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Dropping in on some recent ex-Leafs who are involved in the NHL playoffs: do you want any of them back?

Since we can’t cheer for the blue and white this spring, it’s nonetheless always interesting to check on how some recent ex-Maple Leafs are doing in their quest for playoff success.  We could go through this exercise with just about any NHL team in this day and age, not just the Maple Leafs.  Significant roster turnover is not uncommon in the cap era, especially with the annual summer free-agent frenzy seeing more (and younger) players available than when UFA opportunities first were negotiated in the CBA.

That said, since our focus here is on the Leafs, let’s have a quick look at what some ex-locals are doing this spring:  (I may be missing some guys, so let me know...)

New York Rangers

The Leaf influence here is pretty modest, though John Mitchell is a fourth-liner and Anton Stralman is getting minutes on the Ranger blueline.

Mitchell was, not surprisingly, moved for a 7th round draft choice a while back.  He is only averaging 5 minutes a night in these playoffs so far, but he's playing on a very good team's fourth line.  The 25 year-old Stralman (a Ferguson draft pick in 2005) was moved to the Blue Jackets by Burke for a third-rounder in 2009.  He has scored twice in the series, is a plus 2 so far in the playoffs, playing a little over 16 minutes a night on the Ranger blue line.

St. Louis

The Blues of course have Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo, both significant contributors (despite an injury to Steen that took him out of the line-up for an extended period of time) to an outstanding season under Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis.

Both young Leafs were traded by Cliff Fletcher (at the behest of Ron Wilson?), ostensibly because they were not working hard enough, weren’t in shape or were part of the entitlement era here.  Not sure exactly what really led to that move. I remember writing a post here a long time ago entitled “Does anyone miss Alexander Steen”.  At that time, no one seemed to.  But we may, now.

Steen missed a good chunk of this season with a concussion but was outstanding when healthy.  He is producing and playing big minutes for Hitchcock in the playoffs.  Colaiacovo had a big night offensively in Game 3, with 3 assists for the Blues.

San Jose

Every spring, I see Dominic Moore playing hockey in the playoffs for somebody.  That’s partly because Moore is a solid contributor on good teams, and partly because he often gets traded to such teams  at the deadline.  He always seems to be a sought-after commodity.

In any event, his current perch is in San Jose, helping the Sharks in their quest to finally advance deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Moore was offered a very nice contract (with term as I recall) by Burke, but shunned the offer for a shot at free agency and was, understandably, traded by Burke at the deadline to the Sabres.  I’m pretty sure he’s never made the kind of money he would have in Toronto, but he continues to be a nice addition to most any team at this time of year.

He is currently playing 15 minutes a night for the Sharks in their series against St. Louis.


Hal Gill was a Leaf not that long ago in the Paul Maurice coaching era, but like others before and after him, was a defenseman with size who just wasn’t really appreciated in Toronto.  (We do have a tendency to focus on what our defensemen are not good at, as opposed to the things that they do well…). 

Gill (injured last I checked, but hoping to return in the series against Detroit at some point...) has played for a lot of teams over the years, but has generally been a pretty dependable defenseman.  He was traded by Fletcher and was a very capable piece of the Pens puzzle when they won their Cup.


I’ve often said here that the only guy I’ve missed from the trade that brought Aulie and Phaneuf to Toronto was Ian White.  That seemed like a not very insightful assessment when White kept being bounced around from town to town- Calgary, Carolina, San Jose and now, of course, the Red Wings.

I think a lot of us liked his willingness to battle for pucks and though not a tall defenseman, he certainly played tough and we all know he has offensive skills, too.  While some of his success can be linked to playing a lot with Lidstrom (and I’m not sure I’d ever want to give a player like White a long-term contract), he has certainly been a solid player for the Red Wings this season.

The Wings are currently in tough against a very strong Nashville squad.  Through the first four games, White's ice team is down quite a bit from the regular season, and he is a minus 2.  (He was a plus 3 in 17 playoff games with the Sharks last season.)

