The 10 Best Toronto Maple Leafs Teams Ever

Luan MadaniCorrespondent INovember 21, 2012

The 10 Best Toronto Maple Leafs Teams Ever

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    While the Toronto Maple Leafs are among the most storied franchises in the NHL, there are 10 teams that hold their place as the best.

    Founded in 1917, the Leafs are a part of the "Original Six" teams. 

    The franchise has a total of 13 Stanley Cup Championships, only second to the Montreal Canadiens, who have 24. 

    The Leafs are currently in a 45-year championship drought, as the team last held the Stanley Cup in 1967. 

    Despite this, the Leafs have had many successful rosters in the past that have made them formidable opponents for teams. 

No. 10: 1999-00

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    The 1999-00 NHL season for the Maple Leafs was a successful and historic one. 

    Even though this wasn't one of their Stanley Cup-winning seasons, the Maple Leafs finished the season at 45-27-7, which earned them first place in the Northeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference. 

    Captained by Mats Sundin, the Leafs began this season on a three-game winning streak, beating the Canadiens, Bruins and Avalanche. This season saw Sundin continue to lead the team in points with 32 goals and 41 assists.

    What makes this team one of the best teams in franchise history is the way Mats Sundin as well as Jonas Hoglund were playing. 

    On top of the 73 points Sundin tallied, Hoglund had a career year, scoring 29 goals and 27 assists, bringing his 1999-00 points to 56. 

    The Leafs would go onto the 2000 NHL Playoffs facing and defeat the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals four games to two. 

    Advancing to the semifinals, Toronto would face, and lose out to, the eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils.

    Even though the team wasn't successful in attaining the Stanley Cup, the season was historic in terms of being the first time the Leafs finished with 100 points.

    Along with that historic milestone, the NHL All-Star Game, which was celebrating its 50th season, was being held at the Air Canada Centre of February 6, 2000. 

No. 9: 1993-94

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    The 1993-94 Maple Leafs posted a 43-29-12 record, which placed them second in the Central Division

    The team posted an NHL record, as they began the season on a 10-game winning streak, beating the Blackhaws and Red Wings twice each in those contests. 

    This season saw Doug Gilmour as one of the best players in the league. Tallying 27 goals and 84 assists, Gilmour posted 111 points on the season, which earned him the fourth place in the league in scoring. 

    This team also had a little bit more success in the postseason. The Leafs defeated the Blackhawks in the conference quarterfinals four games to two. 

    Advancing to the semifinals, the Leafs beat the San Jose Sharks in a seven-game series four games to three. 

    In the conference finals, the Leafs came up short in their quest to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Vancouver Canucks in five games.

    The Leafs haven't had many conference final appearances; however, this marked one of the few that they have made it. 

No. 8: 2001-02

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    The 2001-02 Maple Leafs season was dominated by team captain Mats Sundin and was also important for goaltender Curtis Joseph.

    The Maple Leafs completed their 2001-02 campaign 43-25-10, finishing second in the Northeast Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. 

    This was another 100-point season for the Maple Leafs, and they also had a four-point hold on the fourth place spot in the rankings ahead of the New York Islanders

    Mats Sundin had one of the best seasons of his career in this year, as he finished with 41 goals and 39 assists for a total of 80 points. 

    It was also a good season for Curtis Joseph, who had 29 wins and a .906 save percentage. 

    Good offense and defense earned the Maple Leafs a spot in the playoffs, where they reached the conference finals. 

    Beating the Islanders and Senators in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds respectively, the Leafs eventually lost against the Carolina Hurricanes in their bid for a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. 

No. 7: 1992-93

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    The 1992-93 season was a landmark season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

    In this season, the Maple Leafs set franchise records for both wins and points, 44 and 99 respectively. Goaltending from Felix Potvin was ranked among the best in the league, as he posted a 2.50 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. 

    Defensively, the Maple Leafs were solid. Led by Sylvain Lefevbre and Dimitri Mironov, the Leafs only allowed 69 power-play goals in the regular season, which were the fewest among all 24 teams. 

