Coming up with a list of the top 10 Toronto Maple Leafs of all time was no easy task. Sure, they haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967, but still this team has seen a lot of superstars come and go after the better part of a century of existence. However much we in Western Canada might grumble about it, there is no question that Toronto is the hub of the hockey world, and the Maple Leafs generate more revenue than any other team in the league. As such, hockey players throughout the world dream of suiting up for this storied franchise some day. Here is my list of the best who have had that honor:
10 – Syl Apps
This former Olympic pole vaulter was an all around athlete, and he excelled for the Maple Leafs in the 1930s and 1940s. He was the first ever winner of the Calder trophy, given to the league’s best rookie, in 1937, picking up 45 points in just 48 games in his freshman campaign. Apps was remarkably consistent throughout his career, always seeming to average just about a point a game in every season he played. This gentlemanly player racked up 432 points and a very sportsmanlike 56 penalty minutes in his 423 career games and helped the Leafs to 3 Stanley Cups during his time with the club.
9 – Mats Sundin
This Swedish superstar was as unstoppable as anyone in hockey when he has the puck down low. Though many may question his inclusion, I can’t think of a single reason to keep Sundin off my list of the top 10 Toronto Maple Leafs of all time. Sure, he didn’t win a Stanley Cup with the club, but he did everything humanly possible to accomplish that goal. He is the all time goals and points leader for the club, and was an underrated leader during his time with the team.
8 – Borje Salming
While not the first Swedish born player to suit up for an NHL game, Salming was certainly the first Swede to become an NHL superstar. This hatchet faced offensive defenseman first suited up for the Leafs in the early 70s and was a huge crowd favorite. Salming was so popular he received a 5 minute standing ovation from the Leaf’s faithful during the player announcements prior to a 1976 Canada Cup game between Canada and Sweden. He amassed 787 points during his NHL career, and his number 21 is one of a select few to hang in the rafters of the Air Canada Center, having been retired by the Leafs.
7 – Turk Broda
This contemporary of Syl Apps is the first (perhaps only?) goalie on this list of the top 10 Toronto Maple Leafs of all time. He backstopped them during what was arguably the most successful period in the history of the Maple Leafs, helping them win an impressive 5 Stanley Cups, while capturing 2 Vezina trophies along the way for his stingy goals against average.
6 – Ted “Teeder” Kennedy
A 4 time Stanley Cup winner during the glory days of the Maple Leafs, Teeder Kennedy was a dominant player for the Leafs during the 1940s and early 1950s. He starred alongside Howie Meeker and Vic Lynn forming the original “KLM Line”. He wasn’t a great skater, but his ferocious forechecking kept opponents hemmed in their zone, and forced turnovers on many a Leafs goal. He captained the team later in his career, and finally won the Hart trophy as the league’s MVP in his final season in 1955.
5 – Frank Mahovlich
No list of the Top 10 Maple Leafs would be complete without “The Big M” making an appearance. This 6’1″, 205 pounder of Croatian descent made an immediate impact in his first season in the NHL, netting 20 goals and winning the Calder trophy as rookie of the year. In the 1960-61 season he netted 48 goals, at the time a team record that would stand for 21 years. Unfortunately, Mahovlich had a contentious relationship with team coach Punch Imlach, and the relationship grew so strained Mahovlich was eventually dealt to the Red Wings, where he enjoyed great success before going on to finish his career with the Canadiens.
4 – Tim Horton
The co-founder of the wildly popular Canadian donut and coffee franchise, Tim Horton’s, this former Leaf defenseman played 22 seasons in the NHL before dying in an automobile accident in 1974. During his years with the Leafs Horton was the anchor on defense, racking up close to 500 points for the team and helping them to 4 Stanley Cups. At one stretch this determined d-man played through injury to appear in 486 consecutive regular season games. His dedication and skill make him an automatic for this list of the greatest Maple Leafs ever.
3 – Darryl Sittler
The fact that this Leaf legend once scored an incredible 10 points in a single game is reason enough to include him on this list. Superstars like Gretzky, Orr, Howe and Lemieux were never able to match this feat, despite their legendary skill. Yet, it isn’t just this amazing stat that gains Sittler consideration as one of the best Leafs ever. In the 1975-76 season Sittler became the first player in Leaf history to reach the magical 100 point plateau. He would better the mark 2 seasons later, racking up 117 points. Though he, like Sundin, would be unable to lead the team to a Stanley Cup, it was through not fault of his own the Leafs didn’t win the big prize during his tenure there. With over 900 points in a Leafs uniform he certainly did his part.
2 – Charlie Conacher
“The Big Bomber” just barely misses the number 1 spot on the list of the top 10 Toronto Maple Leafs of all time. This hulking power forward dominated the game in the 1930s, helping his Leafs to 1 Stanley Cup, and finishing as runners up 6 additional times. With the hardest shot in the game at the time, Conacher terrorized opposing (maskless) goaltenders, ripping home 225 goals in 460 career games with the Leafs as a member of the original “Kid Line”, including a span where he led the league in goal scoring for 5 straight seasons. Though injuries obtained by his bruising style of play cut his career short, there can be no question Conacher must be considered one of the greatest Leafs ever.
1 – Dave Keon
With the greatest backhand shot in the history of the game, this diminutive center had goalies guessing just how he was going to put the puck past them. Keon didn’t let his small stature keep him from being a dominant player in the game. In his first season in the NHL he racked up 20 goals, and 45 points, earning him the Calder trophy. Keon was just getting started though. He would continue to score at a consistent clip over the next several seasons, all the while earning a reputation as one of the great defensive players in the game. Keon’s steady two-way play would help the Leafs capture 4 Stanley Cups in the 1960s, including their last in 1967, with Keon winning the Conn Smythe that year as the playoff MVP.
There you have it. The top 10 Toronto Maple Leafs of all time. With so many great Leafs to choose from, controversy is inevitable, but there is no question these 10 deserve consideration as the best ever.
Featured image by grilled cheese