The Toronto Maple Leafs are celebrating their centennial season this year and are one of the oldest hockey franchise's of all-time. They were initially founded in 1917 as the Toronto Arenas before changing their name to the Toronto St.Patricks in 1919, and finally the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927. The Leafs have the second-most Stanley Cups in NHL history with thirteen. However, they haven't won since 1967 and their 48-year drought is currently the longest in the NHL.
The Leafs have had 17 different captains in their 100-year existence. Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy and Darryl Sittler served as captain twice. Their most recent captain was Dion Phaneuf, who was traded in February of 2016 to the Ottawa Senators. Currently, the Leafs have no captain as they are a young and upcoming team who are still trying to find their stand-out leader in the locker room. The only two other times the Leafs didn't have a captain was between 1986-89 after Rick Vaive had his "C" removed, and from 2008-10 after the Leafs' current captain Mats Sundin left to sign with the Vancouver Canucks.
In celebration of their centennial season, the Leafs organization retired 17 numbers on October 15th, 2016, 10 of which are former captains. With the amount of captains who have had their jerseys retired, it goes to show much of an honour it really is to wear the "C" for the Maple Leafs. That being said, here is a ranking of the 17 players who got to do it from worst to best.
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22 Charlie Conacher
Charlie Conacher became the second captain in Maple Leafs history during his final season with the team in 1937-38. He was one of the greatest scorers of his time. The Toronto native led the league in goals for five seasons mainly because his shot was so hard for goaltenders to stop. Nicknamed "The Big Bomber," Conacher only captained the Leafs for 19 games due to injury but was a leader for them in the point department for many seasons. He became a 1961 Hall of Fame inductee after having a great career with 398 points in 459 games. Conacher recorded 324 points in 326 games with the Maple Leafs and was also a Stanley Cup winner in 1932.
After the 1937-38 season, Conacher was sold to the Detroit Red Wings after struggling with injuries for the past two seasons.
21 Jimmy Thomson
Jimmy Thomson was briefly handed the "C" for the 1956-57 season before handing it back to former captain Ted Kennedy who came out of retirement. The defenseman was a liability on the back-end for the Leafs during his twelve seasons with the team, winning four Stanley Cups and playing in seven All-Star games.
He finished his tenure with the Leafs under some controversy as he was part of a player's association formed by Ted Lindsay to improve players' pensions - which didn't sit well with Leafs owner Conn Smythe. Thomson stated publicly he would never play for the Leafs again, and finished his career with a total of 223 points in over 700 games played for the team before being sold off to the Chicago Blackhawks. He would go on to play in one more season with Chicago before announcing his retirement in 1958.
20 Dion Phaneuf
The last player to be named captain by the Toronto Maple Leafs is Dion Phaneuf. After being traded to the Leafs in a huge deal with the Calgary Flames in January of 2010, Phaneuf would be named the 17th captain in Leafs history in June of that same year.
Phaneuf's time with the Leafs was tough. The team often struggled and only made the playoffs once during Phaneuf's seven seasons in Toronto. Being captain of this team meant that he'd have to deal with all the questions about the Leafs struggles and was put under tremendous pressure to succeed.
The pressure that came with his job may have been one of the things that hindered his play, as his career numbers decreased drastically once he became a member of the Leafs. Phaneuf only had one season with over 40 points in Toronto, after putting up 40+ points in five of six seasons with the Flames. While on a long term and overpriced contract, the Leafs managed to trade Phaneuf to Ottawa in Febraury of 2016.
19 Sid Smith
Two-time Lady Byng Trophy winner Sid Smith captained the Leafs during the 1955-56 season. He played left wing and was a consistent goal scorer. Smith had six consecutive seasons with 20 or more goals which had only previously been done by the great Gordie Howe. He finished with a total of 186 goals in his 601 game career, while amassing 369 points overall. The Toronto native won three Stanley Cups with the Maple Leafs during his twelve seasons with the club. He set a career-high in goals during the 1954-55 season with 33 in 70 games, and had his best playoff season with 7 goals and 10 points in 11 games during the Maple Leafs' 1951 cup run.
Unfortunately for Smith, his scoring hit a serious decline during his only season as captain. He scored only 4 goals and 21 points in the 1955-56 season, and eventually gave up his captaincy to defenseman Jimmy Thomson.
18 13. Rob Ramage
Originally a first overall pick of the Colorado Rockies in 1979, Rob Ramage captained the Leafs in his only two seasons with the team. The defenseman found himself playing for eight teams during his NHL career which is more than usual for a first overall choice. After winning a cup with the Flames in 1989, Ramage was traded to Toronto for a second round draft choice, where he'd be named the 13th captain in Leaf's history.
