Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs have long dreamed about one day seeing a superstar player who was born and raised in the area donning the blue and white. Typically when one such player becomes available they opt to play elsewhere. After all, the Maple Leafs have not been very good for a long time and the pressure of playing in the centre of the hockey universe can often be too intense for star players. Things, however, may be different when it comes to Steven Stamkos.
Firstly, these aren’t your older brother’s, father’s, or grandfather’s Maple Leafs. For the first time in a long time, the Maple Leafs have a solid and competent management group in place, led by President Brendan Shanahan and head coach Mike Babcock who, despite a lack of success in the standings, has his team playing the right way. The front office has assembled an exciting group of prospects led by William Nylander and Mitch Marner and is poised to add another key piece to the mix with a high pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The team’s AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies currently hold a 14 point lead atop the standings under rookie head coach Sheldon Keefe. For once, the future is bright in Toronto.
Secondly, Stamkos doesn’t seem eager to sign an extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. He has, on multiple occasions, used his Twitter account to favourite/like tweets referencing his possible signing with the Maple Leafs. He’s claimed that every instance was an accident and maybe it was or maybe he was just trolling fans in Toronto, but it does make one wonder if he’s considering the possibility.
In the meantime, we’re left to wait and ponder how he might fair playing in front of a crowd filled with family and friends. For comparisons sake, here are the top 15 NHL players who’ve done just that.
15. Joffrey Lupul
Current Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul was born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta just north of Edmonton. The 7th overall pick by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2002, Lupul scored 28 goals and 53 points in his sophomore season and made his homecoming the follow summer when he was dealt to the Oilers in the Chris Pronger trade. Expected to be key piece of the deal and an offensive threat for the Oilers, Lupul played just one disappointing season in Edmonton. He scored just 16 goals and 28 points in 81 games, before he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in a deal for Joni Pitkanen.
14. Chris Drury
Born and raised in Turnbull, Connecticut near New York City, Chris Drury became a town hero at the age of 13 when he pitched a complete game, five-hitter and drove in two runs to lead his team to the 1989 Little League World Series Championship. Drury continued to his winning ways when he joined the NHL, helping the Colorado Avalanche to a 2001 Stanley Cup victory. In 2005-06 and 2006-07, Drury and Daniel Briere led the young Buffalo Sabres to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances. When Drury became an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2007, he decided to go home and joined the New York Rangers on a five year, $35.25 million contract.
Drury’s play dipped slightly from his 67 and 69 point Buffalo days to 58 and 56 points during his first two seasons in New York before dropping to just 32 points in his third. He was limited by injuries to just 24 games in 2010-11 and subsequently had his contract bought out before he retired.
13. Ray Whitney
Ray Whitney was also born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. In 1991, he was drafted by the San Jose Sharks with the 23rd overall pick and played parts of six seasons in San Jose, but never topped the 40 point mark. Whitney signed with his hometown Oilers for the 1997-98 season, but his time in Edmonton was short-lived. He played just nine games with the Oilers, scoring four points, before he was claimed on waivers by the Florida Panthers. Whitney broke out in Florida, recording three consecutive seasons of at least 61 points. He later played for the Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Hurricanes, Coyotes, and Stars. Whitney’s lone Stanley Cup victory came with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, which was followed by his career high 83 point season.
12. Zach Parise
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota while his father J.P. was an assistant coach with the Minnesota North Stars, Zach Parise was drafted 17th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2003. Parise played six seasons with the Devils, scoring a career high 45 goals and 94 points in 2008-09 and helping them to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2012. In the summer of 2012 Parise and Ryan Suter were the two premier free agents on the market and decided to go to Minnesota together, joining the Wild on identical 13 year, $98 million contracts. Parise’s play in Minnesota hasn’t been what it was in New Jersey and the Wild have failed to have any real playoff success, but he still remains a productive player, having put up 33 goals and 62 points in 77 games last season.