    This year also marked another great year from Doug Gilmour. He ranked eighth in the league in scoring and set a franchise record 127 points. Gilmour also finished the 1993 playoffs with 35, second only to hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

    The postseason for the Leafs was a hard-fought battle from the get-go. In the first conference quarterfinals, the Leafs faced the dominant Detroit Red Wings, who they eliminated in the seven games. 

    In the conference semifinals, Toronto squared off against the St. Louis Blues, which also went seven games and ended in favor of the Maple Leafs. 

    Finally, in the conference finals, the Leafs went against the Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings in a heated battle to advance to the Cup Finals. 

    Looking to break a 26-year Stanley Cup drought, the Leafs had to dispatch of a red-hot Kings offense and hard-hitting defense. 

    Games 5 and 6 both went to overtimes, and while Doug Gilmour was playing the best hockey is career, Wayne Gretzky's performance in Game 7 is what gave the Kings the edge to advance. 

    Aside from not advancing to the Cup Finals and not winning it, this Leafs team broke milestones and set franchise records, giving Leafs fans something to cheer about. 

No. 6: 1998-99

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    After failing to even qualify for the playoffs the previous two seasons, the 1998-99 Toronto Maple Leafs burst onto the ice with a vastly improved squad that not only qualified for the postseason, but also advanced a few rounds. 

    As a whole, these Leafs had a large amount of new talent from the previous few seasons that helped them achieve. Among those names, Alexander Karpovtsev, Bryan Berard and Curtis Joseph helped the Leafs become a well-rounded team.

    Mats Sundin also helped the Leafs with his solid play after netting 31 goals and assisting on 52 of them, totaling 83 points on the season. 

    This year was also a record-setting year for them, as the league bested their previous regular-season wins with 45 and tallied a total of 97 points to qualify for the playoffs. They led the league with the most goals after they netted 268 and were the only team to score over 200 even-strength goals. 

    This was also the year the Toronto players and faithful said goodbye to the storied Maple Leaf Gardens, as the Leafs played their last home game at the venue on February 20, 1999 against the Chicago Blackhawks. 

    In the 1999 playoffs, the Leafs bested the Flyers and Penguins in the conference quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively. They then met with the Buffalo Sabres in the conference final round, where they lost four games to one.

    The reason this team is special in Toronto history is because, as stated above, the Leafs came in red-hot and completely turned the franchise around after having a disappointing 1996-97 and 1997-98. 

No. 5: 1962-63

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    The 1962-63 Maple Leafs continued their success by winning their second Stanley Cup in a row. 

    Captain George Armstrong, who was nicknamed "The Chief," led the Leafs to a first-place finished on the season with a 35-23-12 record for 82 points. 

    Being neck and neck with the Chicago Blackhawks, who finished second place just a point behind them, the Leafs relied on offensive gem Frank Mahovlich. 

    Mahovlich led the team in goals, assists and points that season. Netting 36, Mahovlich finished with 73 points and helped the Leafs get the edge over the Blackhawks to advance to the playoffs. 

    Mahovlich had help from teammate and future Hall of Famer Dave Keon, who scored 28 goals for himself and tallied 28 assists. 

    The playoffs were a breeze for the Leafs, as they faced the Canadiens and Red Wings in the semifinal and final rounds, respectively. 

    The Leafs eliminated the Canadiens in the semifinal round four games to one and did the same thing with the Red Wings to capture their 11th Stanley Cup and what would be the second of three Cup victories in three years. 

No. 4: 1947-48

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    The 1947-48 Maple Leafs were the best team in the NHL and stood atop of the league with a record of 32-15-3.

    During this era, the Maple Leafs only had to compete against five other teams, as the league was still in the midst of the Original Six Era. Nevertheless, these Leafs established their dominance in the league and finished five points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings in the standings. 