It’s not unreasonable to ask where the 28 year-old would fit on the Leafs right now—as a 4th defenseman…or even higher?


I only include Tyler Seguin because he could (would?) have been a Maple Leaf.  I know a lot of Leaf fans,  perhaps especially those who support Burke’s move to bring Kessel here, don’t like to discuss the “trade”, but the fact is when you make huge deals, they will—and should be—assessed and discussed over time.

In Toronto, Seguin wouldn’t have a Cup, but at 20, he already has nice experience playing in the springtime. I’m not looking to ignite the trade debate again, simply suggesting that there’s no point in ignoring what’s right in front of us—an elite young star who is even further away from his prime than Kessel is.

Is it fair to say Seguin would fit in more from a “timing” perspective (i.e. he will be in his prime when the Leafs are actually good and in a position to contend) than Kessel?

In the playoffs thus far, he hasn't got his name on the stat sheet, but is almost doubling his playoff ice time from a year ago, an indication Claude Julien has a lot of faith in him.

New Jersey

I doubt many Leaf fans miss Alex Ponikorovsky, but we should include him in any report along these lines.  The long-frustrating Leaf winger is contributing, however, to the surprisingly (at least to me, who did not expect them to be this competitive this season) successful Devils as they wind their way through the first round of the playoffs.   From what I've seen, he is playing hard in fairly modest (about 13 minutes a night) ice time with the Devils against the Panthers.


Kris Versteeg didn’t seem to make many friends among Leaf fans during his short stay in Toronto.  But as I’ve said here quite a lot since he left, he just seems to be one of the types of (high-end third-line??) players that should have been be a fit here, at least on paper.  That fact that he wasn’t remains a mild mystery to me.

In any event, it's still early on in the playoffs, but he is playing almost 19 minutes a night.  He had a pretty solid regular season with Florida.  After a very fast start, his plus/minus dropped off later in the season, but he is still contributing to the team's surprising surge.


I’m not even sure, off the top of my head, if I can remember everywhere Pavel Kubina has been since leaving Toronto.  But I know this—like Hal Gill, he has a Cup on his resume, and yet he was another defenseman who just didn’t quite seem to fit here in Toronto.  (He was moved by Burke to the Thrashers.)  But he’s good enough to still be playing with a very good team, providing a nice veteran presence to a young Flyers squad that is doing better (the Game 4 implosion against Pittsburgh aside) than OK despite the absence of their captain, Pronger.

In the three games he has been in so far in the playoffs, he is averaging about 13-14 minutes a night for the Flyers.


In the many assessments one sees about deals that Burke has made, we almost never hear a reference to things like giving away Jiri Tlusty to Carolina (a very productive player for the ‘Canes this past season).  And we rarely hear a word mentioned about sending Stalberg to Chicago.  Not that Stalberg has become a star, but he has certainly provided more than many expected after his relatively brief and un-distinguished time with the blue and white.  His minutes are up a lot from last year's playoffs in the Hawks match-up with the Coyotes.

Also, Jamal Mayers is playing as a fourth-liner with the Hawks in these playoffs, averaging about 9 minutes a game.

We could go back more than a decade and raise a name like Steve Sullivan, now with the Penguins, but I’ve mostly been focused on more recent ex-Leafs.  Would you like to see any of these guys back here?

In any event, if you have any thoughts to share on any of the above, as always, send your comments along.


