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Let’s think positive hockey thoughts: who is your “favourite” current Maple Leaf—and why? Part I

I remember back in Grade 10 or 11 (so about 1969 or so) I had what I would call my first really “progressive” teacher.  Maybe that’s not the right or best word, but it gets me started on this point.

Though I went to a very conservative Catholic (boys only) high school, this individual introduced our class to some pretty (for the time) “hip” modern literature.  We studied “Hair”, I think it was called (though a play like that could never have been performed at our school) and other works such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf”.  It was, for where I lived at least, pretty "out there" stuff at the time.  My English teacher was also a theatre guy, at least by avocation, and appreciated creativity and independent thought.  I remember him introducing us to the term “suspend your disbelief” when talking about drama and the world of theatre.

It took me a while to fully grasp what he was talking about, but over time I came to see that he was essentially saying, hey, don't let the stuff you find not quite believable or "realistic" get in the way of your appreciation of theatre.  And I think that’s what I’ll be asking readers to do today.  Despite all indications to the contrary, let’s suspend our disbelief and assume (hope, at least?) that there will be a hockey season for the NHL at some point, and that the Maple Leafs will be in action before too long.

I know we are trying to make Marlies training camp as relevant and interesting as possible (and Dallas Eakins sure helped to stir up interest with his measured but nonetheless pointed comments directed at Kadri last week), but who's kidding who?  It’s not quite the same thing, if we’re totally honest.  Again, let’s set that aside temporarily and just focus on what could be:  that is, a sudden return of collective sanity and ultimately, a collective bargaining agreement that makes sense for all the parties involved in the current hockey dispute.

Because once we have that, we’d all be in a better hockey “mood”,  right?

So thinking positively - that we will have hockey before too long - let’s set aside the last 8 years of relative failure in Leaf country.  Let’s not think too deeply about last season’s rather stunning collapse from February on.  Let’s just appreciate the fact that the Leafs are still here (or soon will be) and think happy thoughts.  No need for in-depth statistical analysis or anything along those lines on this subject.

Just a simple question today:  who is your “favourite” Toronto Maple Leaf right now?  Is it Phaneuf, Kessel, Reimer?  Maybe you're a Grabovski guy.  Hey, you might like Gardiner, or someone like Kulemin- who had been "Mr. Consistency" until last season.

Most of us who have loved the Leafs for any length of time have an abiding rooting interest.  I certainly do.  Mine started with the blue and white more than 50 years ago, back in 1958.  Those were the days of Eddie Chadwick, a young Dickie Duff (left) and a very young Frank Mahovlich.  It was the beginning of Punch Imlach's first era as General Manager of the Maple Leafs.  There were lots of Leafs to choose from when it came to "favourites" back then.

Along the way, I’ve certainly had personal favourites—guys who, for a variety of reasons, I just loved seeing them have success and thoroughly enjoyed following their careers.  I’ll touch on that broader topic of “favourites” through the years tomorrow, but for today, it’s the simple question—who is your favourite Maple Leaf right now—and why?

I won’t try to influence you.  I’ll likely share my “name” tomorrow when I look at my favourites (and yours) over the decades.  But if you have a moment, by all means share your thoughts.

The weather is turning.  It’s beautiful but getting a little cooler most days.  Which gets us ready, usually, for hockey season.  So let’s talk Leaf hockey and, at least for a couple of days, “suspend our disbelief” about what’s really going on in the hockey world.


  1. MIchael,

    Wow, a lot of great things to think about today. Fall has always been my favourite time of year. Its still reasonably warm during the day, but not hot anymore. I love to golf more and more every year, and only wish I could get out more than I do. The nights are crisp and cool with some windows open and the blankets covering you.

    Most importantly, the Leafs are back playing hockey. Or, at least, they usually are. Full of promise and hope. Closer to the Stanley Cup this year than last, optimism reigns in October. New players have been acquired, rookies are pressing the veterans for a spot in the lineup. Career seasons are possible, sometimes even attained.

    Sadly for me, my indoctrination into the fanclub of the Blue and White came in the 80's. There was very little to cheer about. But cheer I did, mostly for Wendel Clark. I loved to watch him play more than just about anything, at the time. Strangely enough, I feel as though we are back in that kind of place as a team. Very little real hope of success, though the cheers are, or would be still as loud, for a goal or a big save. They are lucky to have all of us as fans. Very, very lucky.

    I find myself cheering for another blue collar guy on the current team. Even though he is considerably less skilled than Wendel. Mike Brown and his moustache are my current rooting interest. He doesn't play as much as some, rarely scores either. He is still the player I want to succeed more than any of the rest of them. I like them too, just not quite as much if that makes sense. He is exactly what I always admired in another person, someone you can depend on when the going gets tough. Finishes every check, never cheats his team-mates in the effort department. More than willing to express his feelings to an opponent when it is necessary.

    Molson Cup 3 Stars of the current team, chosen by Jim. 1. Mike Brown 2. Nik Kulemin 3. Carl Gunnarsson

  2. Wendel will fit nicely into tomorrow night's question!

    I like how you've described Mike Brown- the way we all should be as a friend and teammate.

