If you want to have any success in the NHL, you need to have at least a better than average goalie. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won thirteen Stanley Cups in their storied history. Their starting goalies for those championship teams were: Hap Holmes, Lorne Chabot, John Roach, Turk Broda, Frank McCool, Johnny Bower, and Terry Sawchuk. All of those goalies minus McCool, who was a World War II replacement, had successful NHL careers and most ended up being enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Since their last Stanley Cup championship in 1967, the Leafs have still had some great goaltending, but it has been few and far between.
The Maple Leafs have struggled to develop their own goalies. The last goalie that they drafted and developed themselves, that had any long term NHL success, was Felix Potvin. As a rookie, he led Toronto all the way to the 1993 Conference Finals and played parts of eight seasons for them. After that, the Leafs instead tried to buy goaltending talent, in which they had varying degrees of success. The signings of Curits Joseph and Ed Belfour worked out great for the Leafs. However, as you will see on the following list, Toronto signed more duds than studs.
The Leafs wasted a lot more than just money, they traded high draft picks for goalies who barely lasted a couple of seasons with the team. Sometimes these goalies were reclamation projects who the Leafs thought they could turn around, but had no luck. Some of these goalies were career backups who the Leafs thought would make great starting goalies, but they ended up being dead wrong. Some of them were goalies that were way past their prime. The Leafs even traded one of their own goaltending prospects who, unfortunately for the Leafs, has turned into one of the elite goalies in the NHL.
Here are the top 15 worst goalies in Toronto Maple Leafs history.
15. Ron Low
In 1972, the Leafs lost Bernie Parent to the WHA and Jaques Plante was in his twilight years. Their goaltending depth chart was thin, so they had to turn to the twenty-two year old Ron Low. The Leafs were already a weak team and it didn’t help they had a goalie who clearly wasn’t ready for the NHL. Low compiled a record of 12-24-4. The next season the Leafs acquired more goaltending depth and Low was sent back down to the minors. Low was taken in the 1974 Expansion Draft by the Washington Capitals and would end up playing almost 400 NHL games. Although Low made a decent NHL career for himself, he simply wasn’t ready to play in NHL when the Leafs forced him to do so in 1972/73.
14. Jonas Gustavsson
Jonas Gustavsson was coined “The Monster” for how big he looked in net. He was the top goalie in the Swedish Hockey League and was considered the best goalie not playing in the NHL. The Leafs signed him to a contract in 2009, hoping he was their answer to their lengthy goaltending woes. Gustavsson battled injury in first season with the Leafs, but still managed to put up decent numbers. In his second season, he struggled mightily in his 23 games played, posting a record of 6-13-2 record with a 3.29 GAA. In his third and final season in Toronto, he led the team in starts with 42, but his numbers were mediocre at best. Gustavsson wasn’t a complete disaster in his time with the Leafs, but he certainly did not live up to all the hype that surrounded him and has gone on to become a serviceable backup in the league, but nothing more.
13. Doug Favell
Doug Favell played parts of three seasons with the Maple Leafs. In his first season in 1973-74, he shared the net with two other goalies in Dunc Wilson and Ed Johnston. He played 32 games and sported a very good 2.71 GAA. However, the next season was a disaster for Favell. In 39 games, he recorded just 12 wins and had a career worst 4.05 GAA. His final season with the Leafs was a complete wash. He played poorly in three games, failing to register a win, before suffering a major elbow injury.
12. Don Beaupre
When the Leafs acquired Don Beaupre in a trade with the New York Islanders, he was a thirty-four year old veteran with 656 NHL games under his belt. The hope was that he could be a solid backup goalie for Felix Potivin. Clearly father time had caught up with Beaupre, as the goalie who was once known for his quick reflexes had noticeably slowed down. He struggled in his 11 games over two seasons with the Leafs, as he had a combined 4.84 GAA and a .843 save percentage. Beaupre would spend the majority of his time in the Leafs organization playing in the minors.
11. Benny Grant
Benny Grant was mostly known as a minor league goaltender during his 17 year professional career. However, he did manage to play 39 games over five seasons for the Leafs. During the 1943-44 season, Grant was thrust into the Leafs backup role position when Turk Broda left for the military. Grant played a career high twenty games and his numbers (4.15 GAA) proved he belonged in the minor leagues.
10. Vesa Toskala
Vesa Toskala was considered one of the best backup goalies in the league while playing for the San Jose Sharks. The Leafs thought he would make a great number one goalie, so they traded a first round, second round, and fourth round draft pick to acquire him, along with another dud in Mark Bell. Toskala performed fairly well in his first season with the Leafs in 2007-08. He recorded 33 wins, with a 2.74 GAA, along with a decent .904 save percentage. Toskala would only last a season and a half more with the Leafs, as his numbers ballooned with a goals against average over three and a save percentage well below .900. With the signing of Jonas Gustavsson, he was traded to Anaheim in 2010.