11. Vincent Damphousse
The Montreal Canadiens have long prided themselves on having French Canadian players wear the bleu, blanc et rouge and so several high profile players from Montreal have played for the team throughout their history. Vincent Damphousse is the first of those players to make our list. Drafted 6th overall by the Maple Leafs in 1986, Damphousse played five seasons in Toronto, posting a breakout season of 33 goals and 94 points in 1989-90, before being traded to Edmonton. After one season with the Oilers he was traded to his hometown Canadiens in a deal for Shayne Corson.
Damphousse would have the best years of his career in Montreal, posting a career high 97 points in 1992-93 followed by 23 points in 20 playoff games en route to a Stanley Cup victory. He played parts of seven seasons in Montreal and recorded two more 90 plus points seasons before being traded to the San Jose Sharks.
10. Larry Murphy
So, Steven Stamkos wouldn’t be the first Toronto area native to join the Maple Leafs, but such a move hasn’t always gone smoothly in the past. Born in Scarborough in the eastern section of Toronto, Larry Murphy had a Hall of Fame career as a defenseman. He split his first 15 seasons between the Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, Minnesota North Stars, and Pittsburgh Penguins, winning the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins, before being traded to his hometown Maple Leafs prior to the 1995-96 season. Over parts of two seasons, Murphy posted 100 points in 151 games for the Maple Leafs, but as the team’s highest paid player he became the scapegoat for their struggles. Murphy was booed mercilessly by the Toronto faithful, resulting in a trade to the Detroit Red Wings for “future considerations” where he would finish his career and pick up two more Stanley Cup victories.
9. Henri Richard
Henri “the Pocket Rocket” Richard was born and raised in Montreal and played his entire 20 year NHL career with his hometown Canadiens, winning the Stanley Cup a record eleven times as a player. Less of an offensive threat than his brother, Henri Richard did reach the 20 goal mark nine times and he led the league in assists 1957-58 with 52. The most memorable moment of the Pocket Rocket’s career came in Game 7 of the 1971 Stanley Cup Final, when he scored the game tying and game winning goals to bring the Canadiens their fifth Stanley Cup victory in seven years.
8. Dickie Moore
Dickie Moore was also born in Montreal and had a Hall of Fame career in the NHL as a left winger. Moore played parts of 12 seasons for the Canadiens and was a member of six Stanley Cup winning teams. He put up 84 points in 1957-58 and followed that up with a 96 point campaign, that broke Gordie Howe’s single season points record, to take home the Art Ross Trophy in back to back years. Moore’s record breaking 1958-59 season would stand as the second highest single season point total of the pre-expansion era. Moore would end up finishing his career away from home with stops in Toronto and St. Louis.
7. Joe Nieuwendyk
Joe Nieuwendyk is the most high profile hometown boy to play for the Maple Leafs in recent memory. Born in Oshawa in the eastern most part of the Greater Toronto Area, Nieuwendyk was drafted 27th overall by the Calgary Flames in 1985. He took home the Calder Trophy in 1987-88 and helped the Flames to a Stanley Cup victory the following year. After playing parts of nine seasons in Calgary he was traded to the Dallas Stars where he won the Conn Smythe Trophy en route to another Stanley Cup victory in 1999. After a third Cup victory in New Jersey in 2003, Nieuwendyk made his way home, signing with the Maple Leafs.
During his lone season in Toronto, Nieuwendyk scored 22 goals and 50 points in 64 games followed by six goals in nine playoff games. The two most memorable of those goals came in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal when he beat Ottawa Senators goalie Patrick Lalime for a pair in the first period, paving the way to a 4-1 win. After the 2004-05 lockout, Nieuwendyk and teammate Gary Roberts left Toronto in favor of the Florida Panthers where Nieuwendyk played his final two seasons.
