Relive the 2012-2013 Toronto Maple Leafs Season

The 2012-2013 Toronto Maple Leafs season was probably the most painful in the last decade, so bear with me. 

On May 16th, 2013, the Guardian published an article with this headline: 

Maple Leafs add to 46 years of hurt with 10 minutes of playoff madness

That… well, that sums it up. (I apologize in advance). 


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Notable Transactions

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courtesy of

  • The Leafs probably made their best entry-level signing when they brought Morgan Rielly on for his three year ELC in August of 2012. Since he’s literally the only Toronto draft pick since 2009 who has played in more than 16 (?!?!) NHL games, it’s fair to say the team did all right with this one. He wouldn’t make the jump from major junior to the NHL until the next season, though, meaning that Rielly has literally never experienced happiness with the Toronto Maple Leafs. 
  • Matt Frattin, coming off a moderately successful rookie campaign, was inked to a two-year extension on July 1st, 2012. Of course, he then got bounced around a bit, getting dealt to the Kings by the end of the year with Ben Scrivens for Jonathan Bernier. (He’ll return to the Leafs a year later, where they’ll sign him to yet another two-year extension and keep him in the minors).  
  •  Leo Komarov’s one year ELC, along with Ben Scrivens’ one year extension, would probably be the other two smart moves the Leafs made – although Mark Fraser looked like a good deal at the time, I suppose. The Leafs wouldn’t extend Cody Franson until the lockout ended, although they did keep him around, and Nickolay Kulemin would also get himself an extension prior to the start of the season. 
The biggest whopper of the 2012-2013 season, of course, would be the five year extension given to Joffrey Lupul on January 20, 2013. Worth $26.25M AAV, Lupul’s deal would get signed a whopping three days before a Dion Phaneuf slapshot would break Lupul’s arm and hold him out of all but sixteen games of the shortened season. Since Lupul seems to be about as breakable as a Pringles chip, this deal would go sour pretty quickly. 

The most expensive signing made during the 2012-2013 season was the Lupul extension; the next highest salary inked was Kulemin’s (worth $2.8M AAV over two years), followed by Franson’s $1.2M extension and Jay McClement’s $1.5M AAV deal. Since the Lupul extension was signed within weeks of the shift from Burke to Nonis (which we’ll get to shortly), it marks the end of ‘rational’ contracts and the beginning of probably the biggest tire fire in recent Leafs history. I didn’t like the John Ferguson, Jr. management era – but I really hated the Nonis era.  

Season Recap

The 2012-2013 season, as we all remember all too well, was shortened due to the most recent lockout – so we’ve only got 48 games to recap, which is probably for the best. 

This would be the first season of Randy Carlyle in Toronto, and the team’s ability to see playoff action probably bought him a hell of a lot more time than he deserved in the front seat. The team’s 26-17-5 record resulted in a .429 points percentage for the team, suggesting that their awful possession numbers probably would have caught up to the Leafs eventually and caused them to miss the post-season had they been required to play all 82 games of a traditional year. 

Want proof? The Leafs recorded a CF% of 43.9 over the regular season and playoffs combined – the lowest in the NHL. 

The entire roster averaged a 10.0 SH%, which was the highest in the league and probably elevated them to playoff status; for a bit of perspective, the lowest shooting percentage team in the league (The Florida Panthers, who shot at an abysmal 5.8% as a team) even managed to post better possession numbers with a 49.2 CF%. The jump from the Leafs’ possession metrics to the next-worst team’s was over 1% – and that figure belonged to the disastrous Edmonton Oilers. 

Yesterday, Jon Steitzer brought everyone back through the 2011-2012 season, which was legitimately heinous – and it’s likely that the tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens in 2012-2013 helped fix the mess left by Jonas Gustavsson, so the regular season wasn’t all bad. The Leafs also got a 20 goal, 52 point year from Phil Kessel, which put him on pace for 40 goals in a regular year – and Cody Franson did particularly well, as the blue liner proved he was good for 29 points in just 45 games. 

We could talk about Clarke MacArthur (who had a great year, which Nonis rewarded by letting him walk that summer) or Mikhail Grabovski, who Nonis decided was a fantastic buyout candidate (spoiler alert- he wasn’t, and Nonis is terrible). Overall, though, the best way to describe the 2012-2013 season was a brief period of luck-driven happiness… which basically ended with the 2013 playoffs. 


There’s really no other way to put it: the 2013 playoffs pretty much summarize how the Leafs have made me feel since they fired Pat Quinn. They made this sweeping comeback in the first round, where a 3-1 series lead for the Boston Bruins was completely erased by the Leafs through the forcing of a game seven – then the Leafs then took that game seven, went up 4-1, and somehow managed to blow a three-goal lead with ten minutes left in the third period. The Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line then scored in overtime (with the goal scored by St. Patrice, just to rub salt into the wounds of Canadian hearts across Toronto) and eliminated the Leafs in the Leafiest way possible. 

Apparently, momentum matters in hockey, and seven years of suck eventually caught up to the Leafs in a ten-minute tornado of playoff disaster. 

I won’t even talk about the off-season, because where does one start? Despite Scrivens looking competent, the Leafs dealt him and a decent-upside prospect (along with a draft pick and some cash, because why not?) for Jonathan Bernier. They then threw draft picks at the Blackhawks like candy for Dave Bolland, because Nonis has no clue, and made major upheavals to the roster without any real direction or purpose to it. 

