As the upper crust of hockey talent in the NHL continues to vie for the coveted Stanley Cup, spare a thought for the poor lowly Toronto Maple Leafs, the owners of the worst record in the league this season. Sure, that designation will suit many in Leafs Nation just fine, with the focus firmly on a presently bright future with a brain trust of Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock at the helm and tons of young talent on the horizon. But a potentially bright future doesn't totally forgive a barren wasteland of a past that has seen plenty of playoff-free seasons and - as any hockey fan in Hogtown will tell you - a Cup drought nearing 50 years.
You can't experience a half century of failure without a steady diet of mishaps and boneheaded mistakes along the way, and the Leafs are no exception. Unflattering books have covered the topic at length, but here we will examine 15 embarrassing-yet-true facts about the storied franchise that was once associated with greatness. Because of the litany of free agent duds (Jeff Finger), draft disasters (Scott Pearson ahead of Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind'Amour and Teemu Selanne) and calamitous trades (Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft) that plague the club, this list has been limited to humiliating factoids that extend beyond the typical operating standards of a pro sports franchise.
Without further ado, these are the 15 most embarrassing facts about the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club. And yes, these really had significant, impactful roles in what is the NHL's most valuable franchise located in one of the world's biggest hockey markets!
15 The Franchise’s Original Players Were Acquired Via Theft
14 Their Most Promising Season in Recent History Resulted in a Last Place Finish
13 The Leafs Have Made the Playoffs Once Since 2003 - in a Lockout-shortened Season
12 … And That Playoff Run Ended With a Monumental Collapse
11 Their Owner Asked Roger Neilson to Coach With a Paper Bag Over His Head
10 Punch Imlach Traded Away Players for Spite
9 Trading a First Round Pick for Phil Kessel and Finishing Second-last
8 Their Jerseys Had Blue on Blue and White on White
7 They Rank Dead Last Among All Big Four Franchises in Value Delivered
6 They Didn’t Have a Single Winning Season in the 1980s
5 Sittler Cut Off His Captain’s “C”
4 They Remain One of the Wealthiest Teams Despite Lack of Winning Culture
3 They Haven't Earned Many Individual Accolades
2 Their Most Famous Owner was a Villainous Crook
1 They Haven’t Won a Stanley Cup Since 1967
If the sole goal of a sports franchise is to win their league's championship, then it doesn't get much worse than going a half century without a title. The NHL that the Leafs last reigned in was a very different one, with just six teams involved compared to the current 30. Since their 1967 Cup victory, every other Original Six franchise has etched their name onto the most famous trophy in sports and 12 clubs that didn't even exist then have done the same. It isn't uncommon to hear fans of rival teams derisively chant "Sixty-Seven!" when the Leafs are in town.
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