Ramage is the only player to captain the Leafs before playing a single game for them. In his two seasons with the team he put up 84 points in 160 games. The Ontario native's tenure with the Leafs was cut short due to the 1991 expansion draft, in which the Minnesota North Stars used their first pick to select Ramage.
17 Rick Vaive
Rick Vaive took over as captain from 1982-1986 and was a pure goal scorer. Vaive became the first player to score 50 goals in a season for the Maple Leafs and scored 50 goals in three consecutive seasons as team captain. He was initially drafted fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1979 before joining the Maple Leafs via trade in 1980.
Despite his scoring success, Vaive's captaincy ended on a bad note. After missing a team practice one morning, he was immediately stripped of his "C," but still remained with the team for another season. He was eventually traded to the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the 1987-88 season. Vaive's career with the Leafs consisted of 537 points in 534 games played, including 299 goals.
16 Reginald "Red" Horner
One of the toughest Maple Leafs of all-time was defenseman Red Horner. The six foot, 190 pound defenseman was known as one of the toughest players during his era and wasn't afraid to drop the gloves to stick up for his teammates. He captained the Leafs for the last three seasons of his career from 1938-1940 and led the league in penalty minutes in seven of his last eight seasons.
Horner was a true team guy. Knowing he had to stick up for the little guys and not being afraid to throw a punch in his team's defense were showings of his on-ice leadership. He finished with 1262 penalty minutes in his 490 game career which was entirely with the Maple Leafs.
15 Bob Davidson
Bob Davidson took over the captaincy when Syl Apps went off to war in 1943 until 1945. Davidson was a checking player and used his role to demonstrate leadership, which made him a suitable choice for team captain. Despite not being known for his offensive contribution, Davidson set his career high in points with some pretty impressive numbers during his first season wearing the "C". Acquiring the leadership role may have motivated him to put up 47 points in 47 games.
The Toronto native won two Stanley Cups in his 12-year career with the Leafs, including one as captain in 1945. The checking forward finished his career with 254 points in 491 games, including 398 penalty minutes. After retiring in 1946, Davidson remained with the Leafs organization and has been given credit for his remarkable scouting which led to building the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1960's, who won four Stanley Cups during that decade.
14 Clarence "Hap" Day
Clarence Day was the first ever captain in Leafs history. He was initially captain of the Toronto St. Patricks before they were renamed the Toronto Maple Leafs and captained the Leafs for all ten seasons he spent with the club (1927-37). The 5'11 defender also won one Stanley Cup in his career in 1932, the first for Toronto since being called the Maple Leafs.
Clarence was better known by his nickname "Hap", which was short for "Happy." Hap was the first Maple Leafs captain to score a hat trick. He recorded 199 points in his 548 game career with the Leafs before spending the last season of his career with the New York Americans. Day also appeared in 47 playoff games with Toronto, scoring 11 points and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1961.
13 Wendel Clark
Drafted first overall by the Maple Leafs in 1985, Wendel Clark was an enforcer who captained the team from 1991-1994. During his second season of captaining the Leafs (1992-93), the team set franchise records for most wins (44) and points (99), and went to the Conference finals - where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games.
Despite only being 5'11, Clark had the reputation of being a frequent fighter in the league and often fought with the league's toughest guys. In his 608-game career with the Leafs, he accumulated 1535 penalty minutes. Clark rarely played in full seasons during his career because of his constant engagement in physical play. He would eventually be traded to the Quebec Nordiques after a career year in which he had 46 goals and 76 points in 64 games.
Clark would return to play in Toronto two other times in his career before finally retiring in 2000. During his career with the Leafs he had 441 points in 608 games and recently had his #17 retired in celebration of the team's centennial season.
12 Doug Gilmour
A former seventh round, 134th overall selection by the St. Louis Blues in 1982, Doug Gilmour was a huge steal for the Blues in the '82 draft, and would later be a huge trade acquisition for the Maple Leafs. He would eventually get traded to Toronto from the Calgary Flames in January of 1992, and took over as captain from 1994-1997 after Wendel Clark had been traded.
Gilmour was a great two-way center and an excellent playoff performer. He broke the Leafs record for most points in one playoff season with 35 in the 1993 playoffs. Gilmour should be considered as the best playoff performer in Leafs history, as his 77 points in 52 playoff games is the most in the franchise's history. The former 7th round pick also holds the franchise record for most points in a season with 127 during the 1992-93 season. He finished with 452 points in 392 games with the Leafs and was eventually traded to the New Jersey Devils in 1997.
