Beat reporter Branden Thompson dives deep into the rich history of the Maple Leafs and gives us GM Sean Hanley's views on whether the current crop of Leafs will measure up in BEARD Hockey.
When you think of hockey, three storied franchises come to mind.
The Montreal Canadiens. The Detroit Red Wings.
And whether you love them or hate them, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Before I get into this year's Toronto Maple Leafs Season Preview, I want to talk a little about the Leafs franchise history - the glory days, and the nightmares. The death of the NHL, and the birth of BEARD Hockey.
Many names over the years have donned the Leafs sweater, such as Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, Turk Broda, Terry Sawchuk, Johnny Bower, Jacques Plante, Eddie Belfour, Frank Mahovlich, Tim Horton, Borje Salming, Red Kelly, Wendell Clark, Dougie Gilmour, Mats Sundin, and Tie Domi just to name a few.
Coaches that come to mind are Conn Smythe, Dick Irvin, Hap Day, the great Punch Imlach, Pat Burns, Pat Quinn, and whether you love him or hate him, Mike Babcock. Babcock's incredible winning record does not lie about his hockey knowledge.
13 NHL Stanley Cup wins puts the Leafs with the second-most championships in NHL history. The best hockey rivalry of all time lies with the Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens (24 Cups), as for the longest time, no one could compete with those two teams. That is, until Gordie Howe came into the picture with a certain Red Wings squad...but thats a whole different story.
The Leafs won thei first Stanley Cup in the 1931-32 season. Toronto lifted five Cups in the 1940's and were runner-ups against the New York Rangers. They defeated the Montreal Canadiens in 1950-51, then won four Cups in the 1960's defeating Chicago, Detroit, and Montreal.
Of course, 1967 was the last time the Leafs hoisted the Cup.
The 1970's were a nightmare for the Leafs as they lost a lot of their key players to the WHA. The upstart league offered a lot more money than NHL teams were willing to pay their players.
The 1980's weren't much to write home about either, as Harold Ballard only cared about money instead of team success.
After a trade sending Craig Berube, Alexander Godynyuk, Gary Leeman, Michel Petit, and Jeff Reese to the Calgary Flames, things started turning around with newcomers Dougie Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Kent Manderville, Ric Nattress, and Rick Wamsley. The Leafs started becoming competitive again, and even made it to the Conference Finals three times.
And then, if it weren't for the non-called Wayne Gretzky incident in 1993, the Leafs could have arguably been Stanley Cup champions over the Montreal Canadiens. And in the 2001-02 season, Toronto lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Final, which ultimately has signified the Leafs' last successful season.
From 2005-06 to 2015-16, this was pretty much the worst era in franchise history. Toronto only made the playoffs once and lost in the first round in Game 7 to the Boston Bruins, blowing a huge three-games-to-one lead in the process.
Toronto showed a lot of promise with guys like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Freddy Andersen...but they still couldn't make it past the first round of the playoffs.
After the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020, Gary Bettman apparently decided to fold the NHL. With a lot of worried hockey fans and players wondering what to do with their life, two great men in Thomas Gidlow and Dan Bacon created BEARD Hockey, and won the rights to all the NHL cities and names (with the exception of a Dispersal Draft and an addition in the Seattle Kraken, making a league of 32 teams instead of 31).
Which leads us to our current Toronto Maple Leafs. With General Manager Sean Hanley, who didn't want to follow the mistakes of the recent past of the franchise, Toronto has stocked up the team with very strong defensive D-men. Bruce Cassidy will be the head coach.
Jaden Schwartz - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Mitch Marner
Patrick Marleau - Ryan Strome - Connor Brown
Trevor Moore - Alex Kerfoot - Nino Niederreiter
Kyle Clifford - Brandon Dubinsky - Pat Maroon
Adam Pelech - David Savard
Darnell Nurse - Nick Jensen
Adam Larsson - Mark Borowiecki
Tristan Jarry - Malcolm Subban
Scratched players and captains are yet to be determined.
The Leafs have a lot of potential with the Marlies in the AHL and a full prospect cupboard as well. And as a real-life fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I am very interested in seeing how this all folds out.
This concludes our season preview and look at the Leafs' history. Until next time, I'm Branden Thompson of the Leafs Nation News.