    Team captain Syl Apps led the team in goals with 26 and assists at 27 for a season total of 53 points on the season. Teammate Max Bentley also helped the Leafs with his play and wasn't too far behind Apps, as he netted 23 goals and assisted on 25 for 48 points. 

    What made this team was its ability to establish a lead and maintain that lead with strong goaltending by Turk Broda, who had a 2.38 goals against average that season. Broda was instrumental in the Leafs' Stanley Cup victory and also was a World War II veteran who won the cup after returning from the war. 

    In the postseason, it was easy cruising for the Leafs, as they dismantled the Boston Bruins in the semifinals four games to one and swept the Detroit Red Wings in four games for their second Stanley Cup victory in a row. 

No. 3: 1959-60

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    In the 1959-60 season, the Maple Leafs were captained by a man nicknamed "The Chief," and while they weren't the best team in the NHL at the time, they still were a gritty team that held a stronghold on the second place spot in the standings. 

    With a record of 35-26-9 with 79 points, the Maple Leafs were beat out and couldn't catch up to the dominant Montreal Canadiens, who finished the season in first place at 92 points. 

    However, the team still beat out the Chicago Blackhawks by 10 points in the standings, and did so with strong offense from both George Armstrong and a man who eventually became Chicago Blackhawks general manager, Bob Pulford. 

    Armstrong, who is considered among the best captains in Leafs history, scored 23 goals and had 28 assists for 51 points. He was beat out only by Pulford, who had 24 goals and 28 assists for 52 points. 

    Nonetheless, even though the Leafs had a secure second-place standing in the league, the Montreal Canadiens became the Leafs' brick wall. 

    In the regular season, the Leafs only beat the Canadiens twice out of 13 meetings and tied them once. It was the same story in the postseason, as the Leafs met them in the finals after beating the Red Wings four games to two to get there. 

    The Canadiens swept the Leafs to add to their list of Stanley Cup victories. 

No. 2: 1950-51

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    The 1950-51 Maple Leafs were a Stanley Cup-winning team, and while they lost the first game of the season against the Blackhawks, they did not lose another game for a month thereafter. 

    The Leafs and Red Wings were in stride with one another in the standings, and eventually, the Leafs took second place with a record of 41-16-13 for 95 points. The Red Wings, who placed first with a 44-13-13 record, totaled 101 points. 

    This season, Tod Sloan took the reins over the offense and led the team in goals with 31. Sloan, however, was not alone in the goals department. Sid Smith netted 30 goals for himself, and Cal Gardner wasn't too far behind with 23 goals. 

    Strong offense is what led the Leafs to take second place and qualify for the playoffs that season, where they met the Bruins in the semifinals and dispatched them with ease, winning four games to one. 

    Surprisingly, their final round opponents were not the Red Wings, as the Montreal Canadiens, who placed third that season far behind the Leafs with 65 points, advanced to the finals. 

    However, the Canadiens weren't much of a test for these Leafs, as they were eliminated by Toronto four games to one. This gave the Leafs their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. 

No. 1: 1966-67

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    It's only fitting that the best team in Leafs history is the last team to grant Toronto a Stanley Cup. It's also the year the Leafs won their 13th Cup, which, as previously mentioned, is the second-most Cup wins in NHL history. 

    This team placed third in the NHL with 75 points that were earned by a 32-27-11 record. The Leafs weren't particularly strong on offense, as Ron Ellis led the team that season with only 22 goals. The team was led by strong goaltending by Terry Sawchuck, who had 15 wins on the season and a 2.81 GAA. 

    That year, the Chicago Blackhawks held a stronghold on the first place spot in the league and finished with 94 points. Consequently, they were favorites to win the Stanley Cup, especially since their semifinal opponent was the Maple Leafs. 

    However, the Leafs eliminated the Blackhawks in six games and advanced to the finals against the Canadiens, where they played another six-game series and defeated Montreal to score their 13th Stanley Cup in franchise history. 

    As mentioned, it is the last Maple Leaf team to win the Stanley Cup and is also the last Leaf team to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.