted along with Borje Salming as defencemen on the All-Time Great Leaf Team. The blue line leader was in fact a wall on defence, and epitomized the combination of strength, stability and character that scouts still search for in young defencemen.

Horton never scored more than 40 points in a season, but was a peacemaker on the ice and a calming influence on the Leafs during two of the most successful decades in team history. Tim Horton was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977.

Tim Horton was amazingly strong. During his playing days Gordie Howe called Horton "hockey's strongest man". Some even claim that it was Horton who used his strength and coordination to invent the slap shot.

• Honoured Jersey Number, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1995
• Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 1977
• J.P. Bickell Memorial Award, Toronto Maple Leafs MVP, 1969
• NHL First All-Star Team Defence, 1968-69
• NHL First All-Star Team Defence, 1967-68
• NHL Second All-Star Team Defence, 1966-67
• NHL First All-Star Team Defence, 1963-64
• NHL Second All-Star Team Defence, 1962-63
• NHL Second All-Star Team Defence, 1953-54

The Number 9

Charlie "The Big Bomber" Conacher:

Charles William (Charlie) Conacher
The Toronto Maple Leafs came into their own in the 1930s, reaching the league finals seven times in the decade and winning the Stanley Cup in 1932. The recipe for success was toughness provided by Hap Day, leadership by King Clancy, and scoring by Charlie Conacher. Conacher was the franchise's first real offensive dynamo, and was a threat to score whenever he was on the ice.

Conacher was the league's top scorer in both 1934 and 1935, and led the league in goals five times during the 1930s.

• Honoured Jersey Number, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1997-98
• Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 1961
• NHL First All-Star Team Right Wing, 1935-36
• NHL First All-Star Team Right Wing, 1934-35
• League's Leading Scorer, NHL, 1934-35
• NHL First All-Star Team Right Wing, 1933-34
• Leading Scorer, NHL, 1933-34
• NHL Second All-Star Team Right Wing, 1932-33
• NHL Second All-Star Team Right Wing, 1931-32
• Set Leaf Record for Fastest Opening Goal, 7 seconds, Feb. 6, 1932

Ted 'Teeder' Kennedy:

"Theodre Samuel (Ted Teeder) Kennedy"
Kennedy served as Leaf captain from 1948 to 1955 and again in the 1956-57 season, won the Hart Trophy as League MVP in 1955, was a three time All-Star, and won five Stanley Cups in his outstanding 14 year career.

The playmaking centre's numerous accomplishments were mostly the result of relentless hard work and dogged determination. Kennedy was never known as a gifted skater, but his persistence earned him the esteem of teammates. They looked to 'Teeder' as living proof that good things come from a consistent effort, and as the player uniquely capable of captaining the very talented Maple Leaf teams of the 1940s.

ed Kennedy's #9 and Syl Apps' #10 were the first sweater numbers officially honoured by the Maple Leafs. The ceremony was extra special for Kennedy, who held Apps in great esteem. Kennedy inherited the Captain's "C" from Apps in 1948, and looked to the consistent Apps as a true team leader. Kennedy played every game of his career in Toronto, and showed his dedication to the Maple Leaf franchise by coming out of retirement in 1956-57 to help the injury-riddled team.

• Honoured Jersey Number, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1993-94
• Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 1966
• Awarded J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1955
• Awarded Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP, NHL, 1954-55
• NHL Second All-Star Team Centre, 1953-54
• Awarded J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1953
• NHL Second All-Star Team Defence, 1950-51
• NHL Second All-Star Team Defence, 1949-50

The Number 10

Syl Apps:

Syl Apps
The skilled centre spent ten pro seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and served seven of those as team captain. He was awarded the Calder Trophy as outstanding rookie in 1936 and the Lady Byng for gentlemanly play in 1942. Apps also led his team to three Stanley Cups. (Apps spent his entire career in Toronto) and was selected as an All-Star seven times. Jack Adams, for whom the NHL's current Coach of the Year award is named, once referred to Apps as "the greatest centre I've ever seen".

Syl Apps led the Leafs to an emotional four-game sweep of "Terrible" Ted Lindsay's Detroit Red Wings to capture the Stanley Cup in 1948. Apps retired at the top of his sport just weeks later, his status as a hockey legend secured.

• Honoured Jersey Number, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1993-94
• Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 1961
• NHL Second All-Star Team Centre, 1942-43
• Awarded Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, NHL, 1941-42
• NHL First All-Star Team Centre, 1941-42
• NHL Second All-Star Team Centre, 1940-41
• NHL First All-Star Team Centre, 1938-39
• NHL Second All-Star Team Centre, 1937-38
• Awarded Calder Memorial Trophy, NHL, 1936-37

George “The Chief” Armstrong:

"George Edward (Chief) Armstrong"
At a 1950 junior tournament George Armstrong was given the nickname "Chief Shoot-the-puck" by a Native Canadian tribe in Alberta. The name "Chief" stuck with Armstrong.

Armstrong was perhaps the most effective leader in team history, captaining his team for 13 (1957-69) of 21 seasons in the league. The "Chief" accepted the Stanley Cup on behalf of his teammates in 1962, 63, 64 and 67, wore the captain's "C" with pride in the community, and has secured his unique place among the legends of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey club.

On May 2, 1967, Leaf Captain George Armstrong accepted the Stanley Cup on behalf of his team and proudly lifted it above his shoulders. It was the fourth and last time Armstrong, the longest serving captain in team history, would pose for a picture with the trophy and the last time for any Leaf captain.

