Captain Syl Apps sits with coach Hap Day (left) and manager Conn Smythe (right). (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
As we make our way across the league counting down the top 10 players in each franchise’s history (we’ll get to all 30 as the season wears on) things land on the Maple Leafs.
We’ve done the Canucks and the Canadiens so far; Vancouver’s was dominated by players of a decidedly recent vintage, Montreal’s featured players spanning its 100-year history.
Leafs Nation hates to be reminded, but it’s been 43 years and counting since the Stanley Cup was last paraded down Yonge Street. And that means you won’t find many (or any) Buds from recent years below. Sorry, Mats. Sorry, even, Mr. Sittler. You guys just didn’t make the grade. Who did? Find out now. This is THN.com’s Top 10 Maple Leafs of all-time.
Salming was the NHL’s first European superstar, doing away with the moniker ‘Swedish Chickens’ that was regularly used to describe Scandinavian hockey players. The rugged defenseman played through injury and insult, recording team records in assists (620) and all-star teams (six). Salming played 16 seasons with the Leafs, he’s fourth all-time in points and third in games played.
Keon spent 15 seasons with the Leafs and was one of the best two-way players of his generation. Offensively the center produced 365 goals and 858 points in 1,062 games and was the team’s career leader in points for 26 years until passed by Mats Sundin in 2008. Keon was a stalwart on Leafs teams that won four Cups in the 1960s. He was the NHL’s rookie of the year in ’61, the Lady Byng winner in ’62 and ’63 and the post-season MVP in ’67, the last time Toronto won the Cup.
Cecil Henry Dye was a three-sport athlete during the early part of the 20th century. He played pro football with the Toronto Argonauts and was offered $25,000 by the legendary Connie Mack to join baseball’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1921, but he chose to focus on hockey. Dye, a right winger who played for the then Toronto St. Patricks, led the NHL in scoring three times between 1920 and ’25. He scored 176 goals in his first 170 games, not until Wayne Gretzky joined the league some 60 years later was that pace matched.
‘Teeder’ Kennedy is known as one of the best clutch players in Maple Leafs history. A tenacious checker and faceoff wizard, Kennedy helped Toronto to five Cups in the 1940s and ’50s. He was thrice named a second-team all-star and was generally considered to have hard luck in the awards department. But despite finishing 23 points behind the Art Ross winner, Kennedy won the Hart Trophy in 1955, after which he promptly retired.
Harvey Jackson was a star on Toronto’s famous ‘Kid Line’ during the 1930s. A pure sniper, he was first-team all-star at left wing four times in the ’30s and added a second-team nod as well. Jackson led the NHL in scoring in 1931-32 and won the Hart Trophy for his troubles. That season the Leafs also won their first Cup since changing their name from the St. Pats. Jackson routinely scored 20-plus goals a season during an era when not many did.
Francis Clancy was a pit bull of a defenseman; a smaller player, he’d take on all comers no matter their size and, win or not, would never back down. He was acquired by the Leafs in 1930 for two players and $35,000, a monstrous sum at the time. Clancy played an exciting brand of physical, offensive hockey with top-notch defensive play thrown in the mix. During his six full years with the Leafs he was an all-star four times and won a Cup.
As strong as they came in his day, defenseman Horton was as good defensively as any player in Leafs history and had some offensive chops, to boot. During his 18 seasons with Toronto he played 1,185 games - two fewer than all-time leader George Armstrong - and sits third in career scoring by a defenseman. He died tragically in a car accident in 1974 and is perhaps most famous now for his eponymous chain of coffee shops.
‘The Big Bomber’ Conacher played the right side on Toronto’s ‘Kid Line’ with Busher Jackson and Joe Primeau in the middle. Conacher was big for his day - 6-foot-1, 200 pounds - and used his size to bowl over anyone who got in his way. But he was skilled, too. He led the league in scoring twice in the ’30s and was a five-time all-star. Like Jackson, he was a goal-scorer; 200 of his 324 points in 326 games with the Leafs came on goals.
‘The Big M’ was billed as a prodigy coming out of junior with the St. Michael’s Majors and began his career on a high, winning the Calder Trophy in 1958. The left winger scored 296 goals and 597 points with the Leafs, good for seventh all-time in team scoring. Six times during his 11 seasons with Toronto he was named an all-star, but it was never enough for management or the fans. Despite four Cups and all the accolades, Mahovlich was traded to Detroit in 1968; he’d play seven more NHL seasons and in the 1972 Summit Series before moving to the World Hockey Association. He was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1998.
Charles Joseph Sylvanus Apps was a great university football player and an Olympic pole-vaulter. He’s also known as the classiest guy to ever wear the Blue and White. He once offered to give back $1,000 of his $6,000 salary because he thought he was making too much and he enlisted in the army during World War II, costing him two years of NHL service. He was the league’s rookie of the year in 1937, was a five-time all-star and won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1942 after scoring 41 points in 38 games and not taking a single penalty. His son, Syl Apps Jr., played 11 NHL seasons; grandson Syl Apps III went to Princeton on a hockey scholarship and played minor pro; and, granddaughter Gillian Apps has won two Olympic gold medals in hockey with Canada and two golds and three silvers at the World Championship.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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