With all the trade speculation and guessing games dominating the Toronto Maple Leafs' fans time nowadays, I thought a time for a mini-break was needed.
Sure, analyzing and speculating who makes sense, who's worth it, who's attainable for Toronto is tons of fun, there's only so many predictive articles you can read before you actually want a few of the proposals to come to fruition.
To keep you from entering that state of insanity, what's a better way to take a break than to remember our beloved Maple Leafs' great leaders?
Who can forget Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark leading the Leafs to dominance in the early 1990s? How about Mats Sundin leading the Eastern Conference-force that was the Leafs to Conference finals' berths throughout the late 1990s and early 2000's?
There were numerous great captains in Leafs' history, but there were a select few that went the extra mile to solidify their names in Leafs' history just a little more.
Here they are and enjoy.
Dave Keon succeeded George Armstrong as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1969 and ran with the "C" until his tenure as a Maple Leaf concluded in 1975.
Despite being publicly and internally scrutinized by the owner, Dave Keon, the Leafs' leader, marched on and led the Leafs in scoring in all but one season during his captaincy. He was a player that led by example with his play, being one of the best two-way forwards of all time. Players often took exception to Keon's commitment to the game, and respected him, despite being more of an action leader than a spoken one.
Wendel Clark was captain of Toronto's hockey team for four seasons, between 1991 and 1994, and perhaps Leafs Nation's most beloved Maple Leaf of all time.
Clark's type of leadership was similar to Keon's—he led by example with his dominating play.
He was a player that injected life back into his team when they were down, and then led the comeback on the score sheet too. He hit anything that moved and wasn't afraid to drop the gloves with the toughest in the game. He combined his statistical dominance as well and teammates respected him dearly.
Darryl Sittler was the Leafs' captain from 1976 to 1981, and despite leaving Toronto on a sour note (who didn't during the Ballard era?), he was everything a leader should be.
He scored when the team needed him most, he made his teammates better, and he motivated his teammates to play to their fullest, by playing his own dominant game. He was the backbone of that mid-1970s Leafs' team and was a leader both on and off the ice with his ability to relate, communicate and dominate on the ice.
Armstrong didn't put up dazzling numbers, and he wasn't the most skillful player in the league. In fact, he was probably a solid third-line winger more than anything, but his leadership skills were superior to anyone's in the league, and he was inspiring.
Armstrong was a captain that effectively motivated his team verbally, in the dressing room, on the bench, on the ice, everywhere. He had great relation and communicative skills which helped mesh the Leafs into their dominant years in the 1960s. He was the bread to the Leafs' butter, he kept the team in check, potted the odd, timely goal, and motivated his teammates like none had done before.
And oh yeah, even some guy named Maholavich said he was the best captain that anyone could play for.
If you could biologically combine Darryl Sittler and George Armstrong, you'd come out with Doug Gilmour.The center was everything you could want in a captain to the point where I'd find myself pinching myself, to see if I was dreaming that we actually had this player leading our team.
Gilmour did it all, on and off the ice.
On the ice, he was one of the most classy and respected players in the game because of his calm demeanor and positive attitude. He also dominated the game offensively, leading the team in points on more than one occasion. And of course, he ran the defensive scheme Toronto had as well, he could do it all. He made everyone on the ice with him better.
Off the ice, the players described him as someone who was convincing. Toronto could have been down 5-0 heading into the third period, and he would convince the team it was 1-0 and they would have to skate until they scored that winning goal.
Players described him speaking as inspiring because of the way he spoke. He spoke with such confidence that it automatically inspired confidence into his teammates.
He led by example, whether it be dropping the gloves to defend a teammate, blocking a big shot, or scoring the OT winner.
He was everything anybody would want a captain to be.
No disregard to the great career of the Swedish force. Sundin was still a great captain and could be No. 1 on different variations of this list.
However, quite the contrary to all the names mentioned on this list, I feel Sundin contributed on the score sheet and verbally motivated his team all the time, but he was too caught up in being Toronto's hero.
He was rarely involved in extra activities like charities, autograph signings, etc. and even snubbed the Leafs after they treated him like an angel for so many years.
He was a dominant force on the ice and lead by example statistically. He even instilled confidence into his team every time they played, but he just didn't go the extra mile that would have pushed him all the way to No. 1 on this honorary list.
In conclusion, the Maple Leafs have had numerous captains not on this list that could easily top it. It was extremely hard to just pick five names, let alone rank them!
Despite not winning the Stanley Cup for such a long time, the Leafs' rich history has given us a great list of captains, not only the best in Leafs' history, but who could easily be considered among the best in league history.
Let's honor these five names and the rest not mentioned, and if not for anything else, thank Toronto for many honorable and role-modeling leaders!