George Armstrong didn't light-up the scoreboard like some of his teammates, but his sound positional play, dependability and strength of character made him one of the most important players to ever wear the Maple Leaf on his chest. His contributions went beyond the score sheet. Armstrong certainly chipped in offensively, recording 713 points in 21 seasons with the team, but it is his leadership and resilience for which he will be most remembered
George Armstrong lives in Toronto and is still a member of the Maple Leaf scouting staff. After retiring, Armstrong spent time coaching the Toronto Marlboros and, for a brief time (1988-89), the Toronto Maple Leafs.

• Honoured Jersey Number, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1997-98
• Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, 1975
• Awarded J.P. Bickell Memorial Cup, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1959
• Toronto Maple Leaf record for career assists (417) and points (713) by a RW
• Toronto Maple Leaf record for career seasons (21) and games (1,187) played.

Nov 14, 2009

To Sit, or Not to Sit ...

To sit or not to sit, that is the question.
It seems that Ron Wilson has a decision of Shakespearean proportions. That decision is in regards to his young sophomore defenseman, Luke Schenn. To sit, or not to sit is the question he must certainly be entertaining as Schenn is having a tough time adjusting to his second season in the NHL.

I can almost see Ron sitting in his office after the games in which Luke makes a serious blunder. He's at his desk staring at a tiny Luke Schenn bobblehead that is perched on his palm and then he begins talking to it, "Alas, poor Luke. I thought I knew you, a player destined for greatness" and then continuing. "All the world's a stage and one man, in his time, will play many parts." "Greatness is nothing to be afraid of. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some just have greatness thrust upon them." "But today, today of all days is the day that I have to ask myself, to sit you or not to sit you?"

Big decision to make regarding his No.1 Draft pick Luke Schenn.
Poor Ron must be going nuts trying to make this decision. On one hand, you continue to play him, show confidence that he will turn his game around and hope that he eventually does. On the other hand, you sit him for a game or three and hope that he returns to play with a hunger to not be sat again. The fear though is that sitting a young player will dent his confidence and that he doesn't recover to ever play well until he is ultimately moved on to another team.

When it comes to Luke, I don't think anyone is harder on criticizing him than he is himself. So you have to know that he has already beat himself up for his give-away against Chicago. To his credit, he responded really well against Calgary even though the team lost the game. But Schenn could likely still benefit from a session of press box viewing. Being benched, as has occurred this season already, only short-hands the team by having to play with five defensemen. An all out scratch is what is needed to send a firm message. That message to Luke would be that Ron still believes in him, but he wants him to sit in the press box and watch the game and see the mistakes that his teammates are making.

Carl Gunnarsson takes a break during opening day of the 2008 Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects Camp. (DAVE ABEL, SUN MEDIA)

From that, he can learn how he would avoid making the same ones and possibly pass that information along to his mates. Healthy scratches for the point of sending a message always has the hope that the player, while observing the game has an epiphany moment and realizes what is missing from his game.

I believe that Luke will be able to learn a great deal from sitting in the box for a few games, especially with Carl Gunnarsson entering the picture and playing so well against Calgary. In my mind, now is the perfect opportunity to give the young Schenn his time in the press box before Komisarek returns to action as well.

Now, as long as Ron Wilson doesn't start looking for a Capulet he should be able to successfully find the answer to this hot topic question.

Nov 8, 2009

The Sixty-Million Dollar Leafs

If this was a 70's television show like "The Six-Million Dollar Man" we'd be listening to a narrative right now ... "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. We can make him better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster." Perhaps that was in some form the pitch that Brian Burke made to MLSE prior to his hiring and the hiring of his staff.

"Gentlemen, we can rebuild them. We have the knowledge. We have the capabilities to build Toronto a Cup competitive team. The Maple Leafs will be that team. We can make them better than they were before. Belligerent, Stronger, Faster and Truculent"

If this were a 70's television show we'd also be listening to some cheesy opening theme song right now and looking at a show title of possibly "The Sixty-million dollar Leafs"

"The Monster" The highly touted goaltending acquisition that gives the team hope for the future
But, this isn't the 70's, nor a made-for-TV series. This is a professional sports team that is 15 games into the most solid "rebuild" of it's 42 year Cup-less drought. While the Phil Kessel trade will continue to be viewed with skepticism for several years yet, in the immediate term, Phil is providing a credible scoring threat and confidence to the team. Jonas Gustavsson, a highly touted goaltending acquisition over the summer, has panned out even though the skeptics warned that he'd never played an NHL calibre game. "The Monster" in the net has become a soothing influence on the play of the defensemen in front of him and has provided an awe-inspiring save in every appearance thus far.

These changes are showing up in the win column as the Leafs are now riding a two game win streak and have received points in the last seven games.

Where do they go from here?

A big part of the rebuilding structure of Brian Burke. "Not bionic, but definitely competitive."
The Toronto Marlies are playing future Leaf regulars like Christian Hanson, Viktor Stalberg, Tyler Bozak, Juraj Mikus, Carl Gunnerson, to name but a few. Burke certainly hopes to add another one or two College prospects this Spring as well. He has also acknowledged that this may be the last Spring that he will be able to draw from that feeding ground as College free agents tend to be drawn to teams where they can jump right in. The Leafs hope to be beyond that stage for the 2010/11 season. The hope is certainly that Bozak, Hanson and immediately Gustavsson will compensate for the loss of the two 1st-rounders and one 2nd-rounder that was relinquished in the Kessel deal and that any player signed this Spring as another College free-agent will just be added to that list. Seems like a decent trade-off to me. We get Kessel and add him to three really decent players that have become skilled, undrafted gems for nothing but a contract proposal and we give up three draft picks that haven't even been picked yet.

The rebuild is in full swing even though some folks are decrying the deal for 21 year old Kessel as a shortcut, or a regression to the win now, Toronto mentality. When looked at thoughtfully, Brian Burke has positioned this team to be successful not only presently, but down the road as well. Not bionic, but definitely competitive.
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