Getty Images (Ed. Be aware: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer mission, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to establish the very best player in their favourite workforce’s history for every major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their standards, as long as they will justify it. Learn, debate and revel in! If you want to accomplish that on Twitter, it is #NHLoN.)
By Maple Leafs Scorching Stove
Canada: Dave Keon
Dave Keon was an exquisite Maple Leaf for 15 seasons but may have been, if not the “best”, definitely probably the most complete all-round player within the NHL for a five-12 months interval within the nineteen sixties.
I would argue that between 1962 and 1967, no other player did extra things properly than the diminutive Leaf middle. He was arguably the fastest skater in the league, and a peerless penalty-killer. Remarkably, he just about never took a penalty himself, averaging maybe two minors a season all through most of his profession. He was robust on face-offs, however perhaps most importantly was typically tasked with shutting down the most effective heart on the opposing teams, a job he dealt with splendidly.
While not primarily a purpose-scorer, his trademark was nonetheless scoring big goals, including at playoff time. He gained the Conn Smythe Trophy within the spring of ’sixty seven when the underdog Leafs final won a Cup, however it’s troublesome to imagine he wouldn’t have received it extra typically had that trophy been in existence when the Leafs ruled the NHL between 1962 and 1964. He was a relentless forechecker and whereas not known as a physical player within the typical sense, he used angles so expertly that he led his group in ‘take-outs’ — whereby he eliminated the person who just had the puck from the play solely — every season.
While I have many vivid memories of particular person plays and moments involving Keon (his ‘hat trick’ in Game 7 of the 1964 semi-finals in Montreal, when the Leafs won 3-1 jumps to mind, alongside along with his clinching markers within the final game of the ’63 and ’sixty four Cup finals towards the Pink Wings), what stands out most for me, even in any case these years, was his consistency. Virtually each recreation was, for Keon, a carbon copy of the game that preceded it. He was that constant by way of high quality, effort and dedication. Having mentioned that, I’d nonetheless make the case that in big games and key moments, especially come playoff time, he by some means discovered an excellent higher gear.
How good was Keon? I’ll always recall listening (on the radio this night time, not television) to the legendary broadcaster Foster Hewitt calling a late-season Leaf recreation at Maple Leaf Gardens towards the end of the 1972-’seventy three NHL schedule. After losing a number of key young gamers to the fledgling World Hockey Affiliation earlier than that season started, the Leafs struggled mightily that 12 months. Yet Keon had another standout season, inflicting Hewitt to comment that night, “The place would this Maple Leaf team be without Dave Keon?”
Indeed. One line said it all.
There have been many other Canadians who wore the Leaf crest with pleasure and distinction, and I’d not argue if any one in all them had been named the best “Canadian-born” Maple Leaf. But nearly as good and important as all these gamers had been, my guess is few, if any, would take umbrage with the notion of Keon standing at the top of this checklist.
- Michael Langlois, Classic Leaf Memories
Finland : Niklas Hagman
If you wish to gain an understanding of the place the Leafs have gone incorrect in the past couple of decades, you need to look no further than the checklist of Finnish Maple Leaf gamers. Each mistake this franchise has made be represented with a Finnish player.
The Leafs trying to get the final drop of blood out of an growing old veteran: Jyrki Lumme.
Taking a chance on a player who might need a change of scenery: Aki Berg.
Giving up a excessive draft pick for a backup goaltender: the pile of flaming sizzling garbage that’s Vesa Toskala.
That leaves one Finn that Toronto fans haven’t tried to erase from our recollections: Niklas Hagman. Nik was introduced in to the Leafs group in that magical time after the firing of John Ferguson Jr. and before the hiring of Brian Burke when Leafs followers thought something was doable. Cliff Fletcher was quickly in charge and was going to proper the ship by constructing a basis for success in Toronto.
One of his first strikes was bringing in Hagman as a free agent. Hagman would deliver two 20-purpose seasons and would be one of many few penalty killers who didn’t make our eyes bleed on these teams, however really he’s memorable for 3 causes:
1. Having an extremely sizzling wife
2. This goal
3. And being sufficient of an asset that he could possibly be bundled with Jamal Mayers, Ian White and Matt Stajan to deliver Dion Phaneuf to Toronto, giving us one of the biggest message board threads of all time.
