The Toronto Maple Leafs were founded in 1917 and are apart of the NHL's "Original Six." The Maple Leafs celebrated their centennial season this year and are one of the NHL's oldest franchises. They are second to only the Montreal Canadiens, with 13 Stanley Cups, but haven't won since 1967. Their 48-season drought is the longest active Cup drought in the NHL.
The Leafs have had a lot of ups and downs in their history, but since winning the Stanley Cup in 1967, there have been more downs. They've become the laughing stock of the NHL and are constantly being made fun of by other teams' fans. They've made some poor management decisions and have made some trades that have backfired. It hasn't been fun to play for the Leafs, nor has it been fun to be a fan of them for a long time.
This season, Leafs fans were given quite a treat. Their team full of exciting, young players clinched a playoff spot in a season that was supposed to be focused on rebuilding and developing their young players. This has led to there being hope in the organization for the first time in a while and has fans finally excited about their team again.
With that said, it may be time that the fans and organization can put all those horrible memories away and enjoy the great hockey that the current team is playing. Here are 15 things the Toronto Maple Leafs want you to forget about their franchise.
15 The Post-Lockout Playoff Drought
Since the 2004-05 lockout, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made the playoffs just once, and it came during the shortened 2012-13 season. The Maple Leafs clinched their first playoff spot in an 82-game season in 13 years after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game #81 of the 2016-17 season.
The Leafs' playoff drought was the longest in the NHL, starting from 2005-06 until 2012-13. Their drought would technically be longer if we were basing it off 82-game seasons. As bad as the Leafs' playoff drought was, it is now time to put that behind us and look for this team to be playoff competitors every season now - as long as their players perform as expected.
14 The Stanley Cup Drought
If you thought the Leafs' playoff drought was bad, their Stanley Cup drought is much worse. They currently hold the longest Cup drought in the NHL, having gone over 48 seasons without winning the Stanley Cup. However, many Leafs fans' hopes have been restored this season, seeing the great potential of their young players and with the team returning to the playoffs earlier than expected. There are no guarantees, but this team is certainly on the rise and could potentially put an end to their longest Stanley Cup drought in franchise history sooner rather than later.
13 Trading Tuukka Rask
In June of 2006, Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. made a trade for the 2003-04 Calder trophy winner, goaltender Andrew Raycroft of the Boston Bruins. In exchange, the Leafs sent their first round pick in 2005, Tuukka Rask. At the time, the Leafs were balancing Justin Pogge and Tuukka Rask as two young goaltenders in their system, but felt that Pogge would turn out to be better in the future. They were clearly wrong.
Everything in this trade went horribly wrong for Toronto. First, Andrew Raycroft played in barely two seasons for the Maple Leafs, posting below-average numbers before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche. Tuukka Rask won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2010-11, a Vezina in 2013-14 and is one of the better goaltenders in the league almost every season. Lastly, Justin Pogge never became an NHL goalie and played in only 7 games for the Leafs in 2008-09.
This trade has haunted Leafs fans for a while, but they might be able to move on from it now that their current number one goaltender Freddie Andersen has done well for them.
12 The Game 7 Collapse
It's the Game 7 that everybody remembers between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the first round of the 2013 playoffs, the Leafs were down 3-1 in the series to the Bruins and managed to force a Game 7. The Leafs came out strong and were holding a 4-1 lead in the third period of Game 7. With the series comeback looking just about complete, the game quickly turned in favour of the Bruins. Boston scored three goals in the final ten minutes of the game to tie it up and Patrice Bergeron scored the winner 6:05 into overtime.
Being apart of one of the biggest Game 7 collapses in NHL history is just another thing to haunt the Maple Leafs and their fans. It may have been a worse feeling to know that the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals that year as well. This is a memory that is still fresh in the minds of many Leafs fans and will probably stick with them until they get their revenge.
