Yesterday we started the countdown of the Top Ten Leafs Forwards and in the traditional of preseason content we’ve stretched it out into a second day. Your exciting conclusion comes now as we look at the top 5 and the three players from the TLN All-Time Team forward group that didn’t make the cut.
When you look at Conacher’s 5 league goal scoring titles, and 2 scoring titles it might seem that putting Conacher at 5 might be a little low. Really no Leaf has ever dominating in scoring that way in the past 80 years. While the numbers love Conacher, and his success as a Leaf certainly warrant him being in the top five.
Why isn’t he higher? I guess he played too long ago. Any of our nearly 100 year old relatives might have strong opinions on him and are welcome to share them in the comment section, but for the most part the Kid Line and Conacher are just incredibly impressive stat sheets that remind us we picked the wrong century to be Leafs fans.
This will probably be the one and only time I write about my Dad’s favourite Leaf on this site since I’m not normally one for looking backwards when it comes to the Leafs, but Mahovlich was unquestionably the most elite scorer the Leafs had at a time when they were actually a very good hockey team.
Like Shawn said in his post, that wasn’t good enough for a lot of fans and Mahovlich got the Kessel treatment before the Kessel treatment was a thing. Goals don’t matter if you aren’t doing the little things too and having a lineup filled with Keons, Armstrongs, etc. that were doing those things didn’t seem to matter.
Mahovlich has a Calder, Nine All-star game appearances, and four cups to show for his time in Toronto. He’s an easy choice for fourth spot.
3. Dave Keon
Personally the top three are all pretty interchangeable and putting Keon at 3 immediately leaves a bad taste in my mouth because his style of play is the style I am most fond of. Unfortunately I am giving pure offence the edge over Keon’s well rounded two way game that became the hallmark of the perennial Selke winner. Why can’t I hate Patrice Bergeron because he’s a Keon type player and they are too likeable because they do everything so well and seem like the smartest players on the ice.
In addition to being a four time Stanley Cup champion, Keon has a couple of Lady Byngs, a Calder, and most importantly a Conn Smythe to his name. Obviously the last Leaf to win the Conn Smythe. His falling out with Harold Ballard may have made it difficult for us to fully appreciate how great Keon is, but much like Teeder Kennedy, Keon is the type of player the Leafs have spent decades coveting.
2. Mats Sundin
The franchise leader in goals and assists comes in at number two and like Keon you can easily make a case for him at number one as well.
Mats was arguably the most consistent scorer the Leafs ever had, as he was automatic for 30 goals and 80 points year in and year out. It’s easy to make a case for why he’s great because we’ve all seen him and associate him with the best Leafs hockey of this century. We all know how he suffered through years of horrible wingers, how he had spent his last years being rumoured to every team at some point or another, and we know that his talent level is unmatched in the past 20 years of Leafs hockey.
Unfortunately, all Mats to show for his awesomeness are All-Star game and Conference Final appearances.
Why Sittler? Sundin has the franchise scoring record. Keon has more hardware. I guess my argument for Sittler is that gave us the last truly special moment in Leafs history, and that’s his ten point game. Besides that Sittler and Sundin score at a similar rate, had similar team success, it’s just the extra season that Sundin had with the Leafs gave him all the franchise records.
Sittler is also a homegrown success story and offers some hope that some day the Leafs will once again draft an elite forward in the first round and stick with their development and have someone who lead their team by age 24.
Who was left out?
From our All-Time Team we had to drop three forwards: Rick Vaive, Cecil “Babe” Dye, and Phillip J. Kessel.
Rick Vaive and Phil Kessel were left out of the top ten for very similar reasons. While they were dominate scorers, they were not on memorable teams, or at least teams that were memorable for the right reasons. You could transplant either player onto a roster in any other era and probably make a case for them being similar to Mahovlich, but while they did a lot, they didn’t do enough to make their teams contenders.
Should that be entirely on them? No. When it comes to list building and you need to establish what really makes a player count as a top ten player on a hundred year old team, yeah, it starts to matter.
As for Babe Dye, he put up some amazing numbers but there also was no such thing as the forward pass at that time. Arguably hockey is a very different game now and the evolution of the game makes it easy to exclude someone who played the primitive version of what we see today. Plus he was a St. Pat for those seasons and technically isn’t an all-time Leaf.