Kudos to Niklas Hagman, but a solemn honourable point out goes to Tuukka Rask. He was robbed of his alternative of turning into the greatest Finnish Maple Leaf of all time and will have to settle for that recognition with a lesser franchise. And better of luck to Christopher Gibson (great Finnish name). Breaking Toronto’s Finnish goaltending curse now rests on you.
USA: Phil Kessel
When Wendel Clark was traded for Mats Sundin, one thought on the time that there would never be a extra polarizing trade for fans of the Maple Leafs.
In September of 2009, a challenger emerged.
Phil Kessel arrived in Toronto with the stigma of being part of a trade in which the Leafs were viewed as getting completely hosed: A 2nd general decide (Tyler Pig-Pen Seguin), a 2nd round decide (Jared Knight) and a 1st round pick (seventh total) the next yr (Dougie Hamilton).
It couldn’t have looked worse because the Leafs stumbled to consecutive lottery decide finishes, but time has a funny means of adjusting the way in which you view hockey trades. As of the previous two seasons, it’s began to slide into Toronto’s favour as Kessel continues to stake his declare as one of the crucial talented gamers to swimsuit up for an almost 100-12 months-old franchise.
His velocity, his shot and his launch make him one of those rare combos each group appears to be like for in a winger. You would argue that whereas he isn’t the very best Leaf of all time, he is within the dialog for probably the most gifted. The last few seasons have seen Kessel grow to be extra than simply the one-dimensional scoring winger he was often pigeon holed as in his Boston and early Leaf days; he’s equally elite at playmaking as he’s ending.
Since 2010-eleven, Kessel has change into a dominant participant in the NHL. 5th in goals scored, 7th in factors – all carried out with out having a No. 1 centerman to play with. Playoffs? Small samples sizes, certain, however he was 2nd within the league for targets per sport in the playoffs against a workforce that isn’t recognized for given up many targets.
Knocks about being a bad teammate from his NHL combine days have been far off the mark. In actual fact, the other is true—he is extensively lauded as being one of the most fashionable players within the room. It’s definitely true that Kessel will never be a pure in entrance of the digicam, which is more hilarious than legit grounds for criticizing a hockey player. As it stands, he appears to be like prone to break into the highest-25 Leafs of all time this season for objectives and bust into the highest 30 for points, forward of Doug Gilmour. He’s still just 25 years of age.
Fans ought to be hoping that Kessel indicators long-time period for the Leafs (he turns into a UFA next summer time), and his contract will most certainly make him one of many highest paid gamers in the league. He deserves it. His common season and put up-season play have been fantastic, he’s the most offensively-gifted player on the workforce and, whereas he lacks a true #1 centerman by his side, he continues to pile up level-a-game numbers and sit among the league leaders in the most important categories.
- Declan Kerin
Sweden: Mats Sundin
Let’s get the runner up’s tremendous-worthy honourable point out out of the best way: Börje Salming delivered an incredible combination of talent and toughness in a black-and-blue-hued period of the NHL, breaking floor for each European player that adopted. A type of gamers – and the one we now have to go with for best Swede – is Mats Sundin. The hockey player’s…uh, Swedish Army knife: a whole package of potential, management, and integrity. An enormous-bodied first line centre and longtime captain whose legendary backhand helped cement him atop the Leafs’ all-time scoring record with 987 factors. His Torontonian tenure is marred only by its lack of a Stanley Cup – a failure that was far from being his personal, given that his providers and legacy stand up alongside another man privileged to have worn the Leafs’ “C”.
- Matt Mistele
Russia: Alex Mogilny
The Leafs have had some success with Russian hockey gamers prior to now two and half a long time. Naming the perfect one presents a bit of a problem. There have been two strong defenders who definitely deserve a salute. Danil Markov, and particularly Dmitri Yushkevich were largely responsible for the previous few seasons the Leafs truthfully could call their blue line “intimidating.” Sergei Berezin, Nikolai Kulemin, and Nikolai Borschevsky have all been “unbeeleelaba” and every managed 30-goal seasons in Toronto, though the participant who seems to be the slim favorite of the Russian Leafs is Alexander Mogilny.
Mogilny’s best contribution the Leafs is within the following dialog:
“The Leafs would have been a decent crew in the event that they ever discovered somebody to play on Sundin’s wing.”
“What about Mogilny?”
“Oh yeah, he was good.”
