Toronto Maple Leafs' All-Time 10 Most Offensive Defensemen
Although you would be hard pressed to find him on any top 10 lists, Harry Cameron is considered to be the first truly offensive defense man that ever played for Toronto.
While playing 105 games over the course of six seasons as part of the Toronto Arenas, Blueshirts and the Toronto St Patricks, Cameron scored an amazing 71 goals and 45 assists for 116 points.
Those numbers projected over a modern schedule of 82 games would give him 543.5 points with 332 goals in just six full seasons (492 games), and would easily make him the most offensive defense man in not only the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization but possibly the history of the NHL as well.
Alas, this is a ranking of overall numbers and Harry Cameron is no where close to the top ten in the grand scheme of things.
The latest and greatest in a long line of offensive defense men that the Toronto Maple Leafs have iced over the years is Tomas Kaberle.
Of course we all know that Kaberle was traded to the Boston Bruins a week before the 2011 trade deadline. Kaberle certainly made his mark offensively for the Leafs and though he was often criticized for his seeming unwillingness to shoot the puck enough, he was often among the teams top players in terms of scoring.
Tomas Kaberle's last goal as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs was scored on February 8th 2011 vs the New York Islanders with his last point as a Leaf coming as an assist against the Buffalo Sabres on February 16 of the same year.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a good stable of young defense men going forward and in this day and age where more offense is not only expected from the blue liners but needed as well, it is safe to say that some years down the road this list will require a re-working of it's own.
For now, here are the top ten most offensive Toronto Maple Leafs defense men in the history of the team.
#10 Allan Stanley
Allan Stanley was a tough as nails defense man and a grizzled veteran of the blue line by the time he became a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1958.
Stanley has always been an all star stay at home defence man. While under appreciated and mis understood at the start of his career with the New York Rangers he was a beloved fixture on the Blue line in Toronto for almost ten years
When Allen Stanley was brought to the Rangers, he was heavily touted by then press agent Stan Saplin and general manager Frank Boucher as the savior of a floundering Rangers hockey team.
"One night," Saplin explained, "Allan was a minor leaguer in Providence, enjoying a post game glass of beer with a few teammates at midnight. The next noon he was in Leone's restaurant and being acclaimed, in effect as the savior of the downtrodden Rangers."
Fans of the team were ecstatic over the prospect of having a 'savior' named Stanley but were upset when they discovered that Stanley, while indeed a 'superstar' caliber defense man was not the offensive superstar that they had been lead to believe he was. For that, the fans never forgave Stanley labeling him the $70,000 lemon and literally booing him out of town after six years.
"They'd boo every time I touched the puck. Then they began to boo every time I was on the ice. Why, even the few games when I sat on the bench, they'd yell at me," said Allan.
After stops in Chicago and Boston, Stanley arrived in Toronto where his stay at home style was very appreciated by Leafs fans.
Stanley, who the Bruins traded to the Leafs because they felt he was getting to old to be effective, would go on to play another 10 years in the league, nine with the Leafs and one with the Flyers and would easily play the best hockey of his career in a blue and white jersey recording 47 goals and 183 assists playing alongside such Toronto Maple Leaf immortals as Tim Horton, Bobby Baun and Carl Brewer.
In his nine years with Toronto, Stanley helped the team to four Stanley Cups and eventually retired to run a hockey camp-resort with his wife Barbara in the Bobcageon-Fenlon Falls area of Ontario, Canada.
Stanley was inducted int o the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.
After a successful run with his business Allan Stanley eventually sold and retired all together. As of 2010 Stanley was spending most of his time hitting the golf course while he and his wife split their time between Ontario and their getaway in Venice Fla.
#9 Abert 'Al' Iafrate
Al Iafrate is almost as celebrated for his off ice interests as his prowess on the blue line. This 6'-3" 220+ pound monster could have been a punishing presence on any blue line but never really figured out how to use his size to his advantage.
Drafted fourth over all by the Leafs in 1984 Al Iafrate was somewhat offensively gifted for a defense man and scored 50 plus points four times in his overall NHL career which saw him play for the Maple Leafs, Capitals Bruins and the San Jose Sharks.
Often a little more than a handful off the ice, Iafrate was a reportedly a big fan of heavy metal and Harley Davidson motor cycles and would often be seen showing up for practices riding his 'Hog'.
The enigmatic blue liner finally wore out his welcome in Toronto half way through the 1990-91 season and was shipped off to the Washinton Capitals for Bob Rouse and Peter Zezel.
Although riddled with injury through out his career, and seemingly at odds with team mates and management on a regular basis, Iafrate still comes in at ninth place with 250 points in 472 games on the list of Toronto Maple Leafs All Time Most Offensive Defensmen.
#8 Tod Gill
Todd Gill was tough. There are no two ways around it, he was tough as they come and would drop the gloves seemingly at the drop of a hat.
Todd Gill, who was drafted 25th over all by the Leafs in 1984 is not only #8 on this all time top ten list, but is also oddly enough #6 on the all time penalty minute leaders list for Toronto Maple Leafs defense men with 922.
