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My all-time Leaf team from 1957 - present

 Some weeks ago I wrote a piece on who I believed were the “Ten best” Leafs I’ve seen in the last fifty years.

Having developed Vintage Leaf Memories for several months, I’m adding my thoughts now on an “all-time” Leaf time from 1957 onwards.

There are different ways to select an “all-time” team. The simplest way (and perhaps most popular) is choosing who were the best players to wear a Leaf uniform at their respective positions.

Since I was not around at the time, I can’t speak thoughtfully enough about many of the all-time Leaf greats before the mid-‘50s. The legendary names of Conacher, Primeau, Jackson (the “Kid line”), King Clancy, Babe Pratt, Gordie Drillon, Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy are all worthy of any all-time list. But again, they were before my time and other sites and publications have honored them over the years for their immense contribution to Leaf—and hockey—history.

I will try to build my post-’57 team with a thought toward who were a) the ‘best’ at their position in a Leaf uniform and b) those who would make a strong all-around team. Obvious names spring to mind from my youth, like Johnny Bower (pictured in early 1960s’ game-action at Madison Square Garden in New York), who were so instrumental to the Leafs winning those four Stanley Cups in that decade.

But there are other things to consider, as well. Do we include players who only played a small part of their career with the Leafs? What if the players had great careers elsewhere, but were not a factor in Toronto? Pierre Pilotte would be a perfect example. He was a premier defenseman for 10 years with Chicago, but had little impact on the ice in his one season at the end of his career in Toronto. (Similarly, I left Doug Gilmour off my earlier “Ten best” Leafs list, which disappointed some readers, because he was only here for such a short time—and I understand their view. His contribution was immense in that short window.)

Some other examples: Andy Bathgate scored two huge goals for the Leafs in the 1964 finals against Detroit, but was otherwise not that impactful in his short time in Toronto. He spent most of his Hall-of-Fame career with the Rangers. He doesn’t make this team. In the same breath, Dickie Moore made a gutsy comeback with the Leafs during the 1964-’65 season, and made a contribution, but his impact years were in the 1950s with Montreal, so I can’t really place him on this list.

Also, should we take ‘high points’ in a player’s career as part of the criteria, as opposed to consistency and longevity? For example, for a very brief period of time, I thought Al Iafrate—pre-injuries—showed immense, almost superstar-potential in the mid-later ‘80s. He had that long reach and his skating and shooting abilities were outstanding. But his career was hampered by injuries and other factors, and he never fully seemed to reach his capabilities, at least in Toronto. Similarly, Ian Turnbull played the best hockey of his life in the 1978 playoffs, but I would not include him on any all-time team based on a couple weeks of outstanding hockey.

So I’ve tried to mix and match, as best one can.

Here’s how my post-1957 ‘all-time” team breaks down, with four lines, six defensemen and two goalies:


• Johnny Bower
• Terry Sawchuk

Honorable mention

• Jacques Plante (despite only playing three seasons in Toronto)
• Curtis Joseph (four seasons in Toronto were enough for me)


• Tim Horton
• Allen Stanley
• Carl Brewer
• Bobby Baun
• Borje Salming
• Sylvain Lefebvre

Honorable mention

• Bob Rouse
• Tomas Kaberle
• Bryan McCabe (an end of season all-star in 2003)
• Larry Hillman (a solid “journeyman” who was in the Toronto system for many years and played some of his best hockey in the ’67 playoffs)


• Dave Keon
• Darryl Sittler
• Mats Sundin
• Doug Gilmour

Honorable mention

• Red Kelly (helped the Leafs win 4 Stanley Cups as a center after a long career as a defenseman in Detroit)
• Bob Pulford (rugged third-line center for 15 seasons in Toronto)

Left Wing

• Frank Mahovlich
• Wendell Clark
• Dick Duff
• Bert Olmstead

Honorable mention

• Steve Thomas (two solid stints in Toronto and a fine NHL career)
• Gary Roberts (not long in Toronto but he had a major impact)

Right Wing

• Ron Ellis
• Lanny McDonald
• George Armstrong
• Alexander Mogilny

Honorable mention

• Rick Vaive (all those 50-goal seasons came, unfortunately, during a tough spell for the blue and white)

Again, these are only my personal thoughts. Others will disagree, and that’s the fun in this kind of project. Those following the site can forward along their own “teams”.

I invite you to send in your comments and suggestions!

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