    And I like the Molson Cup approach- thanks Jim.

  3. Has to be Grabovski. Night after night, he's the most spirited guy in our roster, and he's got the skills, too. Also, he's easily our best puck-controlling player, and regularly at least tries to make things happen. At times, he hangs on to the puck too much, and he needs to work on his faceoffs more than a bit still, but overall, he's fun to watch far more often than not.

  4. I'm a Grabovski guy. He takes a licking and keeps on ticking. He tussled with Chris Neil and came back to win against Chara. We need more of that on the Leafs.

    On another note, today's press release:

    Sportsnet to air AHL games
    October 4, 2012

    SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League and Sportsnet, entering the second year of a five-year relationship, announced today that Sportsnet will begin coverage of the AHL’s 77th season with three live, national Saturday night broadcasts this month.

    On Oct. 13, the defending Western Conference champion Toronto Marlies (top affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs) will host the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres) at 5 p.m. ET.

    Then on Oct. 20, it’s an AHL doubleheader as the Marlies host the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens) at 7 p.m. ET and the Chicago Wolves (Vancouver Canucks) visit the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames) at 10 p.m. ET.

    All three games will air live across Canada in high definition on Sportsnet ONE. Hockey Central host Jeff Marek will be joined by analysts Brad May and John Shannon for pre-game and intermission analysis. Joe Bowen, Greg Millen and Paul Hendrick will provide the call from Toronto, while Rob Kerr, Charlie Simmer, John Garrett and Roger Millions bring home the action from Abbotsford.

    So pop your popcorn and cool those beverages. Despite the lockout, we will see some baby Leafs on TV soon.

  5. My 'first to mind' Molson list was very similar to to Jim's... I had Brown, then Kulemin in my thoughts (before Grabovski and Reimer, popped in for consideration).

    I think that Kulemin will bounce back a fair bit and may even gain a bit in the physical department. I hope his heart is healing from the tragic loss of his friends last year.

    Brown just strikes me as a guy who will go through a wall for his teammates (which is why we can't see him for every game of the season... kinda' like Wendel). Can't say anyone on this team has actually captured me like some guys from previous editions, but I'm still willing!

  6. Grabbo has indeed earned his spurs as a well-regarded Leaf, CGLN. Thanks.

  7. I hear you, InTimeFor62- it's a little harder to get cranked up about this particular group, but I like your list. Thanks for dropping by.

  8. Michael,
    I would have to say I'm a Grabovski fan. About two seasons ago I hated Grabovksi's game and I wanted him traded ASAP. But then something happened in 2010. He had a baby, if I'm not mistaken, and then during the Olympics he got into a bar fight with a heckling Habs fan (or so I was told). I would say that was the turning point. He came back the next season and was the Leafs most consistent centre. Not only did his effort level improve but he began to use his teammates more instead of trying to do it all himself. What cemented it for me was that game against Boston when he was knocked out by Chara and then came back the next shift, completely undressed Seidenberg, and scored a beauty game winner.
    All that said, I would still never buy a Grabovski jersey, or any current Leaf for that matter. Maybe it's because this roster has never been in the playoffs and never truly inspired me. I grew up watching Doug Gilmour put this team on his back in '93 and '94, and later, guys like Sundin and Roberts. I feel like if I were to buy a jersey today, I would probably pay tribute to Leaf greats of the past that inspired me in rhe playoffs, even if they didn't win a cup.
    Top 3 current players:


  9. Unfortunately, I don't have one. I am just too old now to be fascinated by individuality in a team sport, if you know what I mean.

  10. It's strikingly similar how our views on Grabovski have been, Mike (Cartsy). Those who follow VLM a bit may know that I was not a Grabbo guy in the least in his early times here. But he started to win me over, over time, for sure- in part for some of the reasons you mention. He is a feisty little guy.

    That said, your sentiment is well expressed (and much like InTimeFor62 above) about the current roster.

    Thanks Mike.

  11. I know exactly what you mean, Lukas. But thanks for dropping by VLM!

  12. Grabovski hands down.

    Tough as nails, tons of talent, happy to be a Leaf. What's not to like?

    And, of course, he absolutely hates the Habs. Gotta admire that!


  13. Another "vote" for Grabbo- thanks Brad (cbh747).

  14. I am going to add a twist here:

    Who is your “favourite” Toronto Maple Leaf prospect right now?

    I might have to answer David Broll.

    Our 6'3" 235 lbs goon got another 2 points the other night, so he is tied with Tyler Biggs for 16th in OHL scoring with 6 points in 5 games.

    He has one more point than Morgan Rielly and 2 more than Matt Finn.

    Broll was picked 152nd in the 6th round in 2011, the same year as Biggs and Percy. We might have a late-blooming, late-round sleeper pick.

    At 19 and 235 lbs, He might be 250 lbs in a few years. I am getting visions of Dustin Byfuglien in front of the Vancouver net. Broll might even become big enough to push back against Lucic and Chara.

  15. Broll got another 2 points in the first period. He is now tied for 7th in OHL. Wow!