Posts Tagged ‘tdotsports1’

It would appear Toronto has turned a new leaf in 2010/11 and with the latest result against the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins the nation of Leafs Bashers have to be getting nervous after seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs hold off the Pens for a hard fought one goal victory.  We haven’t seen this type of effort from a Leafs team in quite some time and it was refreshing to say the least as the Leafs improve to 3-0.

The Leafs should have been leading after the first period, forcing the Pens into a ton of turnovers and pressuring them in every zone on the ice, even winning 10 of 14 one-on-one puck battles.  However, they left the ice somehow trailing 2-1 after holding the Pens without a shot for the first eleven minutes or so. 

Heading into the third period, the Leafs were leading 4-3 after a skilful goal scored by the wonder kid Sydney Crosby but again the Leafs probably deserved a larger lead.  The Leafs held a slim one goal lead the big question was whether the Leafs could play a solid final period and keep control of the game and ultimately win the game.  The Pens completely dominated the second half of the game as the Leafs managed only 14 total shots but they weren’t as soundly outplayed as the shot clock might have suggested.

Goal scorers:

Colton Orr (1), Clarke MacArthur 2 (4), Francois Beauchemin (1)

Some more musings and observations from the Leafs effort tonight:

-All comparisons to last season’s Maple Leafs have to cease, immediately.  This isn’t the same roster, let alone the same “attitude” and the comp has no value or meaning to me.  Gone are Matt Stajan, Alex Ponikarovsky, Nik Hagman, Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake, Jamal Mayers, Ian White, Jeff Finger and most importantly Vesa ‘the sieve’ Toskala.  Looking at the special teams improvement so far (early on) and I almost have to apologize to Ron Wilson, maybe it really wasn’t his fault and the needed troops just weren’t at his disposal.  This current version has well defined roles, vision and most importantly heart.

-So Clarke MacArthur can play, scoring another pair of impressive goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Brought in by Brian Burke at a ridiculous bargain basement price after the Atlanta Thrashers walked away from his arbitration award at season’s end, he is showing he can be a reliable scoring winger for the Leafs so far.  He does more than score, he is fairly sound position wise and isn’t hesitant to take the body occasionally.  One on play tonight he was the lead fore checker and laid a nice hit on a Penguin defenseman and about ten seconds later was the man touching the puck to secure an icing call. 

-Colton Orr is willing to bang, more so than even some of the toughest heavyweights and from time to time he is prone to get decked, well it happened tonight.  Against an unknown opponent Orr was soundly dropped at the end of a spirited and lengthy bout that Orr was probably winning at the time.  It happened last year unbeknownst to most fans against Jody Shelley, Orr left with what Ron Wilson will likely call “getting his bell rung” but he’ll be back.  Tough break, he played a solid first period.

 -The fourth line was again terrific with Mike Brown showing great speed and fore checking ability, Colton Orr tipping in a Luke Schenn point shot and Mike Zigomanis winning draws and playing a sound defensive game.  The Leafs were led by their bottom six forward last seasons and so far this season the third and fourth liners are again leading the charge. 

I like seeing the bottom six engage and play physical hockey with the other teams better more skilled players, that is a key going forward.  This team has to be tougher to play against and I don’t mean for the opposing tough guy having to face Colton Orr, Jay Rosehill or Mike Brown I mean the top skilled guys knowing they will be in for a tough night against the Leafs sand paper.  Mike Brown played quite a few important shifts down the stretch on the top line in place of Phil Kessel to add some more defensive ability to the top unit.

-Tyler Bozak hasn’t been overly impressive so far but Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg have picked up the slack and have made a pretty decent first line although they were basically invisible all game versus the Pens.  The second line was again impressive with Nik Kulemin using his big frame to win puck battles and Clarke MacArthur showing surprisingly impressive skill and speed and has scored four goals already while Mikael Grabovski has been the weak link on that line.  Brian Burke has to be on the prowl for a top end centre and with the recent demotion of Jeff Finger freeing up approximately four million valuable cap space dollars he at the very least has his fishing line in the water.

-Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle have been an impressive pairing thus far with Kaberle showing his normal slick puck moving skills and Schenn using his big frame to knock opponents off the puck.  Why a team wouldn’t pony up a reasonable forward for the ultra skilled Kaberle is a head scratcher, when you factor in his contract, maybe it is best we kept him.  Dion Phaneuf and Francois Beauchemin gave up a couple goals tonight but for the most part have looked the part of top defence pairing and hopeful shutdown duo.

-Jonas Gustavsson looked a bit rusty and didn’t quite play up to the lofty level that starter JS Giguere has shown in his first two starts of the season.  The jury is still out on the Monster whether he will develop into the number one goalie the Leafs hope and it has to beg the question as to the Leafs plans in the offseason when Giggy’s contract is up.  Gustavsson settled down in the third as the Pens were pressing hard to tie the game and the Leafs were getting hemmed in and held without a shot for sixteen plus minutes at one point he was actually pretty stellar down the stretch and made several timely saves.

 -A lot of money is tied up in the backend and it is a tad worrisome to see Mike Komisarek and his 4.5 million dollar cap hit playing sparing minutes on the third pairing with Carl Gunnarsson.  You would have to think if a team came to Burke looking to snag Komi away it wouldn’t take much at this point, but I doubt many teams are willing to eat that contract.

-Cool to see a new arena in Pittsburgh and the team deserves a shiny new rink but the ice was awful tonight.  Maybe that explains the completely awful Dave Andreychuk looking penalty shot attempt by Evgeni Malkin in the second period?

-Not to be a buzz kill but one has to point out that the Leafs caught the Canadiens, Sens and Penguins without a few key players, but that is just nitpicking at this point and the Leafs have deserved every point they have earned so far with a solid, relentless effort at all ends of the ice.  Kudos to the Buds!

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Here is the introduction to the DMB (Diamond Mind Baseball) Trade Value series.

2010 DMB Trade Value: #50 -#41

2010 DMB Trade Value: #40 – #31

30) 3B Adrian Beltre (R) – Age:  31

Quick Take:  A defensive wizard at 3B and a power bat to boot, Beltre gives you everything you want in a corner infielder.  Since leaving the hitter’s hell that is SafeCo Beltre has absolutely killed the ball (.228 ISO) and though the BABIP (.340) is helping his average his overall .390 wOBA combined with a 9.2 UZR has valued him at a 5.7 WAR thus far in 2010.  Beltre will never be confused as a patient hitter but should be productive for the next 5-6 seasons and with pending free agency, again keep an eye on what park he lands in.

DMB PRO: awesome defender, great power

DMB CON: does not walk (5.5 BB %) and this affects his overall DMB value

29) SP Felix Hernandez (R) – Age: 24

Quick Take:  Seemingly been in the league forever, Hernandez is just entering his prime and his resume is impressive.  Has been a workhorse since 2006 (191, 190, 200, 238 and 204 IPs so far in 2010) and has been a solid groundball/strikeout guy since making his debut in 2005.  While not the K-machine I think some had envisioned there is not much to dislike about a 24 year old with the body of work that Felix possesses and no reason not to invest heavily over the next 5-6 seasons.  My only concerns would be workload on his young arm, his home park is extremely pitcher friendly and he plays in front of one of the better defences, sometimes affecting his DMB value depending on chosen ballpark and defense.

DMB PRO: solid ground ball rate, good control, consistent

DMB CON:  extreme pitchers park

28) RF Justin Upton (R) – Age:  23

Quick Take:  A fulltime player holding his own at age 21 is a rare breed and Upton is truly a rare talent.  Upton possesses huge power potential (career .200 ISO) to go along with his solid defense, arm and speed.  If he could only improve his lacking plate discipline we could be looking at one of the best overall players in baseball.  His ‘off’ year so far in 2010 has still produced a .350 wOBA and 3.3 WAR, not bad for a 23 year old.  Upton is still a talent on the rise who at worst will provide a low average power bat with amazing right field defense, but his upside is that of top player in the game and definitely an intriguing talent.

