Toronto Maple Leafs: Is Brian Burke the NHL's Mad Scientist?
Good news, Leaf fans! Brian Burke is a genius!
Have you ever really looked at Brian Burke's hair? It bears a striking resemblance to a certain German-born theoretical physicist by the name of Albert.
Oh sure, Brian Burke may comb his hair on a regular basis, but did you see it up in that press box when the Maple Leafs dropped into 29th place in the 2009-2010 season? Huh? Did you?
The resemblance was uncanny!
Need further proof?
Albert Einstein died in 1955, just two and a half months prior to the birth of Toronto Maple Leafs President and General Manager Brian Burke!
I know! It's been right in front of our eyes this whole time.
With all of Leafs Nation searching desperately for a clue as to what the man has been working on for this upcoming season, I took it upon myself to sneak into the long, dark, empty hallways of the Air Canada Center.
Sneaking by a very statuesque security guard and a strange-looking janitor sleeping on the job, I started looking for something - anything - that might shed some light on his future plans for the season of 2011-2012.
I found something beyond my wildest dreams! Stashed away in the boiler room, under a tarp, I noticed something very peculiar.
It was some sort of contraption with the words "Truculence X-2011" etched across the front.
And then it hit me.
That's not a security guard! It's a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Pat Burns dressed up as a Police Officer!
That wasn't a janitor! That was John Ferguson! OK, maybe he WAS a janitor, but that's beside the point.
And that's not a water-heater!
It's a time machine!
All of this Brad Richards talk has simply been a cover-up to distract us from what is really going on here!
Let's take a look at our roster for the 2011-2012 season and see who Brian Burke has signed.
Felix "The Cat" Potvin: Goaltender
Burke's not going to sign Reimer and then not play him. But we do need a decent veteran to back him up.
First stop is in 1993, and we are looking for "The Cat."
Felix "The Cat" Potvin burst into the league and led all goaltenders with a 2.50 goals-against average in his rookie season, 1992-93. He was a huge part of the Leafs success in those years, leading the team to the Conference finals, where they would square off against the Los Angeles Kings.
No Maple Leaf fan can forget that series where a controversial call by referee Kerry Fraser, involving none other than Wayne Gretzky, may have cost us our chance at the Stanley Cup.
The Montreal Canadiens went on to win that year against the Kings. Many people were looking forward to a classic match-up between these two rivals, the Maple Leafs vs. the Canadiens, as well as Patrick Roy vs. Felix Potvin. A superstar goaltender battle!
We are picking Felix up after this year, where in 1993-94 he would tie the current record for wins in a season with 34, make an appearance at the All-Star game and help lead the Leafs to another Conference Final against the Vancouver Canucks.
Tim Horton: Defense
Now we should fix up our defense a little. Let's take a trip back to the summer of 1966.
Nowadays, when you think of the name Tim Horton, you're likely thinking a large double-double and an everything bagel double-toasted with butter and herb and garlic cream cheese.
Tim Horton's is an extremely successful donut and coffee franchise started by none other than Maple Leaf legend, Tim Horton.
The next time someone argues with you about who Canada's hockey team really is, you remind them who Tim Horton played for.
Horton was certainly one of the greatest defensemen to ever play in the National Hockey League. He was an excellent skater and had the ability to rush the puck, although he was better known for his responsible and intelligent defensive play.
He owned a powerful slapshot and was one of the strongest players in the league. At only 180 lbs., many tough guys feared being checked by Tim Horton.
Being the No. 1 defenseman for the Maple Leafs for 17 straight seasons, Horton led the very defensive-minded Maple Leafs from the '60s to four Stanley Cups in that decade, including our last-ever Stanley Cup in 1966-67. He may have been the greatest defenseman never to win the Norris Trophy.
Jump in, Timmy; we'll stop for a coffee on the way!
Borje Salming: Defense
Adding some more toughness to our blue line will be none other than the Super Swede himself, Borje Salming.
Salming was the first European player to make a significant impact in the NHL, thereby paving the way for many other European players to be brought over to North America.
Many doubted the Europeans' toughness back then, and many tested Salming. He soon gained respect from some of the meanest players in the game.
Salming scored 150 goals and 787 points in his 17-year stint with the National Hockey League.
Salming was perhaps the greatest shot-blocker of his time.
We will take the Borje Salming of the 1978-79 season: a year in which he scored 17 goals, 56 assists and totaled 73 points with a remarkable plus-38.
Frank "Big M" Mahovlich: Left Wing
Now, to work on our forwards!
The Maple Leafs enjoyed their greatest decade of hockey in the 1960's. Leading the way offensively to four Stanley Cups in that decade was Tim Horton's teammate, Frank Mahovlich.
The "Big M" was a powerful skater who could bulldoze his way through the opposition's defense with not only power and speed, but great stick-handling ability. Once open for a shot, Mahovlich would unleash a blast, often scoring with his remarkable slapshot.
Many fans feel that we never really got to see the best of Mahovlich while playing for Toronto in his prime. The Maple Leafs' coach at the time was "Punch" Imlach, who is known to have been very hard on all of his players.
He tried to stop Big M from playing his game and to force him into a defensive role, for which he was far less suited. This affected Mahovlich's popularity, when fans grew irate, thinking he was not playing to his potential.