9. Grant Fuhr
Grant Fuhr had spent ten fantastic seasons playing for the Edmonton Oilers before making his way to Toronto. The Leafs sent their former starting goalie in Peter Ing to Edmonton, so Fuhr’s status as the Leafs new starter was cemented. The Leafs were hoping he would provide stable goaltending for years to come, but unfortunately Fuhr’s time in Toronto only lasted a season and a half. In his only full season with the Maple Leafs, Fuhr compiled a record of 25-33-5, and allowed 230 goals, which is a Leafs record for most goals allowed in a season. The following season Fuhr lost his starting role to rookie Felix Potvin and was eventually traded to Buffalo.
8. Justin Pogge
Of all the goalies on this list, Justin Pogge played the least amount of games for the Leafs. He was a highly touted prospect going into the 2004 draft and Toronto ended up taking him in the third round, 90th overall. Pogge’s prospect status sky rocketed in 2005-06 when he had an amazing year with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, where he was named the CHL’s Goaltender of the Year. He also went undefeated as Canada’s starting goalie at the 2005 World Junior Championships.
After a couple of decent years with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, Pogge finally made his NHL debut in the 2008-09 season. In seven appearances he compiled a 1-4-1 record, with an ugly 4.36 GAA and.844 save percentage. Pogge was not able to live up all the hype the Leafs fans had for him.
7. Vincent Tremblay
Vincent Tremblay played parts of four seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and was another victim of the weak defense that the Maple Leafs had in the early 1980s. He spent most of his time with the Leafs as the third goaltender on the depth chart. However, in 1981-82, he split time in the Leafs net with Michel Larocque. In 40 games, Tremblay complied a record of 10-18-8 wth a 4.52 GAA. Tremblay lost a lot of confidence that season and despite having a cup of coffee with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he never recovered from that dreadful year with the Leafs.
6. Paul Harrison
Paul Harrison was a star player in the American Hockey League, but when he was given a shot in the NHL, he failed to reproduce the same numbers he had in the minors. He was traded by the Minnesota North Stars to the Maple Leafs in 1978. He would spend two seasons as a backup with Toronto, posting a combined record of 17-29-5. He failed to impress the Leafs staff and found himself in a familiar spot, the minors. He would play a handful more games with the Penguins and Sabres before retiring in 1983.
5. Michel “Bunny” Larocque
Michel “Bunny” Larocque might be best known as Ken Dryden’s backup during 1970s, when the Montreal Canadiens dominated the National Hockey League. When Ken Dryden retired after the 1978-79 season, Laroque split duties with Denis Herron. After failing to capture the starting goalie job, Laroque was traded to Toronto in 1981, where he would spend the 1981-82 season as the Leafs starting goalie. He struggled on a weak Maple Leafs team, posting a record of 10-24-8. He spent the next season as backup to Mike Palmateer, where his play was even worse than before.
4. Rick St. Croix
Rick St. Croix spent the first chunk of his career as a backup with the Philadelphia Flyers. When the Flyer traded their starting goalie Pete Peters to the Bruins, St. Croix assumed he would get the role as the new starter. That did not happen as the Flyers went with Pelle Lindbergh as their starter instead. St. Croix was upset with this and demanded a trade. The Maple Leafs ended up acquiring him, but St. Croix was still unable to secure a starting role. St. Croix played three seasons with Toronto, compiling a combined record of 11-28-2 with a 4.67 GAA and a .858 save percentage, not exactly the numbers you want to see from a number one goalie.
3. Andrew Raycroft
Andrew Raycroft’s tenure with the Leafs only lasted one full season. During the 2006-07 season, he set career highs in games played with 72 and wins with 37. Despite those numbers, Raycroft struggled. He ranked 49th in goals against average and 56th in save percentage, and allowed a league worst 205 goals against. No matter how Raycroft played, Leafs fans will always remember who they gave up in order to acquire the former Rookie of the Year. The Leafs traded goalie prospect Tuukka Rask to Boston for Raycroft. Rask has gone on to become one of the elite goalies in the NHL, while Raycroft’s time in Toronto lasted a total of 91 games.
2. Jim Rutherford
Jim Rutherford was never the quickest or biggest of goalies, but he had a lot of heart and determination. His hard work paid off for him as he ended his NHL career having played parts of 13 seasons. The best years of Rutherford’s career were spent with the Detroit Red Wings, though his numbers with the Wings were nothing spectacular, but Detroit was never able to find a suitable replacement for Rutherford. He ended up playing nine seasons with Detroit, before being traded to Toronto. Rutherford’s lack of raw talent and age caught up to him in Toronto. He only managed to suit up for 18 games for Toronto, posting a dismal record of 4-10-2 with a 5.12 GAA.
1. Don Edwards
Don Edwards had five fantastic seasons with the Buffalo Sabres to start his NHL career. In 1979-80, he actually won the Vezina Trophy, showing how far his star had fallen by the time get got to Toronto. He was eventually traded to Calgary, where his numbers dropped considerably in his three years with the Flames. The Maple Leafs acquired Edwards, hoping he could bring back the quality of play he once showed with the Sabres. He ended up only lasting 38 miserable games with Toronto, posting a 12-23 record, with a 4.78 GAA and .860 save percentage. The Leafs bought out the two remaining years on Edwards contract and that was it for him and the NHL.
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