TLN Top 10: Leafs Forwards, 10-6

At this point you’ve seen the TLN All-Time Roster, you’ve seen the lines we’d roll with them, but we haven’t actually ranked them until now. We’re taking a slightly different approach and the rankings have entirely been left in my hands with the caveat of not being able to introduce any new forwards into the mix. So my apologies to Benoit Hogue, Mike Johnson, and Peter Zezel who I love so much, but wouldn’t be able to sausage into the top ten. The same is true of other deserving forwards like Joe Primeau, Busher Jackson, and Ron Ellis who were all given some consideration when we made the All-Time team, which is still somewhat contentious to even those of us who made it.

Today we’ll give you 6-10, tomorrow you’ll get the top five forwards according to me, since I’m clearly the authority of the nearly 100 years of Leafs history and I’m sure there will be nothing to debate.

10. Syl Apps

Syl has the numbers (1.02 ppg as a Leaf) to warrant being on the All-Time team and statistically you could make a case for him being in the top ten forwards group as well based on that production, but one of the things that separated my reasoning from some of the others who have been contributing to this project is that for me it’s more the stories surrounding the player that define their worth as Leafs, as well as being a part of team that had success.

Syl Apps fits the criteria of being a Leafs legend quite easily. Here’s a guy who held off joining the Leafs in 1936 so he could go to Berlin to be an Olympic pole vaulter, and less than a decade later left the Leafs so he could return to Germany to fight Nazis. 

Throw in a Lady Byng win, three cups, and his captaincy and it’s not too difficult to see why we value Apps as one of the greatest Leafs forwards.

9. Doug Gilmour

It kind of pains me to put Gilmour this low on the list because he really is the player I most associate with my happiest time as a Leafs fan. The trade that made Gilmour a Leaf was such robbery that he was a fan favourite before he even played a game for the Leafs and Dougie just got better from there.

With Gilmour as the top line center the Leafs had back to back Conference Final appearances which is pretty much as good as it gets for the Leafs post-1967 and his Selke Award was the last major performance award brought home by a Leaf.

By the numbers Dougie is a shoo-in for this list too. His 127 point season was a Leafs best, and his 1.15 points per game is unmatched. 

So I guess the real question is why is he not higher? I guess it comes down to the fact we really only had three full seasons of Gilmour although he played in parts of six as a Leaf. There was the season he was acquired from Calgary, the year he was dealt to New Jersey, and the shortened 1994-95 season that worked against him. A longer tenure and you could probably make a case for Gilmour at or near #1. 

8. Lanny McDonald

I love that this project means I get to write about how much I love Lanny McDonald twice. If you click the link above you can read more about my love of Lanny, but I also love what Lanny represents. Lanny represents a time when the Leafs had a 40 goal per season winger playing with a 100 point per season center in Sittler and in the past 50 years having those two types of players at the same time is a rarity. 

McDonald was a reliable scorer who very quickly adapted to the league, his success with the Leafs came when he was just breaking into the league, and it’s truly outstanding that he was able to claw his way up the lineup card so quickly. 

Lanny was a player who was born to be a Leaf (his middle name is King as in King Clancy and he wore number 7 to recognize Clancy again) and his trade led to fans protesting outside of Maple Leaf Gardens. McDonald is one of the greatest “what could have been” stories for the Leafs, as keeping him would’ve meant McDonald and Salming entering their prime at the same time together. That might not have been enough to deal with some of the powerhouse teams of the 70s and 80s, but it would’ve been better than what the 80s had in store for Toronto.

7. George Armstrong

When you have a player who has been honoured as much as Armstrong at number seven you know that 

A) your organization has been around a long time

B) your organization has some really great players at 1-6

Armstrong first and foremost was the captain who led the Leafs to their last great cup dynasty. His four cups in the 60s are the reason my Dad will always be happier about being a Leafs fan than I am. 

By the numbers, Armstrong doesn’t seem like a fit for this list, but the big number for him is 1188. The nearly 1200 games that Armstrong played as a Leaf and the fact that the bulk of those games were played with a C on his chest make the difference. We got some flack for not including Wendel Clark on our All-Time Team, but one of the reasons for that is Armstrong was Clark before Clark, and he did it better and in more successful times. 

6. Ted Kennedy

The long serving Senator from Massachusetts was a part of one the greatest politcal families of the twentieth century. Despite what happened in Chappaquiddick his lega…

I’m sorry. I’m being told I have the wrong Ted Kennedy. The Leafs “Teeder” Kennedy was far better anyway and sixty years ago he was the last Leaf to win the Hart. That and being a part of five cup winning teams probably is a good reason why Kennedy was the first Leaf named to Legends Row. 

Decades later Kennedy is still the prototype for the type of player the majority of fans and media want every Leaf to be. A blend of talent, grit, and intensity that makes it difficult for the opposition to line up against him on every shift. Not a bad thing to strive for but Kennedy was a stand out, unique player in the 50s and finding a guy who plays the game he does is just as rare today.

  • silentbob

    What amuses me is that future leaf team players will in the minds of Dubas and many of the media analytic crowd have to score high in several analytical categories. This is the way the game of hockey is going as our other sports.

    Yet some of the writers in here have noooo problem in ranking a guy who has played a one way game his entire career. Thus making one Phil Kessel extremely weak when it comes to defensive analytics.

    Seems to reek of a hypocrtital attitude. Don’t you think.

  • Gary Empey

    It must be very difficult to compare today’s modern hockey players to the original six NHL teams. It was expansion that caused the explosion in goal scoring and assists.

    Today if one reduced the 30 NHL teams back to only six teams made up of the very best, I think you would find a lot of today’s stars not good enough to play on the six best teams.