DMB PRO: big power, solid defender, speed

DMB CON: lack of patience and high strikeouts, hitter’s park

27) SP Cliff Lee (L) – Age:  32

Quick Take:  Normally a pitch to contact left hander is bad news in the world of DMB but Lee is a rare talent which his unreal control (.60 BB/9!), decent K rate (7.8 K/9) and normally solid numbers versus right handed hitters that he was another must addition to this list.  Doesn’t appear to be slowing down any as he has entered his 30s and is one of the top lefties in the game, keep an eye on what team he signs with in the off-season.  If he signs with the Yankees, expect a drop in his overall numbers playing in that ballpark and division.

DMB PRO: impeccable control, solid K rate, good numbers vs. Righties

DMB CON: is still a lefty and susceptible to a righty heavy lefty crushing line-up, can give up a lot of hits.

26) LF Matt Holliday (R) – Age:  30

Quick Take:  Basically given up for dead while with Oakland in 2009, Holliday was supposedly only a product of his environment (Coors Field) but people failed to realize his environment in Oakland was extremely chilly to hitters.  Holliday has proven to be one of the most consistent and feared right handed hitting outfielders in the game (.390 and .384 wOBA in 2009 and 2010) Holliday provides great defense (7.1 UZR) and great power (.221 ISO in 2010) and is equally effective versus righties or lefties.  A guy you can just book for 300/390/500 with 40 2Bs/25 HRs, a solid rating in LF and a 5.0-5.5 WAR each season.  In a DMB keeper world, that is as good as gold.

DMB PRO: consistently solid with the bat and glove, good splits vs. L and R

DMB CON: low-ish walk rate (career 8.9 BB %)

25) SP Zack Greinke (R) – Age:  27

Quick Take:  If anybody is holding Greinke to his unbelievable 2009 season to say he is having a bad year in 2010, you are crazy.  He was never going to repeat that season, which was one of the best over the past 10 years however Greinke is still among the game’s best starting pitchers and is only just entering his prime seasons.  His K-rate is down (9.5 K/9 in 2009, 7.5 in 2010) however his control is still great (2.0 BB/9) and his 3.31 FIP suggests he is still an ace in the making.  I am still buying the hype.

DMB PRO: solid control pitcher, improving GB rate

DMB CON: pitcher’s park, declining K rate.

24) 1B Kevin Youkilis (R) – Age:  31

Quick Take:  The Greek God of Walks as once dubbed by Billy Beane “Youk” is an on-base machine (13.3 BB %, .411 OBP) who hits both lefties and righties well and gains an extra little bit of positional value by also being rated at 3B (for most seasons).  If he ever lost his 3B eligibility permanently it would put a serious hit on his overall value.

DMB PRO: hits both lefties and righties, OBP machine

DMB CON: Fenway is a good hitters park for righties, potentially only a 1B one day.

23) CF Carlos Gonzalez (L) – Age:  25

Quick Take: “CarGo” is another intriguing talent who has shown absolutely massive power this season (.271 ISO, .596 SLG%) but is not without a few warts.  Questions still abound whether he will be able to play CF going forward and his walk rate has been abysmal (5.3 BB %) which will hurt him immensely in DMB but that power stroke cannot be denied, even accounting for the effect his home ballpark will have.  If he can show improved plate discipline, he could be a major force.

DMB PRO: huge power, rated at CF

DMB CON: poor walk rate and the “Coors” effect could seriously affect his value in DMB.

22) C Carlos Santana (S) – Age:  24

Quick Take:  The leg injury was scary but it appears the Santana avoided a potentially career debilitating injury and is an exciting catching prospect with some very strong upside.  A switch-hitter who plays catcher has the potential to give a lot of value and Santana’s numbers while coming up through the minor leagues are nothing short of brilliant and he should be a top five catcher for the next 8-10 years.

DMB PRO: position, upside

DMB CON: will injury affect his long term value?

