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From Phil Kessel to Mike Walton—some of the most exciting Leafs of all-time: “The Vintage Leaf Memories Podcast”, Episode 12

Though I’ve followed the Maple Leafs now for 55 years, I can’t say they have always (ever?) been the most “exciting” team in the National Hockey League.  I can point to organizations that have historically had some pretty exciting clubs off and on through the years (Montreal, Chicago, Boston, the Oilers), but the Leafs have generally not been one of those kinds of franchises.

Now, we’ve had our share of exciting individual players, and that’s what I chat about in the latest installment of “The Vintage Leaf Memories Podcast”.  With Phil Kessel and his American brethren set to take on the Canadian contingent on Friday in the Olympic semi-finals, it seemed timely to chat about the explosive Leaf winger but also about some of the Leafs who blazed a colourful trail before him.

Who are some of these names?  Well, I invite you to tune into the podcast to see who is on my “list”, but one name that I will share here is that of Mike Walton.  I’ve posted about the 1960s Leaf center before at VLM and he is certainly near the top of the chart when it comes to Leaf players who were  well worth the price of admission—and who could create genuine excitement.  Walton did not, unfortunately, have a lengthy career in blue and white, but he was around long enough to be more than a bit player on the 1967 Leaf Cup-winning squad. (That's Mike, right, in a wonderful old Harold Barkley photo alongside Leaf netminder Bruce Gamble in late 1960's action at Maple Leaf Gardens.  Walton and Gamble were involved in the same trade that brought future Hall-of-Famer Bernie Parent to the Leafs.)

Friday’s game between the Canadians and the U.S. should be one for the history books, so if you’re looking for some easy listening, I invite you to check out Episode 12…


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  1. I think Phill is taking it to a higher level. In the next few years, he will be in his absolute prime. While at his peak, he could be among the top 5 players in the world. On the radio today they were saying: Right now, who would you rather Kessel or Crosby? It's amazing that it has become a legitimate question

    I'm not sure if I agree with the Walton comparison. When I think about Phil I think about speed on the rush and an elite shot can that score almost any time.He only needs an inch. He's consistent with huge production every year. At some times he is unstoppable.

    What player is like that from the Leaf's past? Rushing, fast, consistent, elite, unstoppable? We didn't have a guy like that. We played against him...Guy Lafleur.

    Watch these two montages. Kessel doesn't have Lafleur's charisma, as he rushes down the ice, but the two score many of their goals in the same way:

    That's what I think Kessel is... a shy, chubby American transfiguration of Guy Lafleur. Not "Le Démon Blond", but Toronto's own bashful "Le Démon Bleu".

    We have finally have our own Lafleur, considering how much grief "the flower" caused my father, I think that's a very good thing.

    1. Hi DP- just to be clear- on the podcast, I wasn't comparing Kessel and Walton. I was just indicating they were both exciting players in their respective eras.

    2. I like your Lafleur reference, DP....some similarities there.

  2. "Hi DP- just to be clear- on the podcast, I wasn't comparing Kessel and Walton. I was just indicating they were both exciting players in their respective eras."

    Sorry, I didn't mean to sound overly critical. I think I got a little too excited from watching those old Lafleur montages.

    1. Thanks for the note, DP. I always appreciate your thoughts here!

  3. Wonderful podcast again, Michael.
    DP: That is so much better than "Phil the Thrill"!! If we could start it here on VLM and make it stick, Habs fans would absolutely HATE it. C.N.