Much like his predecessor on this list Al Iafrate, Todd Gill was never the most defensive d-man to have ever worn the Toronto Maple Leafs Jersey. Gill however was one of the feistiest.
Todd Gill played 629 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the course of 12 seasons in the organization and while not the most offensively gifted either, with almost as many fights in a Leafs jersey (51) as goals (59), it is certainly east to see why he was a fan favorite in Toronto.
Over all as a Leafs, Gill would post 269 points as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
Gill was always a huge fan of arguably the best coach in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs Pat Burns. He was quoted as saying “He was the best coach I ever had,” and also shared a cute story about his former coach on the Fan 590 Radio Station shortly after Burns death
#7 Bryan McCabe
Bryan McCabe always had the best hair didn't he?
McCabe comes in at #7 on the Toronto Maple Leafs All Time 10 Most Offensive Defensemen list and was arguably one of the best defensive defense men as well as offensive defense men of the modern era that the Leafs ever had.
Bryan McCabe became a Toronto Maple Leaf on October 2,200 after being trade from the Chicago Blackhawks for Alexander Karpovtsev and a fourth round pick.
Often paired with long time Leaf blue liner Tomas Kaberle, McCabe had a lethally accurate shot from the blue line, but likely enjoyed his greatest success as a Leaf playing alongside hall of famer Brian Leetch.
Leetch only played 15 games for the Blue and White in 2003-04 but it was Leetch's 'can opener move that made McCabe so effective at retrieving the puck in his zone. That is until the new obstruction rules came into effect.
McCabe also boasted one of the greatest hip checks in the league, there weren't many opposing players who tried to carry the puck into the Leafs zone when he was on the ice.
McCabe played 523 game in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform. Though he scored 297 points for the team, Leafs fans will remember him as much for the bloopers as anything else.
While a member of the Leafs, Bryan McCabe scored on his own net not once, but twice in games against Buffalo and Montreal.
Leafs fans have a long memory and to this day, McCabe is booed when he plays at the ACC.
#6 James McKenny
James (Jim) McKenny was drafted 17th over all in 1963 by the Leafs and would play 594 games over nine seasons for the Blue and White before being to the Minnesota North Stars in 1978.
Much like current Toronto defense man Brett Lebda, McKenny was also used periodically on the wing but it was on defense that his offensive skills were most evident. With 81 goals and 246 assists for 327 points, in his eight full seasons for the Leafs, he would average almost 41 points a season until being traded.
McKenny retired after only playing 43 games in the Minnesota organization during the 1978-79 season and returned to Toronto to pursue a career in broadcasting.
After a stint work as a color commentator and male model, Jim McKenny landed a job in 1984 as a sports reporter for Toronto's City TV where he later became the sports anchor of the evening news broadcast.
Since leavin City TV in 2009 after 25 years, McKenny has made several appearances events for various charities in an around Toronto including modelling for a Womens Heart Health Benefit pictured here in 2011.
#5 Red Kelly
Red Kelly is one of the greatest Toronto Maple Leafs ever, but was also a great Canadian citizen as well. Though well accomplished before he became a Maple Leaf having won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, it was with the Maple Leafs that he cemented his reputation as being one the greatest in the history of the game.
Shortly upon his arrival in Toronto coach Punch Imlach asked Kelly to become a full time center for the team as it was thought that Kelly would play well against the Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau.
While the idea certainly paid off, as Kelly was not only a great center for the Leafs but also proved to be the perfect set up man for another Toronto Maple Leafs legend Frank Mahaovlich, it begs the question, if Kelly was a center for the Leafs, why then is he listed as one of the Toronto Maple Leafs All Time 10 Most Offensive Defensemen?
The answer, right or wrong is that he still is, and always has been listed as a defense man. While no one else on this list will have played a forward position to the extent that Red Kelly did, it was certainly more common than you'd think especially in the early days of the NHL for a defense man to play forward.
Red would win another four Stanley Cups with the Leafs over the span of his eight years in Toronto, (making him the only non Montreal Canadien player to win eight Stanley Cups).
After retiring for the second time from playing the game in 1967, Kelly would go on to coach in the NHL for several years after. He became the first coach in LA Kings franchise history and went on to coach the Pittsburgh Penguins (1969-70 to 1972-73), and the Maple Leafs from the 1973-74 to 1976-77.
As a coach, including his first two years with the Kings, Kelly missed the playoffs only two of ten seasons, as a player, Kelly comes in at number five on this list with 351 points in 470 games as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
#4 Ian Turnbull
Ian Turnbull and Borje Salming were one of the best defense tandems in the NHL for a long time during the 1970's and while Salming had a slight edge in terms of offensive numbers, the pair had a combined 909 points playing together from the 1973-74 season to the 1980-81 season.
Turnbull still the record for most goals by a defense man in a game with five against the Detroit Red Wings on February 2nd 1977. Was the first player in the history of the NHL to score five goals on only five shots and still holds the Leafs record for most points in a single season with 79.