21) C Brian McCann (L) – Age:  26

Quick Take:  It seems like McCann should be nearly 40 but in reality he is only now hitting his prime hitting seasons and in 2010 has been a beast (.380 wOBA) and his improving patience (13.4 BB %) is a bonus.  One of the top hitting catchers in baseball and should be counted upon to put up consistently strong numbers for the next 5 seasons minimum.

DMB PRO: a strong hitting catcher, improved patience and BB rate

DMB CON: not as strong versus lefties, but that is nitpicking.

All sports fans love to reminisce to the good old days, maybe it was a better period or span of time for their favourite or local team or quite possibly it was just a simpler and more carefree time in their own lives.  Whatever the reasons nothing gets the argumentative juices flowing like a good old fashioned ‘All-Time Top 5’ list – let’s get our own going.

I decided to embark on a new five part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’.  Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.

Part I – Top 5 Maple Leafs of all time

Part II – Top 5 Raptors of all time

Part III – Top 5 Blue Jays of all time

Part IV – Top 5 Toronto Sports Athletes of all time

Part V – Top 10 Current Toronto Athletes

Part III – Top Five All-Time Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays have been around since 1977 and for a team in a sport with deep, rich history have had a pretty impressive 30+ years of tradition, winning and excellence.  Their record is currently 2654 wins and 2691 losses for a .497 winning percentage (ranking 15th in baseball history among current teams) and their back-to-back World Series titles give them as many championships as the storied franchises in Philadelphia, New York (Mets) and Chicago (Cubs).  In fact, there are currently eight teams in the MLB that have not even won a single championship, for a relatively junior franchise, the fan base of this team has been spoiled with the five AL East titles and two World Series championships.

Sure there have been numerous ups and downs just like any other franchise but the team has also had its lion’s share of impressive talent come and go over the years and of the three major sports teams (Maple Leafs, Raptors and Jays) this was by far the toughest list to not only compile but to ultimately finalize the overall rankings and I probably had about 3-4 change of heart moments before settling on the list I am about to unveil.  Let’s get to it.

#5 – CF Vernon Wells, born August December 8th, 1978 in Shreveport, LA.  Has played 12 seasons (and counting) with 1357 games, 1490 hits, 214 HRs, 785 RBIs, 771 runs.

Can you believe Vernon Wells is currently playing in his 12th major league season (all with the Toronto Blue Jays)?  Wells inclusion on a Top Five All-Time list might surprise a few people (myself included) but let me tell you (and show you) he deserves it.  The right handed centre-fielder currently ranks 4th in games played, 2nd in runs scored, 2nd in total hits, 2nd in homeruns, 2nd in RBIs and by season’s end will rank 1st in doubles.  Throw in 3 All-Star appearances, 3 gold gloves and a silver slugger and yeah, there you have it.

Drafted 5th overall by the Jays in the 1997 Amateur draft, Wells quickly rose up the Jays ladder and by the end of 2002 was the Blue Jays full-time centre-fielder and outside a few injury-riddled seasons has provided the Jays a ton of value with plus defense and good power from a premium position.  Since 2003 Wells has hit 23, 33, 23, 28, 32, 16, 20, 15, 22 HRs respectively and owns a very solid .472 SLG% for his career.  Outside of his massive contract extension, Vernon Wells has been one of the greatest Blue Jays to ever play.

#4 – SS Tony Fernandez, born June 30th, 1962 in San Pedro de Macoris, D.R.  Tony played 12 seasons (off and on) with 1450 games, 1583 hits, 704 runs, 613 RBIs and 172 SBs.

Not including the all-time Jays leader in hits would be a disgrace to one of the most loyal, hard working and beloved Blue Jays of all time in Tony Fernandez.  Fernandez ranks 1st in game played 1st in total hits, 4th in runs scored, 6th in RBIs, 4th in BBs, 4th in stolen bases and has a 297/353/412 triple slash line with the Jays.  Impressive statistics for a middle infielder in the late 1980s and early 1990s Fernandez was a 5 time All-star and 4 time gold glove winner and had three different (successful) stints with the team over his 17 year playing career.

