Team Profile: The Toronto Maple Leafs

And here we have another Original Six team. With that of course comes a long and distinguished history. Recently they have struggled quite a bit, and are currently in a rebuild stage, but with the addition of first overall draft pick Auston Matthews, as well as a group of young dynamic players, their time as a bottom dwelling team might be coming to an end.

Here is the abridged overview:

  • Located in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference
  • Founded in 1917
  • Located in Toronto, Ontario
  • Arena: Air Canada Centre
  • Owner: Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment
  • GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Head Coach: Mike Babcock
  • Captain: vacant
  • Minor League Affiliate: Toronto Marlies
  • Stanley Cups: 13

Because of time constraints (this is what happened when you procrastinate), here is a list of interesting facts about the Leafs:

The NHL was formed in 1917 because owners of the teams in the NHA couldn’t legally vote out one if its members, Eddie Livingston, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts. So instead, the owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs, and Ottawa Senators created their own league. Livingston and the Blueshirts were left in the NHA by themselves.

The new league wanted a team in Toronto, so they allowed Arena Company to borrow players from the Blueshirts to create a team. The team didn’t have an official name at the time but went by Torontos or Blueshirts. The Arena Company, rather than return the borrowed players, kept them and formed their own team, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club.

At one point the teams colors were green (they were the Toronto St. Patrick’s at the time).

Conn Smythe (yes of the playoff MVP trophy), purchased the team in 1927. He was the one that named them the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Apparently there is some debate about the origin of the name, the Leafs. The most commonly accepted and most likely source of the name is the Maple Leaf Regiment from World War I. But another source says Smythe got the name from a team he had once scouted, the East Toronto Maple Leafs. Since the name is a proper noun, it is the Leafs, not Leaves.

The Leafs held the first NHL All-Star Game. It was held to benefit their star forward, Ace Bailey who was nearly killed when he was checked into the boards at full speed (always scary, but this was pre helmet era, so…)

During the 1942 season, they became the first major pro-sports team to come back from 3-0 to win a best of 7 championship series. This was against the Red Wings.

They won the Stanley Cup in 1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967.

The Leafs hosted the 1999-2000 All-Star Game, where Wayne Gretzky’s number was retired League-wide.

The Leafs have an intense rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings, as well as the Ottawa Senators.

Currently the Leafs are the most valuable franchise in the NHL, and rank 37th in the world. They are the only NHL franchise to crack to top 50.

1992-1993 Stanley Cup Championship had a bit of controversy as a missed high sticking call on Wayne Gretzky eventually led to him scoring the game winning goal in Game 6. The Leafs had been leading the series 3-2 at that point, and eventually lost Game 7.

During the 2013 playoffs, which came after the shortened season due to the lockout, the Leafs lost in 7 games against the Boston Bruins. “It was 4-1” incites a bit of anger in most Toronto fans, I think. The Leafs had jumped to a 4-1 lead in the 3rd period, but the Bruins completed a comeback to send the game into overtime, where Patrice Bergeron scored to win the Bruins the series.

At the conclusion of the terrible 2015 season (where the Leafs set a franchise record for 11 consecutive games without a win), they cleaned house. Most of the coaching and front office staff were fired or relieved of their duties. Mike Babcock was named head coach, and Lou Lamoriello was named General Manager.

The cleaning of house continued as they shipped Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for prospects and draft picks. They also eventually traded Dion Phaneuf to the Senators as well. This huge overhaul in both staff and players certainly indicated the beginning of a rebuild. This past season they finished last in the League, but this earned them the first overall draft pick, Auston Matthews.

Notable Players (there are so many, so please excuse this super short list):

  • Tim Horton
  • Ace Bailey
  • Mats Sundin
  • Curtis Joseph
  • Doug Gilmour
  • King Clancy
  • Darryl Sitter
  • Felix Potvin
  • Tie Domi
  • Phil Kessel
  • Dion Phaneuf
  • James Reimer

The Leafs right now are a young team in the middle of a rebuild. I honestly see them being very successful in the long run as I think they have a wily and smart GM as well as an effective coach. It’s kind of easy to poke fun at them now, but they have a game plan, and seem to be sticking to it. Maybe they won’t make the playoffs this season. But I can’t imagine it will be long.

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How does it feel to have the hopes and dreams of an entire franchise resting on your shoulders, Auston Matthews? (source: Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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