Gilmour was eventually traded back to the Leafs near the end of his career from the Canadiens, but would only play in one more game for the team as he tore his ACL in his first appearance, and would eventually retire at the end of the 2002-03 season. He later became a Hall of Fame inductee in 2011 and had his jersey retired by the Maple Leafs in October of 2016.
11 Darryl Sittler
If you're wondering what the NHL record is for most points in a game by a single player, it's 10, which was set by Darryl Sittler in 1976. He captained the team over two terms from 1975-79 and 1980-82 due to ripping the "C" off his jersey because of some issues with the team's management.
In his first season as captain, Sittler became the first Leafs player to score 100 points in a season. Despite putting up some exceptional offensive numbers in his career, Sittler never won a Stanley Cup. He played in 844 games with the Leafs, and recorded 916 points which is second in franchise history. The captain was eventually traded to the Flyers in January of 1982 because of his poor relationship with former Leafs owner Harold Ballard. He was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989.
10 Mats Sundin
Mats Sundin became the first European-born player to be drafted first overall when he was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989. Sundin was acquired by the Leafs in a trade with Quebec in June of 1994, and he would go on to become one of the most legendary players to ever play for the Toronto franchise.
The Swedish forward would be named team captain in 1997 and would hold that title until his last days as a Leaf in 2008. Sundin scored over 20 goals in each of his 13 seasons with Toronto and finished with 987 points in 981 games with the Leafs. He currently holds franchise records for most goals (420) and points (987).
Unfortunately for Sundin, his remarkable career didn't include a Stanley Cup ring and could certainly be considered as one of the best captains in the NHL to never win a cup. His #13 has been retired by the Leafs and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
9 Dave Keon
At just 5'9 and 163 pounds, Dave Keon was quite small for a professional hockey player. However, that didn't stop him from becoming one of the greatest Leafs players of all-time. Keon won four Stanley Cups in his career with the Leafs in the '60s, which was before he was named captain of the team in 1969. He was known as one of the best skaters of his time, and could shut down any player he was assigned to.
Keon became the first and only Leafs player to win the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 1967. Surprisingly enough, he did it while recording just eight points in that playoff season, which is the lowest amount for anyone who's ever won the award. The Quebec native put up 858 points during his 15-year tenure with the Leafs, which is third all-time in franchise history. He would captain the team until his final days with the club in 1975 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
8 Syl Apps
A Calder trophy winner in his first season and a three-time Stanley Cup champion, Apps is considered by many as one of the greatest Maple Leafs players of all time. After captaining the team from 1940 to 1943, Apps left to join the Canadian Army in World War II before returning to captain the team in 1945 for another three seasons. His character and great offensive production are some of the things that made Apps an incredible hockey player during his time. He finished his career with 432 points in 423 games, as well as an impressive 54 points in 69 playoff games.
Apps was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. His number 10 was also retired by the Maple Leafs this past October of 2016.
7 George Armstrong
George Armstrong is another legendary hockey player in Toronto's NHL history to earn the honour of team captain. Captain of the Leafs for thirteen seasons (1957 to 1969), Armstrong led his team to four Stanley Cups in the '60s under his captaincy and is the longest serving captain in Maple Leafs history. He played an incredible 21 seasons for the team and a total 1187 games, most in team history as well.
Armstrong played a huge role, not only as a leader, but offensively in the Maple Leafs three consecutive Stanley Cup wins from 1962 to 1964. He put up an impressive 34 points in 36 games during those three cup runs combined and is notably known for scoring the last goal of the "Original Six" era which won Toronto its last Stanley Cup in 1967. The longest serving captain in Leafs history finished his 21-year career with 713 points, which is good enough for fifth all-time in franchise history. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.
6 Ted Kennedy
Also known as "Teeder" Kennedy, Ted Kennedy played all 696 games of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs and became the first player in NHL history to win five Stanley Cups. He captained the Leafs from 1948 to 1955 and again in 1957, which included some of the organization's most golden years. Kennedy has been regarded as one of the greatest Maple Leafs of all time and is the last player in franchise history to win the Hart Trophy. Despite not being known as a great skater or having a hard shot, Kennedy's all-around game is what has him near the top in Leafs history in many categories.
The five-time Stanley Cup champion was also an incredible playoff performer. He played a huge part in getting the Leafs to become the NHL's first ever "dynasty" in the 1940s and accumulated 60 points in 78 playoff games overall. Kennedy finished his 14-year career with 560 points in 696 games with the Leafs and was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. His incredible success during his career as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, makes him the greatest captain Toronto has ever had.
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