Signed by the team in 1979 as a 17-year old out of the Dominican Republic Fernandez was the Jays fulltime starting shortstop by 1985 and one of the most consistent and steady contributors on and off the field before being dealt away in 1990 (with Fred McGriff for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar) before the ‘Championship’ years, that deal was integral for the Jays two titles (obviously) that has to be worth a few extra brownie points. 

#3 – 1B Carlos Delgado, born June 25th, 1972 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.  Delgado played 12 seasons with 1423 games, 1413 hits, 336 homeruns, 1058 RBIs and 889 runs scored.  Ranking 1st in homeruns, RBIs, extra-base hits, run scored, total bases, on-base & slugging percentage and base on balls over a span of 12 extremely productive seasons (including two MVP seasons in 2000 and 2003, damned the writers) with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Signed by the team out of Puerto Rico as a 16 year old Delgado came up through the system as a top catching prospect but was quickly moved full-time to first base as it became evident the bat was too valuable to waste on a player with borderline defensive capabilities as a backstop.  Delgado burst onto the Toronto sports scene as a 22 year old in 1994 with 9 HRs in the final month or so of the season and all signs pointed to him becoming the teams fulltime starting first basemen the next season in 1995 but Delgado struggled out of the gate and it was not until 1996 that he finally took over for good.

Delgado never looked back and was the Jays best hitter year after year and now in franchise history, since 1996 he has cranked 25, 30, 38, 44, 41, 39, 33, 43 and 32 homeruns respectively, all while drawing his fair share of free passes, playing adequate defense at first and managing to stay out of the whole steroids controversy. 

Delgado put together an MVP calibre season in the 2000 season batting 344/470/664 with 57 doubles, 41 HRs and 137 RBIs but finished 4th in voting (behind two admitted steroid users Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez).  In 2003 he hit a robust 302/426/593 with 42 HRs and 145 RBIs and finished 2nd in the MVP vote to, you guessed it, Alex Rodriguez (just more reasons for Jays’ fans to dislike him).

Delgado was a monster for the Blue Jays and the best hitter to ever play for the team, by a wide margin.  Delgado was not re-signed when his contract ran out and the Jays were experiencing severe budgetary limitations, however after his departure he still went on to have four more extremely productive power seasons (33, 38, 23 & 38 HRs) until chronic injuries eventually caught up with him though he recently signed with the Boston Red Sox on a tryout basis.

#2 – SP Roy Halladay, born May 14th, 1977 in Denver, Colorado.

#1 – SP Dave Stieb, born July 22nd, 1957 in Santa Ana, California.

Halladay or Stieb – was there any doubt in who would battle it out for the top spot in Blue Jays history?  These are the two preeminent players in franchise history who have now become the benchmark to which young Blue Jays hurlers are compared to.  Halladay was drafted in the 1st round in 1998 (15th overall) while Stieb was drafted in the 5th round in 1978.  Stieb found almost instant success, Halladay had to be remade.  Stieb was a fly ball pitcher; Halladay was a ground ball pitcher.  Stieb was more guts than stuff; Halladay is the model of pitching efficiency and mechanics. 

Though Dave Stieb was a poor man’s version of Jack Morris and Roy Halladay is on an almost certain path to Hall of Fame greatness, they were both great, for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Stieb was a 7-time All-Star, ditto Halladay however ‘Doc’ also took home a Cy Young Award and was close on several other occasions.