11 Being Named The Worst Franchise In North America
The Leafs took home one of the least admirable titles in professional sports three times between 2012-15. They had been voted as the worst franchise in North America according to ESPN's Ultimate Standings. These rankings are determined by surveying fans on what they get back for their time and money spent, stadium experience, ranking in-game performance of their team which gets compared to a national poll of what fans want out of a sports experience.
Toronto's overly priced tickets and their low win delivery were one of the biggest factors in the organization finding themselves at the bottom of the list. Even the NHL's worst market, Arizona, wasn't worse than the Leafs during those years. The New York Knicks of the NBA won 17 games in their 2014-15 season and still didn't find themselves below the Toronto Maple Leafs.
10 Trading For Phil Kessel
We've spotted a trend that seems to show that the Boston Bruins have been at the root of many of the Maple Leafs' great failures in recent years. Shortly before the 2009-10 season, the Maple Leafs made yet another big trade with the Boston Bruins. The Leafs sent three draft picks (first round in 2010, 2nd round in 2010, and first round in 2011) for forward Phil Kessel.
Kessel's tenure with the Leafs wasn't bad at all, besides the fact they could only make the playoffs just once with the prolific goal scoring winger on their team. Kessel scored at least 30 goals in in four of six seasons with Toronto, which includes 20 goals in the shortened 48-game season.
The problem with this trade? Boston used two of those picks to draft Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. While the Leafs got completely shafted yet again, they could certainly have a laugh of their own as the Bruins basically gave away both players in trades just a few seasons later.
9 Harold Ballard's Ownership
Harold Ballard's ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs was a complete disaster. He took control of the franchise in 1972 and began to make the Leafs the laughing stock of the NHL. Shortly after taking ownership, Ballard had been charged with nearly 50 accounts of fraud, tax evasion and theft. He used the funds from a management company called Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd to pay for renovations of his home, his daughter's wedding and to buy motorcycles for his sons. He was then convicted of his actions and served in only three of his nine year prison sentence while still being owner of the Leafs.
8 Jersey Conflict
In 1977, NHL president John Ziegler implemented a rule that required every team in the league to have the names of their players printed on the back of their road jerseys. This helped make the broadcasters' jobs easier since they would be able to better identify players. The NHL gave the teams a reasonable amount of time to apply the changes to their jerseys. However, Leafs owner Harold Ballard was the only one who refused to cooperate with the rule because he thought he would make money off program sales.
The league eventually sent a letter to Ballard in February of 1978, threatening to fine the Leafs' owner if he didn't apply changes to the team's road jerseys. Ballard finally agreed, except there was one problem. The lettering of the names were in blue, the same colour as the road jerseys, so you could not see the players names on the back. This stands as one of the most embarrassing moments for the Leafs under Ballard's ownership and something that the organization and its fans would like to forget.
7 The '80s
The 1980s were one of the worst decades in Maple Leafs history. The Leafs had an overall record of 266-441-93 which accounts for a .393 winning percentage. The only teams that were worse than Toronto during that decade were the Colorado Rockies and New Jersey Devils.
The Leafs had by far the worst defense in the NHL during the '80s, allowing an average of 4.41 goals per game. The Leafs' best season of the decade was their only season with a .500 record which came during 1989-90 when they went 38-38-4. They had eight consecutive seasons with over 40 losses and eight seasons with less than 30 wins. The most incredible part about all this? Toronto managed to make the playoffs in six out of ten years, even winning a couple of series. Regardless, it was a difficult time to be a Leafs fan with the team losing so many games.
6 Darryl Sittler Removes The "C"
As mentioned, the Leafs were a complete disaster under the ownership of Harold Ballard. At one point, the Leafs' owner got into a heated feud with former captain Darryl Sittler, which led him to cut off the "C" from his jersey.
The main problem at the time was actually Leafs GM Punch Imlach. Imlac prevented Sittler from appearing on a CBC television show "Showdown" which started conflict. Imlach was liked by Ballard because he was anti-union and the both of them didn't like how much Sittler was involved with the NHLPA.