The numbers that back that up got here during 2002-03, his finest season in Toronto. Alex Mogilny put up 33 objectives and 79 factors in a seventy three sport stretch, profitable the Woman Byng, which would be the final main recreation play related award won by a Leaf until the NHL adopts their own model of the Razzies (Jason Blake did win the Masterton in 2008). Essentially the most memorable stretch of hockey played by Mogilny as a Leaf was when Sundin was down for the 2003 playoffs and Alex put up 5 goals in six video games in a futile effort. Not precisely on par with Borschevsky’s OT winner towards Detroit, however I suppose as time marches on first round playoff victories within the early 90s don’t imply as a lot because the uncooked expertise of Alexander Mogilny, who provided us with a tease of what the Leafs could have been in the event that they ever dressed two excessive-finish forwards on the same line.
- Jon Steitzer
Slovakia: Peter Ihnacak
Unfortunately, Ihnacak played with the Leafs within the 1980s (it’s good to know this wasn’t enough to discourage him from working with the Leafs in the scouting capacity afterward in life). While he never matched his 1983-’eighty three rookie season (he was already in his mid-20s by then, nonetheless) in terms of offensive manufacturing, when he netted 66 factors, he played the sport with aptitude and creativity. A superb skater who had glorious on-ice vision and a fantastic really feel for the sport, Ihnacak was a heady heart.
While hardly a bodily presence, he was a nifty playmaker for the Leafs throughout the high-scoring ‘80s. He played his last video games for Toronto during the 1989-’90 season. In simply over four hundred NHL games with Toronto, he finished with 267 common-season career factors, and 14 more in 28 lifetime playoff video games.
- Michael Langlois, Classic Leaf Memories
Czech Republic: Tomas Kaberle
When taking a look at Leafs all time leaders, he’s eighth in games played, fifth in assists, and eleventh in factors. Once you examine him to other defensemen, he’s solely behind Salming for factors and assists and solely Salming, Horton and Turnbull for targets. He also holds the NHL career record for number of assholes yelling “SHOOT!” at him while quarterbacking a power play. Of course, I’m talking in regards to the one and only Tomas Kaberle, who’s the no-brainer alternative for Top Czech (sorry, Slava Duris).
Besides the Kaberle capturing fable, Tomas was also known for being involved in each trade hearsay involving the Leafs following the primary lockout, with the favourites being a deadline deal for Jeff Carter and the draft day deal for Phil Kessel that died attributable to miscommunication over a primary round choose. When Kaberle was eventually traded he stored his loyalty to the Leafs by ensuring he added absolutely no worth to the Bruins, a follow that he would then carry ahead with the Hurricanes and Canadiens as effectively.
Focusing more on what he did whereas he was a Leaf, Kaberle used his skating skill combined with his accuracy to be one of many league’s top offensive defensemen and a 4 time All-Star. Sadly possession hockey was banished from the Better Toronto Area in 2012 so it’s unlikely we’ll see another participant like Kaberle anytime soon. (I assume Carlyle has Colton Orr mentoring Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly).
Presently unemployed, odds aren’t great that Kaberle might be persevering with his NHL career, but it surely’s debatable that his numbers are good enough that he might be the subsequent participant to have his number honoured by the Leafs, changing into only the third European player in Toronto’s historical past to have his quantity in the rafters. If that is the case, I hope he brings along these guys.
- Jon Steitzer
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
Steve Thomas (England)
With all due respect to the Polish Prince Mariusz Czerkawski, it wasn’t too troublesome to come up with a reputation for the Best of Relaxation. That player is Steve “Stumpy” Thomas from jolly ol’ England.
There have been 18 gamers in Maple Leafs history that come from exterior the massive seven hockey countries together with the hockey hotbeds of Estonia, Ireland and the Bahamas, but of these players Thomas leads the group in points, points per recreation, and seasons suffered underneath Harold Ballard. Nikolai Antropov has Thomas beat on objectives by seven, but that came to visit the course of 132 more video games for the Leafs.
While Thomas’ greatest seasons came on Lengthy Island, he had a few notable ones in Toronto both on the increase and decline of his career within the NHL. In 1986-87, Thomas had a 35-objective season which set off the alarm in Toronto that they needed to rid themselves of this good young player instantly. When he eventually returned to Toronto in the ninety eight-99 season, he put up seventy three factors after only managing 24 the earlier season in New Jersey.
Thomas additionally spent part of his time in Toronto as an extra in Youngblood, famously getting towel snapped by Patrick Swayze, which because of Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky is only the second strangest video by players on this grouping.
Here’s the arduous working Thomas dismantling the Sens within the 2000 playoffs (please note the rare Sergei Berezin go on the OT winner).