Take a look at some numbers and how the two stack up against each other:

  GS IP W-L WIN% ERA ERA+ FIP CG/SHO WHIP
Stieb 408 2873.0 175-134 .566 3.42 123 4.12 103/30 1.24
Halladay 287 2046.2 148-76 .661 3.43 133 3.45 49/15 1.19

 

Some of their other ratio’s compared:

  H/9 K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 K-BB
Stieb 8.0 5.2 3.2 1.6 0.70 2.0
Halladay 8.8 6.6 2.0 3.3 0.76 4.6

 

 This of course is not to argue who the best overall pitcher is, as that is a competition easily won by Roy Halladay, one of the best pitchers of the past 25 years, but more to argue which pitcher in fact contributed more to the Blue Jays organization during their respective tenure with the team.  For this list, considering that Stieb started 121 more games, pitched 826+ more innings (roughly 4 seasons worth of innings for Halladay based on his track record) and won 27 more ballgames than Roy Halladay I have to rank Dave Stieb as the best all-time Blue Jays pitcher (and player) in team history, though it was obviously not an easy selection.  Historical WAR numbers peg Stieb worth approx 50 wins above replacement while Halladay put up around 55 wins above replacement during his time with the Blue Jays.   

Roy Halladay’s overall excellence and superior statistics to Stieb all while pitching in the “steroid era” rank him an extremely close second.  Halladay pitched in an exceptionally more difficult offensive environment against far superior versions of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and in an era where complete games have gone by the waist side threw a complete game 17% of his starts, Stieb was roughly 25% in an era that promoted the pitcher finishing what he started.  Halladay’s incomparable stats across the board almost tilted the ranking in his favour and Roy’s winning percentage of .661 alone was almost enough to give him the nod, almost.

So there you have it, my top five All-Time Toronto Blue Jays players are 5) Vernon Wells, 4) Tony Fernandez, 3) Carlos Delgado, 2) Roy Halladay and #1 was Dave Stieb.

Up next I will take a look at the Top Five Athletes in Toronto Sports history, with the list based around talent and overall greatness with less emphasis on tenure alone.

All sports fans love to reminisce to the good old days, maybe it was a better period or span of time for their favourite or local team or quite possibly it was just a simpler and more carefree time in their own lives.  Whatever the reasons nothing gets the argumentative juices flowing like a good old fashioned ‘All-Time Top 5’ list – let’s get our own going.

I decided to embark on a new five part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’.  Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.

Part I – Top 5 Maple Leafs of all time

Part II – Top 5 Raptors of all time

Part III – Top 5 Blue Jays of all time

Part IV – Top 5 Toronto Sports Athletes of all time

Part V – Top 10 Current Toronto Athletes

Let’s get to the fun.

Part I – Top 5 Toronto Maple Leafs of all time

The most storied franchise not only in Toronto and hockey history but I feel it safe to assume also among sports history, the Toronto Maple Leafs.  With the widest fan base in Canada and probably North America it is not uncommon to see even the Florida Panthers arena completely filled with crazy screaming Maple Leafs fans.  The Leafs even make up close to a majority of total seats in tilts against its Canadian based franchise rivals, besides in le belle province where the Canadiens fans do a pretty solid job scooping up available tickets.

I argued my top five list with a colleague at work as his top five only included Stanley Cup champions while mine was basically just the greatest singular talents not necessarily with the prerequisite of having won a championship.  There are no right and wrong answers to this question and I expect to see a lot of heated arguments and great debate on who you think is the most appropriate top five. 

Without further ado, here is Toronto+ Sports Blog top five Toronto Maple Leafs of all time:

#5 – LW Wendel Clark, born October 25th, 1966 in Kelvington, Saskatchewan.

Potentially the most controversial member of my top five, Clark brought so many intangibles to the Maple Leafs night after night that his inclusion on my list was mandatory.  Clark was heart and soul personified and no other Maple Leaf inspired an entire fan base at a time when the team’s interest and passion was waning, and Clark literally wore his heart on his sleeve. 

Oh, and the kid could play some hockey.  If Brian Burke had access to a fountain of youth I would have to think he would bring back Wendel Clark, the prototypical power forward.  He could change a game as much with his physical presence and absolutely jarring body checks as he could with his soft hands and absolutely deadly wrist shot.  If you weren’t near tears (with pins and needles) when Clark came to the aid of Doug Gilmour when Marty McSorley flattened him in the playoffs, you have no soul my friend and I could have breathed fired at that moment in time and that is why Clark must be on this list.

