Johnny Bower: Top Ten Toronto Maple Leafs of All-Time, No. 7

Scott MillerAnalyst IAugust 12, 2008

Next on my list is arguably the best goaltender in Maple Leafs history, and surprisingly played most of his hockey career in the AHL before joining Toronto when he was in his early-thirties.

As I said,  Johnny Bower played in the AHL for quite awhile - eleven seasons in fact - and during that time he established himself as the best goaltender in the league, winning three Haps Holmes Memorial Awards (AHL's top goalie), and three consecutive Les Cunningham Awards (Most Valuable Player in the AHL). He also led his teams to three Calder Cup Championships.

However, in 1953-54, he played 70 games for the New York Rangers, finishing with a 29-31-10, and a 2.60 goals-against-average.

Unfortunately for him, he was sent back to the minors the following season, and from then on was up-and-down between the NHL and AHL.

Finally, in the 1958 Inter-League Draft, he was claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would spend the rest of his career.

He played his first season with the Leafs that year, playing 39 games. He finished with a record of  15-17-7, and a goals-against-average of 2.74.

Two seasons later, in 1960-61, Bower won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender (although back then it was for fewest goals throughout a season). He played 58 games that season, finishing with a record of 33-15-10, and a G.A.A of 2.50.

The following season, Bower would continue his solid play (31-18-10, G.A.A of 2.58), and because of this he and the Leafs would earn their first of three consecutive Stanley Cups.

Although the Leafs would fail to win a fourth straight Cup in the 1964-65 season, Bower himself would again win the Vezina Trophy. But this time, he and Terry Sawchuk were splitting playing time, and Sawchuk too won the Vezina.

Then came the 1966-67 season, the last time the Leafs won the Cup. Bower was again splitting time with Sawchuk, but still contributed to the Leafs Cup win.

He would play two more seasons with the Leafs, and then one game in 1969-70, before announcing his retirement on March 19, 1970.

He finished his career with 552 games played, 250 wins, 195 losses, 90 ties, 37 shutouts, and a 2.51 G.A.A.

In 1976 he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he would also return to the Leafs between 1976-78 as an assistant coach.

So, since he is the last goalie in Leafs history to win a Vezina Trophy (along with Sawchuk), and that he was a major contributer to the Leafs four Cup wins in the early-sixties, I give Bower number seven on my list of the best Leafs of all-time.


#10: Red Kelly
#9: Frank Mahovlich
#8: Lanny McDonald