  1. Many players on this list had a change with the Leafs and for numerous reasons, many did not last long. One player who I definitely miss is Alexander Steen, I thought he was a great player, although not a first liner, but a dependable 3rd liner. We traded for, as I'm sure we all remember, Lee Stepniak, who turned out to be a bust.
    You're right Kris Versteeg should have worked out here... I dont feel like we gave him a long enough look because I didnt think he was horrible.
    Stalberg seems to have rounded out nicely, and seems like we got the crappy end of the stick in that trade.
    I think Ian White was one we should have kept, he was a versatile player, I even remember him playing on the wing and he potted a few goals. I've never had anything bad to say about White, he is small, but he plays big.
    There seems to be a lot of trade flops over the years, and some excellent ones. It's painful to see some of the assets we gave up in the past and how good they've become, where as many of the players from those trades that we've acquired are no longer playing on the Leafs.
    With that being said, I hope we make smarter choices going forward, and make the most of what we get in return. I'm going to themarlies game on Saturday and look forward to watching these kids light up the playoffs! Thanks for te article, good food for thought!


  2. Thanks for posting Mike. I'm not suggesting the Leafs were mistaken in moving all these players. But it is worth taking a step back and assessing what was here, and how we've fared in some of these trades.

    And yes, the Marlies provide some hope, as the playoffs get underway on that front!

  3. I never liked the Steen/Coco for Stempniak trade. Was surprised we gave up BOTH for Stempniak as I thought the Leafs were ripped off. I guess going essentially pointless in 25 games or so really drops trade value.

    Versteeg should have worked out but we can't complain because the return was good.

    Ian White I'm sure was the most missed by fans but I accept the loss if it meant getting Phaneuf and Aulie...Ashton.

    To correct you, Stralman plus was traded to Calgary for Wayne Primeau and a 2011 2nd. That picked ended up going to Chicago along with our 3rd when Burke reacquired our 2nd in order to make a potential offer sheet for Kessel if recall (I'm correct for sure about everything but the Kessel part). Chicago selected Brandon Saad.

    Kubina made stops in Atlanta, Tampa, and now Philly.

    As a side note, I find it interest that all players were traded by Burke expect Steen, Coco, and Gill. Mayers was let go. And omg I just saw how brutal Ashton really was, 15gp, 0pts, -10

    I almost forgot to answer the question, I would only want Steen back currently.

  4. Good stuff, Skill2Envy. Thanks for some clarifications.....

  5. Of the players mentioned, I would take back steen, versteeg, Ian white and of course, Tyler seguin

  6. I can't say as I miss any of the forwards that are gone. Maybe Moore, he brings some good intangibles. The Leafs do seem to have a bad history of losing patience with good young defensemen. This is why I fear them giving up on Schenn now. Colaiocovo and White would look great today if we still had them. Even Kubina and Gill, highly underappreciated in their time here. As it is we still have a glut of defensemen, but I'd have to say if they stuck with White he could be a good puck-mover, and they could have saved the money needed to buy Liles.

  7. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 19, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Like most I never was in favor of the deal Fletcher did with St Louis. In fact, I stood by JFJ decision in not including Alex Steen back in 2006 when Kevin Lowe had asked for him to be included with Kaberle for Pronger. Now since what had transpire in the last six season, I wish he had!

    Oh well, unless someone actually invents a time machine there is no use going over all the would have, could have, should have.

    As for your post Mike, besides Steen (poor Carlo a solid player, but as Pat Quinn said, "He'll never be anything in Toronto because the media and fans won't let him) the other EX's on your list I would include is Ian White, although Victor Stalberg gives me pulse for thought.

    I know that there are some who believe that Pal Burkie gave up a bunch of pucks for captain marvel, but I still wonder who really did win that deal? To me all he did was replaced a useful number four D-man for a very expensive one. Anyways, I have express my thoughts so often about captain marvel to the point I'm sick of thinking about him!

    As for Stalberg, what puzzles me about his play in Chic-town, is one moment he looks like the scoring power forward we all thought we were getting back when he played his first preseason games, and then the next moment he looks like just another one of those third-liners you can pick up anywhere. I wonder if the real Victor Stalberg will ever show.

