The Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the most storied franchised in all of sport.The captaincy appears to be secure on the shoulders of Dion Phaneuf. Not that this is without detractors. The team is also beginning to honour the greats of the past. What better time for us to look back at all of the team’s captains, and reflect on their contributions to the team. Oh, and we might as well rank them too.
18) Rob Ramage, 1989–91: Ramage played two seasons in Toronto. He recorded 84 points and 375 penalty minutes.
17) Bert Corbeau, 1926-1927: Corbeau was one of the original Toronto Maple Leafs captains, sharing duties with Hap Day during the club’s inaugural season. He recorded three points and 88 penalty minutes over 41 games.
16) Rick Vaive, 1982–86: A prolific scorer during his time with the Leafs, Vaive became the franchise’s first 50-goal man. He played for the club for eight seasons, recording 537 points as a Maple Leaf.
15) Doug Gilmour, 1994–97: “Killer” holds the franchise season records for assists and points. He played a key role during the early ’90s and was known for his tenacious nature and skill. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2011.
14) Dion Phaneuf, 2010–present: Phaneuf is the latest in the line of fire as the Leafs captain. Many among us feel that he isn’t suited to his current role. He does remain a minutes eating defenceman, though he might not necessarily be the player people expected him to become when he broke into the league. In the salary cap era, his contract will always be seen before his production. I feel that he handles himself with class, and is more deserving of respect than he gets in the market.
13) Sid Smith, 1955–56: Smith captained the Blue and White for only one season, and recorded 349 points for the Leafs over a 10 year span. He was also the recipient of the Lady Byng award on two occasions.
12) Wendel Clark, 1991–94: Clark led the Buds during the resurgent period of the early ’90s when the club made back-to-back trips to the conference final. He was known as one of the toughest players in the league during that time, and is still held in high regard by all of us who watched him play. He now serves as a community ambassador and public relations officer.
11) Darryl Sittler, 1975–79 and 1980–82: Sittler set an NHL record for points in a game, with 10, on Feb. 7th, 1976. He recorded 916 points in a Leafs uniform before leaving after his relationship with former owner Harold Ballard deteriorated. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989.
10) Red Horner, 1938–40: Horner was named captain at the tail end of his career, one in which he retired as the NHL’s all-time penalty minutes leader at the time, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1965.
9) Jimmy Thomson, 1956–57: Serving as co-captain alongside Ted Kennedy, Thomson was a member of four Stanley Cup championship teams, and played 12 seasons for the Leafs. He drew the ire of former owner Conn Smythe after helping to organize the players association, and vowed to never play for the Maple Leafs again. He finished his career with the Chicago Blackhawks.
8) Charlie Conacher, 1937–38: Conacher was one of the elite players of his time, scoring 124 goals, and recording 200 assists as a member of the Leafs. His tenure as captain was short lived as injuries had caught up to him by this point in his career, and he was sold to the Detroit Red Wings in the fall of 1939. He was also inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1961.
7) Hap Day, 1927–37: Day was the primary captain during the inaugural Maple Leafs campaign, and was the longest tenured captain of the club for over 30 years. He played for the St.Pats/Leafs for 13 seasons, winning the Stanley Cup in 1932 as a player. He recorded 199 career points for the franchise. He returned to the club as head coach in 1940, winning the Cup another five times over his career. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1961.
6) Syl Apps, 1940–43 and 1945–48: Apps served two tenures as Leafs captain after serving with the Canadian military during WWII, and was the winner of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1937. He was a three-time Stanley Champion, as well as the recipient of the Lady Byng award in 1942. He finished his career with 387 points as a Maple Leaf. Apps was elected to the Hall of fame in 1961.
5) Bob Davidson, 1943–45: “Rugged Robert” was a member of two Stanley Cup championship teams, including as captain in 1945. He returned to the club after retirement and became one of the chief architects of the great Leafs teams of the 1960s as a scout, contributing to all four championships during the decade.
4) Dave Keon, 1969–75: Playing 15 seasons for the Blue and White, Keon was considered one of the fastest and best defensive forwards of his era. He set a then record for shorthanded goals in a season with eight, in 1971. A member of four Cup winners, Keon is the only Leaf to have won the Conn Smythe trophy. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1986.
3) Mats Sundin, 1997–2008: Sundin is tied for the second longest tenure as Leafs captain, and is the franchise leader in goals (420) and points (984). He was routinely clutch, scoring big goals during the regular season. There has been some lingering ill will over his decision to not waive his no-trade clause during his final season with the Maple Leafs, but he remains one of the best, if not the best, of the modern Leafs.
2) George Armstrong, 1958–69: Armstrong, who played 21 seasons for the Maple Leafs, scored the final goal of the “Original Six” era, leading the Leafs to their last Stanley Cup championship. He recorded 452 points in a Leafs uniform, and was a four-time champion. He stands as the longest-serving captain in Leafs history, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975.
1) Ted Kennedy, 1948–55 and 1957: The “quintessential Maple Leaf,” Kennedy never wanted to play for another team. He was relentless on the forecheck, and was among the best faceoff men in NHL history. He was the prototype for modern day third line centremen and played a key role in what is considered one of the greatest upsets in NHL history, the 1945 defeat of the record setting Canadiens, en route to the Stanley Cup. Kennedy captained the greatest era in club history, becoming the first player to win five championships. He stands as the last Maple Leaf to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1965.
There you have it, all the captains in Leafs history ranked by importance. What do you think?
Let’s hear your opinions in the comments section below.