When Dave Nonis was fired this summer, fellow TLN blogger-slash-Sportsnet ninja Steve Dangle described Nonis’ regime as akin to giving the keys to a Ferarri to someone who’s never driven a car before. That’s… well, the 2012-2013 season was Nonis’ attempt at backing that Ferarri out of the driveway. 

Team Leading Scorers

GOALS Phil Kessel 20
ASSISTS Phil Kessel 32
POINTS Phil Kessel 52
PPG Phil Kessel 6
PIM   Colton Orr 155
SV% James Reimer .924
GAA James Reimer 2.46
Wins James Reimer 19

Re-Thinking the 2012-2013 Team

Apart from… well, in order to re-think this season, we’d have to go back to spring of 2012 and not hire Randy Carlyle, then not make a transition from Burke to Nonis. Literally everything done under Nonis was akin to a giant question mark of awful, and practically everything that has made Randy Carlyle an effective coach in the past was wrong for the Leafs. They were an awful possession team – which really begins and ends with the lineup that Nonis gave Carlyle – and had great goaltending, but somehow didn’t evaluate that correctly to go with all the mistakes made with everything else. 

Buying out Mikhail Grabovski that summer, then tossing away three perfectly respectable draft picks for Dave Bolland (who is a Grabovski replacement at best and a future Florida Panther at worst), sums up Nonis’ understanding of cap management, asset management, and player evaluation. There’s not much else to say about that. 

Probably, the best thing for the Leafs would have been holding on to Burke. That’s… I guess that’s the only thing that I can re-think for the Leafs here. 

  • Brooksterman

    I remember the lockout shortened season as being the year that the team was only going as far as Reimer could carry them. He was my MVP of the Leafs for the season and ever since then the organization has treated him like garbage.

  • Jeremy Ian

    We all love hindsight. The 3rd period of Game 7 was truly heartbreaking.

    But the season was not a horrible until the offseason. One continuity from all these great retrospectives is that the Leafs had many years of absolutely crippling goaltending. That situation finally turned around, which meant that the team could — in theory — allow other issues to be addressed. Certainly, it makes the Bernier deal a little puzzling.

    But Nonis didn’t. Steve is right: he was clueless, and that’s where things went south.

    It was not just the buy-out of Grabovski (and Komisarek!) and then the trade for Bolland. Not just letting Mac go for nothing.

    It was also July: the Clarkson deal for 7 years and resigning Bozak for 5 more years.

    Joe Colborne was dished in September while Orr and McLaren remained on the team.

    That’s a horrible summer.

      • Jeremy Ian

        Hey Cat — yeah, I guess you have to spread the misery around a bit across the seasons, at least for narrative purposes. But what I’d say is that 12-13 was not as bad as what came afterwards. At least to me it wasn’t the most painful in the past decade; just game 7 was. 13-14 and 14-15 were pure, unadulterated, and prolonged, pain.

        OK, I’ll be sure to have my single malt on hand when I read your narrative for 13-14.

        When you read the composite of the decade in review for all the seasonal write-ups, the first half looks like some unfortunate decision-making and atrocious goaltending. But the coaching was not always bad. Then things flipped; the goaltending improved when Reimer took the No. 1 spot, but the decision making and coaching nose-dived.

        You, Justin, Jeffler might consider pulling back the lens and taking a look at the decade as whole and talk with us about turning points, might-have-beens, and big lessons. That might yield to a lot of debate in the forum section.

        It certainly feels now that under Shanahan that the whole decade is finally coming to a close, so what did we just endure?

  • Harte of a Lion

    I am wondering if this series of articles is meant to both torture us diehard Leaf fans while kicking us when we are at our lowest?
    I for one don’t need to relive possibly the worst times the Leafs Nation has had to endure from the 1994 lockout to the end of last season.

    There is light at the end of the tunnel Leafs faithful, with Babs coaching, we will never have to endure another game where the team “mails it in”
    Shanahan has created an incredibly forward thinking management team and with members like Dubas creating a tiered development system with both the Solar Bears and Marlies working with a “development first” attitude similar to what MLB has done for years, the future for all our prospects look bright.

    Finally, anyone not on board will be dispatched elsewhere or our Godfather Lou will make them an offer they can’t refuse!

    Go Leafs Go!!!

    • Jeremy Ian

      But what’s failure worth if you are not going to learn from it? In any event, you are right, things have changed very quickly. Which goes to show you that they can!

  • Gary Empey

    The one nice thing about this season was younger Leaf fans got to see how exciting the playoffs are when your team is in it.

    With Reilly coming soon, it looked at the time there could be future with these players.

    One would have to say Nonis gravely miss-judged what he had, and his efforts to improve the team were a complete and utter disaster.

    I think when Shanahan looked back at this season he realized the Leaf scouts and advisers that Nonis was using were just as incompetent as Nonis himself.

  • MatsSundin#13

    I remember this season all too well – the second season in which my Dad and I could finally watch every Leaf game thanks to NHL GameCentre Live, and the first in which the Leafs gave me a hope that reminded me of being two years old and shouting “Mats Sundin!!” at the top of my lungs. When Bergeron scored the deciding goal I literally couldn’t feel any emotion; I got up and went upstairs and ran around crazily like a madman. Gardiner finally looked good in that series, and I hope he and Rielly start to really break out this year and become veteran d-men for the likes of Percy and Dermott, hoping to make the playoffs again soon!!