Let's sign Frank Mohovlich from the 1960-61 season where he scored 48 goals and 36 assists for 84 points in his blue and white uniform.
Way to go, Franky baby!
Darryl Sittler: Center
Darryl Sittler is one of the most popular Maple Leafs of all time.
Often thought of as a "goaltender's nightmare," Sittler was one of those players who made magic happen on the ice. He was drafted eighth overall by Toronto in the 1970 entry draft, after enjoying a remarkable junior career with the London Knights.
Sittler's best game, and one that he is famous for, happened on Feb. 7, 1976. He set a record that no other great name in hockey has even come close to touching, when he scored an unimaginable six goals and four assists for a 10-point game against Don Cherry's Boston Bruins.
On April 22, 1976. Sittler once again put his name in the record books when he tied a record for playoff goals in a single game, with five, a record he shares, to this day, with Maurice Richard, Mario Lemieux, Newsy Lalonde and Reggie Leach.
We will take Darryl Sittler from the 1977-78 season, the year he tallied 45 goals and 72 assists for a total of 117 points with a +/- of 34.
This extremely hard-working centerman seemed to only get better in the playoffs.
Jump in, Darryl!
Rick Vaive: Right Wing
Burke signs Rick Vaive!
Rick Vaive may be the most overlooked superstar in Maple Leafs history.. This may be due to his off-ice antics which included a party lifestyle, causing him to sleep in and miss a practice, a scenario that stripped him of his captaincy at the time.
On the ice, Vaive was a battler in the corners and would often drop his gloves and fight for his teammates to pump up the crowd.
He was the very first Maple Leaf ever to notch 50 goals in a season. He reached the 50-goal plateau three straight years in 1982, 1983 and 1984.
Rick Vaive had a great shot and was a serious offensive threat in the league.
We will take the Rick Vaive from the 1981-82 season, the year he scored 54 goals and 35 assists, for an 89-point total and 157 PIM.
Wendel Clark: Left Wing
The epitome of truculence himself! Wendel Clark!
How can you describe this guy? Wendel Clark's worth to the Maple Leafs far, far exceeded his stats. He was a guy who stepped on the ice and would be the only player you could see out there.
He put his heart and soul into every shift, much like the next player we will be signing here today.
A natural defenseman who was drafted first overall in the 1985 entry draft and converted into a left-winger in the NHL.
Clark was a tough customer. Being no stranger to fisticuffs, Toronto's No. 17 would take on any and every tough guy in the league. Standing at 5'11", he was most famous for his epic battles with the much larger Detroit Red Wings' enforcer Bob Probert.
Clark had an unbelievable wrist shot that seemed to be every bit as hard and fast as many others' slapshots at the time.
We'll be signing Wendel Clark from the 1992-93 season, his last year before being traded in a deal for the Maple Leafs' current all time leading goal scorer, points total as well as many other records, Mats Sundin.
This was a controversial trade at the time, due to Wendel Clark's popularity.
Clark would return to the Maple Leafs twice again in his career, but his play never quite lived up to the standards he set in 1992-93, when he tallied 46 goals and 30 assists for a 76-point total.
Welcome back, Wendel!
Doug Gilmour: Center
So Phil Kessel needs somebody who can pass him the puck, huh? How about, arguably the most popular Maple Leaf of all-time?
Mr. Doug Gilmour.
Doug Gilmour ranks seventh in all-time playoff points, with 188. He is fifth all-time in playoff assists. Gilmour's already impressive PPG average was even higher in the playoffs, confirming that he was a "clutch" type of player and great under pressure.
Doug Gilmour was a warrior who could single-handedly take over a game at any time. He led the Maple Leafs, as Captain, to two back-to-back conference finals in the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons.
Dougie Gilmour took over from Wendel Clark as the people's champion in Toronto. He was a huge part of the success the Maple Leafs had in the early 90's and is truly a legend to the Maple Leaf Nation.
I think it's easy to say that we all dreamed of seeing Gilmour raise the Stanley Cup and if the "Hockey Gods" were just, the 1992-93 Eastern Conference finals would have played out a little differently.
Gilmour played 20 years in the NHL. He scored 450 goals and finished his career with 1,414 points.
We will select Doug Gilmour from his 1992-93 campaign, of course. A year in which he scored 32 goals, had 95 assists and totaled 127 points, setting the record (which stands to this day) for points in one season by any Maple Leaf player.
Hey, Dougie! Kessel needs you, buddy! Lace 'em up!
Your 2011-2012 Toronto Maple Leafs!
So here's what the lines will look like for the upcoming season:
Think we can make the playoffs now?
I wanted to write an article to give all of us Maple Leaf fans a break from banging our heads on the wall, trying to figure out what Brian Burke is going to do. I figured I would have a little fun doing it, and remind us of how great it can be to be a Leaf fan.
These are some of my favorite Maple Leafs of all time. Some I had the pleasure of watching. Some I did not. I would love to hear some stories or memories about any of these former Maple Leaf greats, as well as any players you would have included.
An honourable mention goes out to Mats Sundin, who should be included in this roster, as well as a few others who could have been.
RIP Pat Burns, my favorite Leaf Coach.
I'll look forward to your comments.
Go Leafs Go!