Before the arrival of Auston Matthews and a dominant group of first-year Toronto Maple Leafs, it wasn't exactly easy being a fan of the National Hockey League (NHL) team. Prior to making the playoffs in 2017, the Maple Leafs had only qualified for the NHL's postseason once since the 2004 lockout and that was in another lockout-shorted, 48-game season. To put it simply, Toronto hadn't made the playoffs in a full season since Matthews was seven years old. And no Toronto fan wants to even remember that one playoff series; we won't bring it up, as we'll likely bring up enough bad memories with the following list.
Every team has their list of awful players, but few organizations have one as forgettable as the Maple Leafs, who would often bring in big-name players well beyond their most productive years, especially when there was no salary cap - most casual fans, for instance, would be surprised to learn Ron Francis and Brian Leetch played for the Leafs. Whether they're best known for their time with other teams or were just terrible from the start with Toronto, we hope you enjoy catching up on what these former Maple Leafs have been doing since wearing the blue and white.
15 Kyle Wellwood
Long before there was Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs' young, diminutive scorer was Kyle Wellwood. It seems funny to think now, but in his first few seasons, the former fifth round pick created some must-see moments with his incredible puck control, vision, and playmaking abilities. In the 2006-07 season, Wellwood had 42 points in 48 games, but that was ultimately the peak of his career.
Many questioned his commitment to the game as he was never one for staying in great shape. He retired in 2014 following one season in Switzerland and currently resides in Vancouver, where he previously spent two seasons. He has a five-year-old son with his wife, Bianca, and is currently lending his support to a concussion-related mobile app based in Vancouver called HeadCheck Health.
14 Jeff O'Neill
A former 40-goal scorer, Jeff 'O-Dog' O'Neill is best known by Maple Leafs fans for scoring a playoff overtime winner against the Maple Leafs as a Carolina Hurricane. The irony of that situation, however, is that O'Neill grew up a Maple Leafs fan in Toronto and always wished to play for his boyhood team. He accomplished that dream by signing with the team following the 2004 lockout. He played two underwhelming seasons for the club before calling it a career as a 30-year-old.
O'Neill was a great player for the Hurricanes, but had enough of the sport after two seasons in Toronto - primarily the amount of training required to play at a high level. He currently serves as an analyst for TSN and co-host of a three-hour radio program, where he's often the subject of friendly banter about his previous - and present - workout regiment. He's one of the more entertaining voices on the network.
13 Jeff Finger
Jeff Finger wasn't necessarily terrible with the Maple Leafs, but it was the contract he received that had many people wondering what the hell management was thinking. General Manager Cliff Fletcher handed the 27-year-old Finger a four-year, $14 million contract on July 1 of 2008. Everything about the deal from the term, salary, and the immediacy of it was confusing.
The Michigan native had previously only played 94 games in the NHL, debuting as a full-time player with the Colorado Avalanche the year before signing with the Leafs. Beyond that, he was a career minor league player that had his obvious deficiencies. He could have easily been scooped up for a much cheaper contract by the Leafs, perhaps a week or two later. Yet, leave it to an inept General Manager to give the entire fan base "the Finger" - literally and figuratively. The defenseman played just one-and-a-half season with the team before being sent down to the AHL's Toronto Marlies. He retired following hip surgery in 2012.
12 Lee Stempniak
If you're a hardcore fan of the Leafs, you likely don't need to be reminded that Lee Stempniak played for the team. The 34-year-old came to the Maple Leafs from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen. While Steen developed into an impact player for the Blues, Stempniak averaged an underwhelming 0.5 points per game in two seasons with the Leafs.
The trade epitomized the feeling that everything goes wrong for the Leafs. Stempniak wasn't memorable with the team and they dealt him at the 2010 trade deadline; naturally, he scored 14 goals in 18 games for the Phoenix Coyotes to end the season and has continued to be a productive NHLer. Stempniak played this past season with the Carolina Hurricanes, recording 40 points in 82 games.
11 Ian White
Manitoba native Ian White was a diminutive, but valuable defenseman for the Maple Leafs in the mid-2000s. A former sixth round pick, he was one of the few players drafted by the organization to actually play in a significant amount of games with Toronto. In 2009-10, however, White was one of the many players involved in the trade for Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
White's play tailed off after leaving the Leafs, however; he played for Calgary, Carolina, San Jose, and Detroit, before playing half a season in the KHL in 2013-14. The 32-year-old attempted an NHL comeback in 2014-15, playing 34 games with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, but it was cut short. In fact, White was charged and arrested with possession of a "small arsenal of firearms," and was characterized in the police report as "spiraling out of control," due to alleged drug use and paranoia. He received a three-month conditional sentence in November 2016 and was placed on 12 months supervised probation.
10 Jason Blake
One of the many overpriced signings by management that left Maple Leaf fans frustrated, the speedy American forward Jason Blake spent two-and-a-half seasons with the team, scoring just 50 goals in 216 games despite scoring 40 alone in his free agent year with the New York Islanders. It was clear that type of production wasn't going to happen in Toronto as Blake's signature move of skating down the wing and firing a shot into the goalie's chest was less than effective.
Blake was traded to Anaheim along with *shudders* Vesa Toskala at the 2010 trade deadline. He played just two more seasons before retiring. A former University of North Dakota standout, he was named as one of the school's Letterwinners Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
9 Mike Johnson
One of the many bright young players traded away early in his career by the Maple Leafs, Mike Johnson recorded 375 points in 661 career games. He was signed by Toronto in 1997 after completing his senior season with Bowling Green State University. Johnson played parts of four seasons with the Maple Leafs and had a 47-point season as a rookie in 1997-98.
