Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Everybody's Doing It. Making A List and Perusing It

By the angle of the sun and a check of the calendar, I have discovered that we are at the end of another year and presumably the end of the first decade of the new millenium. Some people insist that the new decade doesn't start until the end of 2010, but, really, I don't care. What everyone is doing is making their "best of", "worst of", "top, bottom and somewhere in the middle" lists and Leaf fans are no different. Oh yes, we are called different by other team's fans...but then what do they know? They just want to be Leaf fans and haven't yet been allowed on the bandwagon. Here then is the "TOP TEN MAPLE LEAFS OF THE DECADE"
  • Number 10--Tie Domi. This isn't about talent, it's about notoriety. Tie was loved by all for a good part of the decade. He had a falling out with the infamous elbow, regained the love and then lost a lot of it again with his "Tiger-Woodsing" of Belinda. He recently was back in the spotlight and once again rekindled a little of the Leaffan euphoria with his showing in the CBC's figure-skating reality show, "Battle of the Blades." That's right, toughie Domi figure skating. In order to keep his "manly hockiness" he refused to wear figure skates. At least that's the reason we were given. Not that he wouldn't have been able to skate in figure skates.
  • Number 9--Nik Antropov. BOOOO!!!! OUCH! IR. BOOO!!! OUCH! IR BOO! OUCH IR. This seemed to be, no, make that this was the pattern that plagued Antropov throughout most of his Maple Leaf career. Booed for whatever reason, (and, frankly, I've never been able to figure out the reason) for most of his career with the Buds and the only applause he'd hear was when he was announced by Andy Frost as "not dressed for tonight's game", which happened a lot. I think Antro was treated unfairly by the fans in this city, who have a nasty habit of doing that to certain players. Larry Murphy, Bryan McCabe, Jason Blake. Nikky was a supreme forechecker, learned to play like a big boy late in his Leaf stint and one of the best shot-tippers you'll ever lay your eyes on. He's moved on to Atlanta, via the Rangers. Let's hope Kenny Ryan (the 2nd round choice the Leafs got for Antro) doesn't hear the booing that his predecessor received.
  • Number 8--Bryan McCabe. Speaking of booing, may I present #8 on our list. Quick now, what is your greatest memory of Caber? Great point shot? Power-play expert? Team Canada's #7 defenceman? Captain material? Nope, nope, nope and nope. The thing that is uppermost in everybody's brain is the "own goal" that McCabe scored in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres. 83 goals in 7 seasons and the only one that is remembered is the unfortunate one. Regardless, another player who was unmercifly and unfairly booed out of town.
  • Number 7--Eddie Belfour. Eddie the Eagle played only 3 seasons during the decade and amassed 17 shutouts....17 shutouts!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? And they were actually in his first two seasons. Holy Crap! And for those first two seasons somewhere around a 2.20 GAA and a .920 save percentage. Yet, in his third season, guess what happened. His gaa went up, his save percentage went down and the booing started. Sad. Nevertheless, Eddie has to be on our list. His stay was short and sweet, well, mostly sweet and he's now the goaltending coach for the Peoria Riverman and goalie consultant for the St. Louis Blues.
  • Number 6--Darcy Tucker. Ahhh, good old Darcy. The prototypical pest. If Darcy's on your team, you love him. If he's on the opposition, especially the dreaded Montreal Canadiens, you hate him. But not Leaf fans. Oh sure, they loved him for a number of years as a member of the Blue and White. Slowly, however, around the 7th or 8th year on the team, fans started commenting on his lack of value, his big contract, his no-movement clause, his membership in the Muskoka 5, his lack of intensity (?), his ability to crash into the boards right beside the player he was trying to hit and demanded that he be traded, moved, bought out, etc, etc, etc. Then, when he was bought out, and ultimately signed with the Colorado Avalanche, he was put back on his pedestal, remembered fondly by Leaf fans and actually honoured by the management of the Leafs when the Avalanche played a game at the ACC. Go figure. Darcy performed well during his tenure with the Leafs with seasons of 28, 24 and 21 goals highlighting his stay here as well as his truculent behaviour.
  • Number 5--Phil Kessel. As of this writing, young Phil has played just 22 games for the Leafs. I have no doubt that when next the decade's list is drafted, he will be higher up on the list. If he isn't, check out who the Bruins first pick in the 2010 draft was and compare the two, because if he isn't higher than 5th for next decade, Burkie got shafted. A major talent, so far, in the NHL, he has quickly become the go-to player the Leafs have needed for some time. He's battled and defeated testicular cancer, won the Masterton trophy (for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey), scored a hat-trick in the Young Guns All-Star game, he led the United States U18 Junior team to the Gold Medal in the U18 world tournament, and at 22 years old has become a leader on the Buds. And, so far, he hasn't been booed by Leaf fans. Boston fans, yes. But they all want to be Leaf fans, anyway.