Injuries prevented Wendel Clark from becoming one of the game’s best power forwards as his body failed him numerous times in his career, likely a result and culmination of his rugged style of play.  Clark burst onto the Toronto scene in 1985/86 with 34 goals and 227 PIMs, regularly taking on all of the toughest players of his era, and more than likely coming out of the battle on top with his huge right hand.

Everybody remembers the playoff runs of 1992-1994 with Doug Gilmour and the boys and Clark had his best overall season in 1993-94 when in only 64 regular season goals tallied 46 goals, with a full and healthy season Clark could have potentially netted 60 goals that year.  Wendel Clark also helped Toronto in another regard, in the trade game.  Fans were devastated upon learning that the teams Captain and heart and soul player was dealt in June of 1994, but without this trade, this top five Maple Leafs lists would be quite different as the trade netted one of the greatest players in team history.

There might be more deserving players overall statistically speaking but in terms of what Wendel meant to a city and team going through one of the worst era’s (Ballard) in history, the way he rose to prominence and re-energized an entire fan base, nobody will ever forget him or the 11 seasons he played here.

What a beauty!

#4 – C Dave Keon, born March 22nd, 1940 in Noranda, Quebec. 3rd all time scoring leader (1062 GP, 365 G, 493 A – 858 pts)

Nobody gets instant respect easier or quicker than Dave Keon when mentioning his name among Leafs fans of all ages and was known as a true warrior, leader and ultimate team player.  Keon joined the Maple Leafs in 1960/61 and won the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) after netting 20 goals and 45 points in his rookie season.

He led the Leafs in scoring in 1963/64, 1966/67 and 1969/70 and led the team in goals in 1970/71 and 1972/73 all while earning a reputation among the players, coaches and fans as a shutdown defensive centre who would routinely be matched up against the other teams top line.  Keon also won four Stanley Cups with the Leafs playing an integral part as the leader of the 61/62, 62/63, 63/64 and of course the infamous 1966/67 season – the last time the Leafs have hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug.

Named captain in 1969 (succeeding George Armstrong) and Keon played 14 total seasons until Harold Ballard publicly blasted him Keon which has led to a falling out with the team that still lingers and stings Keon to this day, he even turned down an invitation to attend the closing ceremonies of Maple Leaf Gardens in 1999.

An 8-time all-star, rookie of the year (1961), Lady Byng winner (1962, 1963), Conn Smythe winner (playoff MVP in 1967) and inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1968.  Dave Keon is a welcome and warranted addition to any top five Maple Leafs lists in my opinion.

#3 – C Darryl Sittler, born September 18th, 1950 in Kitchener, Ontario.  2nd all time leading scorer (844 GP, 389 G, 527 A – 916 pts)

Darryl Sittler came into the NHL in 1970/71 and slowly acclimated himself to the pro game in his first two seasons with more limited minutes on a veteran hockey club that was only three years removed from winning a Stanley Cup, tallying 10 and 15 goals respectively.  By the 1972/73 season Sittler was becoming the team’s top scorer after scoring 29 goals and putting up 77 total points.

Sittler was great because of his consistent offensive output, the guy was a scoring machine and his point totals beginning with that 72/73 season and over the next eight seasons with the Maple Leafs were 77, 84, 80, 100, 90, 117, 87, 97 and 96 – amazing.  Sittler will of course always be remembered for his famous 10-point night (6 goals, 4 assists) versus the Boston Bruins on February 7th, 1976.

Another Maple Leaf who was run out of town by Harold Ballard and basically given away for nothing to the Philadelphia Flyers.  Sittler always held himself with great class and is still among the most popular Leafs players in franchise history and an alumnus with a visible presence with the Maple Leafs to this day.

#2 – C  Mats Sundin, born February 13th, 1971 in Bromna, Sweden.  Top scorer in franchise history (981 GP, 420 G, 567 A – 987 pts)

Sorry to any Mats Sundin haters out there but big Mats was simply an outstanding Toronto Maple Leaf for his entire tenure and one of the best players in the history of the game in my humble opinion.  Sundin, while not to be confused with Wendel Clark in terms of physical play stood a massive 6’5” and weighed in at 231 pounds, and he used every inch of that frame to gain the necessary space to put up the most points in Maple Leafs franchise history.

