I understand it’s been an interesting time for fans of sports teams in every league, handling not having any live sports to watch due to COVID-19. Personally, it feels strange not having Toronto Maple Leafs or Blue Jays games to watch, playoff races to track or scores to check. To give Toronto hockey fans something to read during this time, I have decided to come up with my all-time Toronto Maple Leafs starting lineup.
The rules for this exercise are; I can choose three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie from any time in Leafs history, regardless of whether they played together or not. These are the players I would want on my team in an elimination type playoff game. These choices were tough, involving a lot of thought and debate, noting how many great players have played for the Leafs in their franchise history.
Let me begin with my starting goalie. I’ve decided to select Johnny Bower. The man nicknamed “The China Wall” won four Stanley Cups with the Leafs, including their very last one in 1967, and is also a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. He has also been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Moving outside the crease, let’s move on to the defensemen. The first defenseman I’ve chosen is Tim Horton. Like Bower, Horton is also a four-time Stanley Cup winner and a hall of fame inductee. In 2017, Horton was named one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players in history” by the NHL. During his playing time, Horton was known to be a strong body-checker. He was named a First-Team All-Star in 1968 and 1969. For my second defenseman, I’m going with someone from the current Leafs roster, Morgan Rielly. For this pick, I’m partially relying on future potential. Rielly was one of Toronto’s highest draft selections in the last ten years, being chosen fifth overall. He is Toronto’s second-highest point-producing defenseman this season with 27 points in 47 games. Though he would likely be leading the team if he hadn’t been hampered by injuries. Last season, he scored a career-high of 20 goals and 72 points. Rielly is known to be a leader in the locker room, being one of the names speculated for the captain of the team before John Tavares was eventually given the title. At just 26 years of age, Rielly still has plenty of years left to continue to produce for the team and possibly make his way into the Leaf record books.
Last, the three forwards. First off, for my Centre, I choose Mats Sundin. Sundin is the Leafs all-time leader in goals, at 420, and points at 987. He was also a gold medalist at the 2006 Winter Olympics and a long time captain of the Leafs. The first winger I choose is Wendel Clark. Clark was known to make big hits, and is also eighth all-time on the Leafs, in goals scored at 260 goals in 608 games played with the franchise. Before Auston Matthews was selected first overall by the Leafs in the NHL draft, the last time the team made a first overall selection was in 1985, when they chose Clark. My last forward selection is another current Leaf, Mitch Marner. Since being selected by the Leafs in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft, Marner has scored 83 goals and 291 points for the Leafs. In his first season, Marner set a record for most assists in one season by a Leaf rookie at 42. He has the potential to be one of the greatest Leafs of all time.
If you are looking to fill some time, I recommend trying out what I just did, coming up with an all-time team roster of players from your favourite sports club.