  • Number 4--Tomas Kaberle. Drafted in the 8th round, 204th overall, in 1996. Now #2 in defenceman scoring, career-wise, with the Leafs, he has spent a grand total of 2 games in the minors. He graduated from the Czech League where he played for Kladno, in 1998 and fit in almost immediately in the NHL. Never a big goal scorer, he seems to frustrate the "experts" in the stands who constantly yell, "SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT" when he has the puck at the point, especially on the power play. His biggest asset, however, is his vision on the ice and his wonderful play-making ability. It's been a long time since the Leafs have had a puck-moving defenceman with his skills. Insert Borje Salming here. So, puck-moving, play-making, point-producing defencman and what did the fans want? Of course. They wanted him to waive his no-trade clause so the Leafs could move him. Wonders never cease. But, at least, they didn't boo him.
  • Number 3--Curtis Joseph. Cujo only played for three years of the decade with the Buds, but it was a stellar three years. Well, except for the last one maybe and the feeling he brought on Leaf fans when he left to "go win a cup" with Detroit. But, ummm....the Stanley Cup never materialized. The chants were loud in 2000 and 2001 when the Leafs were in the midst of playoff fever and the fans loved dear old Cujo. He returned for a very uneventful swansong in 08/09 and became only the second player in this list to leave the league as a Maple Leaf. Mr. Domi being the other.
  • Number 2--Gary Roberts. The very fit Mr. Roberts played 3 seasons and a bit with the Leafs and forever cemented his way into the Leaf's fans hearts by showing up to play every night and playing the same way every night. Like his life depended on it. And this is after coming back from an horrific neck injury. The former Masterton trophy winner never scored less than 21 goals for the Leafs when he played a complete season. Roberts left after the lockout with fellow Whitby alum, Joe Nieuwendyk (who could have made this list as well) for the warmer pastures of Florida and signed a contract with the Panthers. More because of his attitude, leadership and playing style is he put on this list and could just as easily been Number 1 on this list. Roberts retired as a player in 2009 but is still admired as a fitness consultant in the NHL.
  • Number 1--Mats Sundin. This obviously comes as no surprise. Captain Mats was the franchise through just about all of the decade, playing in all the seasons up to 2008/09. He of course played many years with the Leafs before the start of the decade and holds just about all the career scoring records for the team. He was both loved and hated by the fans (go figure) and when he refused to waive his no-trade clause in his contract he was called a traitor to the team by some of the fan base. Another captain in the long line of captains who didn't retire as captain of the Leafs (Armstrong, Keon, Sittler, Ramage, Vaive, Clark, Gilmour), he chose to test the free-agent market after spending a summer and half a season contemplating retirement. He re-surfaced with the Vancouver Canucks and played his last (we think) NHL season there. In a strange spectacle he was both booed and cheered upon his return to the ACC with the Canucks. Whenever he touched the puck, he was booed. After a video tribute on the scoreboard, he was cheered wildly. After the tribute more booing whenever he had the audacity to make a play. However, as poetic license and the fates would have it, the game came down to a shoot-out. Naturally, it fell upon Mats to decide the game with his shot. Naturally, he scored to win the game for Vancouver. Naturally, the Leaf fans went wild and stood and cheered while Mats blew kisses to the crowd.

Honourable mentions

  • Joe Nieuwendyk
  • Alexander Mogilny
  • Alexei Ponikarovsky
  • Matt Stajan

This list is obviously very subjective. It is my opinion and I don't really care if anyone or everyone agrees with it. It is here only for your enjoyment in reading it and mine in writing it. If you don't agree with what I've listed, write your own damn blog.
As always, keep the home fires burning, the home fries hot, and be a Leaf fan until Niagara falls.

Next time:



  1. I loved it. I'd say I've been somewhat of a Leaf fan for the last 10 years... Definitely a more intense Leafs fan since after the lockout (finally being old enough to form my own opinions). Anyways, great read!

    You're right, it's pathetic how Leaf fans are always jumping down the throat of one poor player regardless of how much he gives to the team. I'll always feel nothing but sympathy for McCabee. Great player, wasn't given any respect.

    It's nice to see Matts at number 1. I am not going to lie I took it completely personally when he left, but after a tough seperation I think I'm ready to love him again.

  2. Great list Tracey and very well written! I agree about Domi and Tucker for sure, when they were on there game there isn't another Leafs player I can remember that bled blue and white more than those two! Well except maybe Bobby Baun, who the hell plays hockey with a broken leg!?