6. Curtis Joseph
Curtis Joseph was born in Richmond Hill, Ontario in the northern GTA, adopted by a nurse at the hospital, and raised in nearby Sharon, Ontario. Joseph went undrafted and then moved to Saskatchewan to play for the Notre Dame Hounds where he earned himself a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin before signing with the St. Louis Blues. He played six seasons in St. Louis and three with the Edmonton Oilers, establishing himself as a premier goaltender, before he returned home, signing with the Maple Leafs in the summer of 1998.
Joseph played four seasons in Toronto and backstopped the Maple Leafs to Eastern Conference Finals appearances in 1999 and 2002, but in the summer of 2002 he chose to sign with the Detroit Red Wings in an effort to win a Stanley Cup. That never happened. Cujo played two seasons in Detroit and two more in Phoenix followed by one season in Calgary in which he played just nine games before he returned home again to play 21 games as the Maple Leafs’ back-up in his final NHL season.
5. Chris Chelios
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Chris Chelios was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 40th overall in 1981. During parts of seven seasons in Montreal he became one of the league’s top defensemen, helping the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup victory in 1986 and taking home the Norris Trophy in 1988-89. Prior to the 1990-91 season, he was traded to his hometown Blackhawks for Denis Savard. Chelios played parts of nine seasons in Chicago and won the Norris Trophy two more times.
By the time the 1999 trade deadline arrived, Chelios was 37 years old and his offensive numbers had declined and was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings. Chelios would play another decade in Detroit, picking up two more Stanley Cup victories, and then finished his NHL career with a seven game stint in Atlanta, retiring as the second oldest player in NHL history behind Gordie Howe.
4. Mike Modano
Born in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Michigan, Mike Modano was drafted first overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1988. He played twenty seasons for the North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise, helping the team to their lone Stanley Cup victory in 1999. He scored 557 goals and 1359 points with the Stars and became the all-time leader in goals and points amongst American born players.
Prior to the 2010-11 season, Modano decided to play one final NHL season, leaving the only franchise he had ever known to join his hometown Red Wings at the age of 40. He scored just 15 points in 40 games for the Red Wings and one assist in two playoff games. He then signed a one day contract in Dallas to retire as member of the Stars.
3. Doug Harvey
A native of Montreal, Doug Harvey is considered by some to be the greatest defenseman to ever play the game. Like Eddie Shore before him and Bobby Orr after, Harvey is credited with revolutionizing the position. He won the Norris Trophy seven times in an eight year span from 1954-55 through 1961-62. Harvey played parts of 14 seasons with his hometown Canadiens and picked up six Stanley Cup victories, including five straight from 1955-56 through 1959-60, before leaving home to become a player-coach with the New York Rangers in 1961-62. Harvey played parts of three seasons in New York and finished his Hall of Fame career with stops in Detroit and St. Louis.
2. Maurice Richard
Fifteen years Henri Richard’s elder, Maurice “the Rocket” Richard was also born in Montreal and played all 17 seasons of his NHL career in bleu, blanc et rouge. One of the games all-time great scorers, the Rocket became the first player in NHL history to reach the 50 goal mark in 1944-45. Richard’s 50 goals came in just 50 games, something that would not be done again until Mike Bossy matched the feat 36 years later. Richard also became the first player in league history to reach the 500 goal mark and he helped the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cup victories, including the five straight that Doug Harvey was a part of beginning in 1955-56.
1. Mark Messier
The NHL’s second all time leading scorer behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier was born in Edmonton, Alberta and drafted 48th overall by his hometown Oilers in 1979. Messier played twelve seasons in Edmonton, becoming one of the game’s all time greats, scoring 392 goals and 1,034 points. He won the Stanley Cup five times in Edmonton, including the Oilers final Cup and only one without Gretzky in 1990. Messier’s patience wore thin with Oilers management after the 1990-91 season and he was traded to the New York Rangers were he played six seasons, winning the Stanley Cup once more in 1994, followed by three regrettable years in Vancouver beginning in 1997-98 , and then finished his career with four more seasons with the Rangers.
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