Injuries ultimately limited his effectiveness, but he did post a career-high 63 points in 2002-03 with the Phoenix Coyotes. Today, Johnson does some analyst work with a variety of networks, including NBC, for which he's working for during the 2017 playoffs. He was previously employed by Sportsnet in Canada but was axed in one of the more puzzling moves, considering he's one of the best at his craft.
8 Warren Rychel
Kerby Rychel is currently a prospect in the Maple Leafs organization playing for the AHL's Toronto Marlies, but over two decades ago his father, Warren, spent a brief period wearing the blue and white. An undrafted free agent who toiled in the IHL for a few years, Rychel was a tough guy who played over 400 games in the NHL and scored just 38 goals. In 26 games with Toronto in 1994-95, Rychel recorded seven points and accumulated 101 penalty minutes.
He retired following the 1998-99 season and started working in the front office for junior hockey teams. Rychel is currently in his 10th season as General Manager of the Ontario Hockey League's (OHL) Windsor Spitfires and was named OHL executive of the year back in 2009.
7 Andrew Raycroft
Like some of the first few selections, Andrew Raycroft isn't necessarily forgettable as a Toronto Maple Leaf, though his stint with the team was. Despite setting a franchise record in regular season wins with 37 during the 2006-07 season, it was clear from the start the former Boston Bruin was going to be a disaster; his 37 win-season came with a 2.99 goals against average and a miserable .894 save percentage. He played just 19 games the following season before the team realized he had to go elsewhere.
Raycroft played as a backup in Colorado, Dallas, and Vancouver and ended his playing career with one-year stints in Italy and Sweden. In recent years, he has enjoyed retirement with his wife and three children, while spending time as a volunteer goalie coach for the University of Connecticut.
6 Fredrik Modin
Drafted in the third round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, Fredrik Modin played three seasons with the Maple Leafs before being dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he served as a valuable member of the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning team, scoring 29 goals in the regular season and eight in the playoffs. A native of Sweden, Modin retired in 2011, having scored 232 career goals and adding 230 assists in 898 games.
After leaving Tampa Bay, Modin spent four seasons in Columbus, which is where he now resides with his wife and two children. The big man is living a pretty normal post-retirement life, coaching his son's hockey team in the winter and taking his daughter to her soccer games in the summer.
5 Larry Murphy
It's strange for one of the game's greatest defenseman to have a forgettable stint in one of the biggest markets in the NHL, but Larry Murphy just didn't work out in Toronto. The Hall of Famer signed with Toronto in 1995 and had a great first year statistically, recording 61 points in 82 games, but thing went south in his second season with the team.
Murphy's turnovers were amplified in Toronto and he was vilified by fans. Still, despite having 39 points in 69 games, he was booed out of town and traded to Detroit and went on to win two Stanley Cups. As recent as 2013, he served as a color analyst for Fox Sports Detroit's broadcasts of the Red Wings games. He still resides in Michigan and works part-time for the NHL Network.
4 Martin Gerber
Martin Gerber's stint with the Maple Leafs was particularly forgettable as he played just 12 games with the team late in 2008-09 after coming over in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. The Swiss native played 229 career games in the NHL, most recently with the Edmonton Oilers. He had his moments in the league, but was never a top-tier goaltender. With Toronto, Gerber posted a 6-5 record to go along with a 3.23 goals against average and .905 save percentage.
You can't question his love for the game however, as he's currently the goaltending equivalent of Jaromir Jagr is his home country of Switzerland. Since 2013-14, he has played for Kloten HC and actually posted decent numbers. The 42-year-old played 30 games in 2016-17 and posted a 3.24 goals against average and .910 save percentage.
3 Wade Belak
Wade Belak was never really known for his on-ice talent in Toronto, despite being a former first round pick. The little-used forward and defenseman was primarily used as a big-body enforcer - he had just eight goals and 25 assists in 549 career games.
Unfortunately, Belak became a victim of the cruel world of fighting in hockey. The Saskatchewan native was regarded as one of the nicest players in the game off the ice, but behind his warm smile and great sense of humor hid some personal demons. Belak suffered from depression, once confiding in TSN personality and mental health advocate Michael Landsberg that he had been on "happy pills" for a number of years. In 2011, he gave in to his demons and committed suicide, leaving a gaping hole in the hockey world.
2 Bryan Berard
Bryan Berard has to be one of the most unlucky and unfortunate NHL players of all-time. The former Ottawa Senators first overall pick nearly lost his eye while playing as a Maple Leaf in Ottawa after taking a high stick from Marian Hossa, and he also lost nearly all of his career savings.
Throughout his career, he gave millions to his financial advisor, Phil Kenner, thinking it was going into Hawaiian real estate developments. Kenner and his business partner were convicted in 2013 of wire fraud and money laundering after defrauding millions from players like Berard, Mike Peca, and Darryl Sydor. Consequently, Berard is now working in finance himself, working with younger athletes to prevent them from falling into the same trap he did during his career.
1 Mark Bell
Before Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks were putting their trust in youngsters Mark Bell and Kyle Calder. Obviously, that didn't work out for the Hawks - within a few years, Bell had moved on to the San Jose Sharks and later the Maple Leafs. He played a season-and-a-half in Toronto, yet only 36 games were spent in the NHL with the Maple Leafs (he played 56 games in 2008-09 with the Marlies in the AHL).
Bell last played in the NHL during the 2011-12 season as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, but continued to play hockey right up until the end of the 2015-16 season in Germany as a member of the Berlin Polar Bears. The 36-year-old had 30 goals in 112 games over the course of four seasons with the team.