Turnbull would later play for the LA Kings where he would score four goals in one night, just one shy of his own record.
"I was playing with a younger player at the time, Mark Hardy, and I had just come off from scoring the fourth goal and he wanted to know if that was a record. And I said, ‘No, that’s not a record.’ He said, ‘It isn’t? What’s the record?’ And I said, ‘Five.’ And he said, ‘Well who got that?’ And I said, ‘I did.’ Of course he was a younger player. So it was fairly typical that the younger players didn’t really know what the older players did or whatever. It was kind of a funny story." -Maple Leafs Legends.blogspot.com
According to this 2007 article 'Catching Up With Ian Turnbull', the man that was nicknamed 'The Bull' early in his career has settled down in the LA area and until a few years ago was in real estate. Lately though, he dabbles in painting.
#3 Tim Horton
Tim Horton is an icon. A Toronto Maple Leaf icon, a hockey icon, a Canadian icon and an icon in the world of charity with the Tim Horton Children's Foundation inspired by his love for kids.
One of the greatest to ever don a Toronto Maple Leafs Jersey, began playing in the Leafs organization in 1946 for St Michaels College.
A player in the Leafs organization for 25 years (St Michaels Majors, Pittsburgh Hornets,Toronto Maple Leafs), Hortons dedication to the game was an inspiration to all who both knew him and watched him play.
“No finer person, teammate or hockey player ever lived.” — George Armstrong
“Few players brought more dedication or honor to the game. He was my idea of a pro.” –Bobby Hull
(Quotes from Masonic Travels.com)
Tim Horton played in 1185 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of only two defense men in the history of the team to play more than 1000 games for the club.
Only recently overtaken on the Toronto Maple Leafs All Time 10 Most Offensive Defensemen list, Horton comes in at #3 with 458 points.
Fun Fact: Obviously known for his coffee shop that he started in 1964, it is a little known fact that both the 'dutchie' and the 'apple fritter' which have been long time staples of the Tim Hortons menu were both personal creations of the man himself.
#2 Tomas Kaberle
At #2 on the list of Toronto Maple Leafs All Time 10 Most Offensive Defensemen we find the recently departed Tomas Kaberle.
Kaberle, until the trade that saw him sent to the Boston Bruins February 18th 2011, had been the longest active member of the Toronto Maple Leafs roster having played 878 games over 14 seasons with the club*.
During those 878 games in a Leafs uniform, Kaberle amassed 528 points and passed Leafs legend Tim Horton in points on December 9th 2009 with an assist on Colton Orr's game winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens.
Tomas Kaberle, though not the most defensive defense man ever on the team, was often touted as a sniper from the blue line and was often criticized for his reluctance to shoot the puck more.
Regardless of the seemingly endless criticism that was sometimes thrown his was, Tomas Kaberle was always a consummate professional and never one publicly lamented the Leafs Nations treatment of him though it's a safe bet that behind closed doors it was a different story.
Leafs defense man Luke Schenn on Tomas Kaberle,
“I’ve got nothing but great things to say about him,” Schenn said. “He’s a guy you can look up to, as far as how he carries himself. He’s well respected by everyone. No one knows what the future holds for him, but I feel very lucky to have been on the same team as him.” - James Mirtle Globe Sports
*14 seasons includes the lock out season 2004-05
#1 Borje Salming
Borje Salming tops the Toronto Maple Leafs All Time 10 Most Offensive Defensemen list by a whopping 248 points over Tomas Kaberle.
With 768 points in just 1099 career games with the Leafs Borje Salming as a defense man had the kinds of offensive numbers some forwards on today's edition of the team drool over.
Aptly nicknamed "King", while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs Salming was the prototypical blue liner. An incredible shot blocker and deadly accurate passer, he didn't make a habit of fighting his second game as a Leaf saw him toe to toe with Dave "The Hammer" Schultz of the Philadelphia flyers.
Salmings first game as a Toronto Maple Leafs however was a little easier, he was voted the first star of the game.
Salming battled through a number of injuries during his NHL perhaps none more famous than the skate on the face he suffered when he was accidentally stepped on a scuffle in the crease that earned him more than 250 stitches.
Borje Salmings feats as a Toronto Maple Leaf may never be equaled. In this day and age where players loyalties are are dictated by a salary cap and in some cases by personal greed, it is becoming increasingly rare to see a player stay with one team for more that three or four years.
The closest active defense man to cracking the top 25 of all time most offensive defense men is none other than youngster Luke Schenn who currently sits in the 48th spot with 52 points, and though he has an even longer road to the top ten, anything is possible.
I would like to acknowledge a couple of big assists in compiling all of the information that went into this article.
Firstly to Joe Butler who saved me an immeasurable amount of time in the compilation the actual list and secondly to Joe Pelletiers Greatest Hockey Legends.com, an absolutely fantastic site and a must see for anyone who has any interest in hockey!