    As for Kris Versteeg Mike, we never did gain anything or lost anything when you consider his stats when he was a Leafs GP 53 G 14 A 21 PPG 5 PIM 29 Minus 13 compared to Stalberg's GP 77 G 12 A 12 PPG 0 GW 3 PIM 43 plus 2. Versteeg may have had 5 powerplay goals but Stalberg goals were all even strength goals with 3 being game winnings! And beside all that, who would you rather have playing on the opposite wing of Kessel, Kris (I like to hang around the neutral ice) or Joffrey Lupul? My money is on that you will pick Lupul.

    Mike if you don't mind, I would like to weight in on your post from yesterday. As much as I like both Kiprusoff (who wouldn't! If it wasn't for him the Flames would not have had the season they did have) and Iginla, I hope that Pal Burkie stays clear of them. In respect to them and their fans, my personal feelings has to do with 3 factors-their age Kip 36 Iginla 35-their contracts/very expensive-and what it will take to pry them away in a deal. If Jay Feaster, and I think he won't...but hey Wayne Gretzky was traded, so anything can happen...I believe he'll be looking for a King's ransom for anyone of them, which will not benefit a rebuilding...ohhh sorry, I mean retooling or whatever Pal Burkie wants to call

  8. I hated the Steen/Colaiacovo trade - I'd love both of them here, even if Carlo is injury prone. Stalberg is a guy I was also sorry to see go - I think we gave up on him too early. And Ian White, of course, although I think he was worth what we got in return.
    Loved Sullivan's goal last night - he was another smallish forward, but he played with heart.
    Kubina and Kaberle should have been a tandem made in hockey heaven - I've never understood why that didn't work out.
    Off topic: watching these playoff games, goalies like Rinne and Quick, the knock down Dmen and the scrums in front of the nets, the breakout passes and powerplay patterns... I've upped my expectations until our Leafs are competitive to 5 years.

  9. Thanks Anon. I've said the much the same thing about Schenn in this space. While I think he may be one of those players who might find a better playing situation (less scrutiny) elsewhere, I always dislike the idea of trading young d-men with legit potential. Good post.

  10. Good stuff, Long Suffering. I, too, am confused by Stalberg. If he ever becomes a consistent performer, then we will indeed have lost something. At the moment, he seems to fall into the Ponikarovsky/Antropov mold- people are still talking about inconsistency in their play a decade later.

    Thanks for chiming in on the Iginla/Kiprusoff question as well....

  11. Gerund O'...I think a lot of us wonder how Ian White would have fared if he had been here longer...hard to say, I guess.

    I can't argue with your observation about where the Leafs are compared with current playoff teams. Even assuming the current roster would raise the level of their play come playoff time, as all teams do, they are missing some ingredients....

    Hopefully it will be shorter than your five-year window!

  12. Great topic, Michael. I was thinking about this very thing recently (actually, I think about it each year as I watch former buds in the playoffs).

    All who left are doing well in their current roles. Which to me, means they have defined roles on above average (or simply put, "playoff") teams. That's part of the problem with our Leaf teams of the last little while (the Leaf teams on which the above mentioned players toiled), i.e., below-average, at best, mediocre, teams. So it was hard to appreciate the abilities/contributions of a Hal Gill, Alex Steen, or Ian White. Gill was a heralded signing expected to be a big minutes guy when he's really a top-notch shut down guy in key situations, like PK, etc. He was overplayed and his skating weakness was exposed and stood out, while the shut-down part went unappreciated. Same for Steen. A decent defensive forward with some skill, but we wanted him to score a bunch.

    Guess my point is that because of the overall quality of the team, they were never assigned proper roles and never allowed to thrive. And to answer the question about who I miss...well, White would be #1; Gill, Steen, and Mayers for his grit. Since you brought it up, of course I'd take Seguin.

    Good stuff to keep us still talking Leafs!


  13. You make a very valid point, Caedmon, about the players cited and their roles (or lack thereof) with the Leafs. We all understand some players are a better fit with some teams and certain coaches and/or situations. But we do have quite a number of former players who were obviously good NHL'ers (and still are) but for various reasons (perhaps a lot of it is what you mention above) we didn't wait long enough, or things just didn't work out here. Thanks.