Did you know for his entire career (QUE, TOR, VAN) Sundin put up an amazing 1349 points in 1346 games and outscored players such as Denis Savard, Mike Gartner, Pierre Turgeon, Jeremy Roenick, Jean Beliveau, Bobby Clarke and Bobby Hull.  In fact, only 25 players in NHL history have amassed more points in their career’s than Mats Sundin – he was an amazing player.

Often criticized for not taking the Leafs to the next level, Sundin had eight playoff runs with the Leafs and in 67 total playoff games with the team scored 32 goals and put up 70 points all while basically putting the team on his back.  The team was always top 5 in payroll but for one of the richest franchise in all of sports never really “went for it” in one season to give Sundin and the Leafs the best overall chance the win the title.

Sundin, acquired in 1994 in the now famous Wendel Clark trade was classy to the end and one of the biggest gripes fans have had with him is that he was basically “too loyal”, when he refused to be a rent-a-player during the 2007/08 season.  Admittedly, while it was definitely annoying to hear about his on-again, off-again career in his post Leafs days, I for one have no beef with anything Sundin ever did in his tenure as the greatest forward in Maple Leafs history.  Named captain after Doug Gilmour’s departure in 1996/97, Sundin led by example and with a quiet dignity that commanded respect until his last season with the Leafs in 2007/08.

I think when we look back in ten to fifteen years Sundin might honestly be remember as quite possibly the greatest Leafs to ever don the uniform, however, without the top man on my top five list, his career might have never been.

#1 – D Borje Salming, born April 17th, 1951 in Kiruna, Sweden.  4th overall in all-time franchise points (#1 amongst defenseman with 1099 GP, 148 G, 620 A – 768 points)

Nicknamed “The King” Borje Salming was one of the premier defensemen of his era and was the first European born player to make a big impact in the NHL as well as the top scoring defensemen in Leafs history, ranks first on my list for all-time greatest Toronto Maple Leafs.  Salming’s amazing 620 assists still ranks #1 in Maple Leafs history and outside 49 games played for the Detroit Red Wings, Salming played his entire 17 season career in blue & white.

After making the all-star squad of the 1973 World Championship the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Salming as a free agent for the 1973/74 season and he scored 39 points and an impressive (plus 38 +/-) in his rookie season and was voted the Leafs rookie of the year.  In sixteen seasons with the Leafs Salming put up 768 total points and was among the game’s best defensemen and one of the most popular players in Leafs history.

Carrying the torch for aspiring European born players was never easy and Salming was constantly finding himself as the target of opposing players and fans.  Often referred to as “Chicken Swede”, however Salming, was a fearless player and that reputation and misconception quickly faded.  Salming played in the rough and tumble 1970s and he remembers his visits to Philadelphia where he was quoted “you would even stay away from the boards because they would try to grab you and yell at you”.  Salming was built like a mack truck (and is still in great shape in his late 50s) and never shied away from the constant attention and attempted physical (often cheap) intimidation.

For Salming to have persevered through all of the negative elements and stereotypes that accompany the “foreigner” and still put up the type of numbers he did for the Maple Leafs is simply astounding.  In 1996 he became the first Swedish born hockey player to be inducted in the Hall of Fame and in 1998 he was ranked 74th on “The Hockey News” list of the 100 greatest hockey players.

So there you have it, my top five Maple Leafs were 5) Wendel Clark, 4) Dave Keon, 3) Darryl Sittler, 2) Mats Sundin and #1 was Borje Salming.  Let’s hear what you have to say about this list and your own personal top five lists as I am sure there is some strong opinion out there in Leaf land.

Stay tuned for the next instalment where I will breakdown the top five Toronto Raptors of all-time – that should be a fun list!

Post your own Top Five in the comments section…