At a certain point Imlach had enough and wanted to trade Sittler, who was the Leafs best player at the time. Luckily for Leafs fans, Sittler's contract included a no-trade clause. So instead, Imlach traded Sittler's best friend and future Hall Of Famer Lanny McDonald, which caused Sittler to cut off his "C".
Ballard and Sittler ended up making up when Imlach had been hospitalized for a heart attack, but it didn't last long before Sittler waived his no-trade clause and was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for next to nothing.
5 Signing Jeff Finger
One of the worst signings in Leafs history was the signing of defenseman Jeff Finger. The 27-year-old had just 94 games of experience in the NHL when Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher signed him to a four-year, $14-million contract on July 1st, 2008. It was a signing that many questioned at the time but Fletcher defended his decision by giving Finger praise on his shutdown ability.
Finger ended up playing in a little over 100 games in two seasons with the Leafs. The signing turned out to be a costly mistake and has been considered as one of the worst free agent signings in NHL history. Finger ended up playing the last two seasons of his contract in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies.
4 The Squirt
March, 29, 2001, is a day that both Tie Domi and Flyers fan Chris Falcone will remember for the rest of their lives. During a heated game between the Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Luke Richardson threw a hit from behind on Leafs forward Darcy Tucker, in which Domi replied by immediately going after Richardson and dropping the gloves. The referees quickly came to break the two players up and Domi ended up with a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike.
With Domi serving his penalty, Flyers fans thought it would be funny to start throwing things at him in the penalty box. After a short while, Domi was fed up and turned around to spray some fans with his water bottle. Falcone took offense to Domi's actions and lunged towards the glass to get at the Leafs' tough guy. The fan ended up falling through the glass and all hell broke loose. Falcone ended up with a citation and a few stitches and remains as a legend in Flyers history 'til this day.
3 Signing David Clarkson
Another big free agency signing that turned out to be a failure for the Maple Leafs was signing David Clarkson to a lucrative seven-year, $36.75-million contract in the summer of 2013. This signing was a bit different than the Finger one, because Clarkson had proven himself capable of scoring at least 30 goals in a season with the New Jersey Devils.
This was still a risk signing for the Leafs, especially with the fact that they chose to sign Clarkson for seven years at a high price. Unfortunately, it quickly turned out to be a bad decision by GM Dave Nonis. Like Finger, Clarkson only lasted two seasons with the Maple Leafs and dealt with injuries throughout. He scored only 15 goals in 118 games with the Leafs before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton.
2 Fans Showing Their Displeasure
When the Leafs were struggling in the, particularly in the past five seasons, they got used to something that a team should not get used to. There were multiple instances where fans threw their jerseys onto the ice at the Air Canada Centre to show how upset they were of the team's lack of winning performances and it became quite an embarrassment to the Toronto organization. Some might also remember fans showing up to many games with paper bags over their heads with sad faces draw on to show how embarrassed they are to show their faces as fans of the Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel has also had waffles thrown at him at one point during a game.
It's clear that Leafs fans have been through a lot with their team struggling for so many seasons and it's expected that they would be displeased with those results. Although it's gotten out of hand on a few occasions, the fans are certainly a lot happier with how their team has looked this season.
1 The Rebuild
When the Leafs hired Mike Babcock as their head coach back in May of 2015, he sent a message to Leafs fans telling them to expect "pain," which meant that the Leafs were in the process of beginning a long, painful rebuild. As it stands right now, it seems that things have changed, the pain only lasted for one season.
After finishing dead last in 2015-16, the Maple Leafs have returned to the playoffs this season and the future has never looked so bright. With all their young players carrying them this season, many Leafs fans have regained hope in their team and may be feeling like the rebuild won't last any longer.
Sure, it's only been one season and there's still the possibility that this season is a fluke, but regardless, the Leafs have taken a huge step forward this season and their fans will be hoping that they don't have to think about a rebuild anymore.
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