30 years of Toronto Maple Leafs All-Stars-Part 1: 1986-1993

Dec 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov (47) skates with the puck against the Los Angeles Kings at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Kings 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov (47) skates with the puck against the Los Angeles Kings at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Kings 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

With the 2015-2016 All-Star Game set to take place in Nashville for the first time on January 31, we look back at 30 years of Toronto Maple Leafs All-Stars.

Part 1: 1986-1993

Pity Pick – n. – The status of being selected for an All-Star Team despite being not especially noteworthy yourself, or playing for a team that is not destined for greatness, due to a league-mandate to include one player from every franchise as part of its All-Star showcase. 

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There’s a city in Ontario that, in a six-team league, used to win more than its fair share of Stanley Cups. That hasn’t happened in a while now and it’s possible that one of the reasons is because the talent of personnel in Toronto (or lack thereof) relative to the rest of the league didn’t quite measure up.

Since it’s just about time for the All-Star break (an event the Leafs evidently started celebrating a few weeks early, judging by their performance Saturday night in San Jose), a novel way to demonstrate the gulf that has existed between the finest players the Toronto Maple Leafs have had to offer and those on other, more successful teams, is by looking back at 30 years of Leafs All-Stars.

You’ll find that in years of Leafs relevancy, when they made it to a conference final for example, numerous All-Stars accolades are bestowed upon them. Other years, or, let’s say, most years, the Leafs are permitted one compulsory All-Star.

Here’s hoping for more All-Star consideration in years to come! Now, on with the list.

1986 – Hartford, Connecticut hosts what would be its final NHL All-Star Game. Nineteen-year old rookie left-winger Wendel Clark is the sole representative for Toronto on a Campbell Conference squad dominated by Oilers, and not as a starter.

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Feb 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Former Toronto Maple Leafs player Wendel Clark (17) is introduced in a pre-game ceremony honoring alumni players as Red Kelly (4) and Rick Vaive (22) applaud against the Winnipeg Jets at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Jets 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Five of the team’s six starters are from Edmonton, as well as four reserve players and both of the team’s goalies – Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog. However, their Stanley Cup-winning chemistry did not equal a recipe for success against the best the Flyers and Islanders had to offer.

Clark was in the middle of a 34-goal, 45-point, 227 PIM rookie campaign before which he had been the first overall draft pick – so, not a pity pick for the ASG by any stretch. He was even selected to the league’s All-Rookie team that year. However, he was held off the scoresheet and Wales went on to win 4-3 in overtime.

1986 Playoffs: Toronto swept Chicago in three games but fell in the Norris division finals to St. Louis.

1987 – The All-Star Game is replaced by “Rendez-Vous ’87” – a pair of exhibition games in Quebec City between NHL All-Stars and Soviet players, including future NHL All-Stars Viacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov and Igor Larionov. Each side wins one game, and no Maple Leafs players are present.

1987 Playoffs: Toronto fell in the Norris finals once more, this time to Detroit. People notice that the Stanley Cup hasn’t returned to Toronto in 20 years.

1988 – St. Louis hosts the battle of the Wales and Campbell Conferences. The lone Maple Leaf on a team absolutely perforated with Alberta-based All-Stars including six Oilers (Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky and Glenn Anderson) and five Flames (Al MacInnis, Brad McCrimmon, Gary Suter, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Mike Vernon) is defenseman Al Iafrate.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Apr 11, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; The Toronto Maple Leafs logo on the offices of the Air Canada Centre before the final game of the season against the Montreal Canadiens at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Finishing the season with 52 points, Iafrate was the team’s highest-scoring blueliner. He did not start and got no points.

Wales beat Campbell 6-5 in OT. Mario Lemieux had three goals and three assists, including the overtime winner in his MVP performance.

1988 Playoffs: Detroit gave Toronto an early exit in the first round, four games to two.

1989 – Edmonton hosts, with right winger Gary Leeman the sole Leafs representative – as a reserve player. Leeman was Toronto’s second-leading scorer for the second time in 1989, behind Ed Olczyk both times.

Campbell Conference won 9-5, with Leeman adding a goal and an assist. Gretzky, who was returning to Edmonton as a member of the L.A. Kings, was named MVP with a goal and two assists.

1989 Playoffs: Toronto finished 28-46-6, out of the playoffs.

1990 – Birthing an All-Star weekend fixture for years to come, Pittsburgh introduced the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in 1990. Winner of the inaugural Hardest Shot Competition? Toronto’s Iafrate, with a 96.0 mph slapper.

Back for his second non-consecutive stint as Toronto’s only All-Star, Iafrate did not start and did not figure into the scoring, as Wales beat Campbell 12-7. 1990 All-Star MVP Mario Lemieux became the second player in All-Star history to score four goals, starting off the game with three tallies on his first three shots.

1990 Playoffs: The Leafs win a game, but lose four as St. Louis ushers them from the first round.

1991 – Chicago Stadium hosted the 1991 festivities, with Toronto’s 1986 first round pick Vincent Damphousse as the team’s only All-Star; a reserve on the Campbell conference squad, which won 11-5.

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Damphousse had four goals, including one unassisted, on his way to being named All-Star MVP. He is of course remembered for the ’92-’93 Stanley Cup he helped bring to Toronto… or, sorry, to Montreal.

Damphousse was traded by the Maple Leafs to Edmonton the following season for Fuhr and Glenn Anderson. No Leaf has been All-Star MVP since.

1991 Playoffs: Toronto finishes out of contention, last in the Campbell Conference; 23-46-11.

1992 – The Campbell Conference won 10-6 in Philadelphia. Toronto’s Dave Ellett was a reserve D-man for the winning side and notched an assist in the game.

Game MVP Brett Hull had an assist and two goals – both of which were assisted by Gretzky and Luc Robitaille. Future Leaf Ed Beflour was the Campbell Conference’s starting goalie.

1992 Playoffs: Giving up Damphousse for two proven Stanley Cup-winning vets failed to spark any success for Toronto, who finished last in the Norris division once more; 30-43-7. Sort of a rough stretch, that.

1993 – In Montreal, for the seventh time in our 30-year sample, Toronto has just one All-Star representative (it was actually the 10th consecutive time that had happened). Doug Gilmour scored once as a reserve All-Star for the Campbell Conference. 

However, the Wales team went on to easily win 16-6. Future Leafs forward Gary Roberts, then one of the Flames, was also on the team, as was future head coach Randy Carlyle.

Another future Maple Leaf, Mike Gartner, who appears later on this list, was named MVP for his four-goal, five-point performance. Also notable, 1990 second-round pick Felix Potvin was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team as a goaltender for 1992-1993.

1993 Playoffs: The Leafs fall in seven games to the Los Angeles Kings in the Conference finals. This happens.

Next: Recap of Leafs prospects at the 2016 World Juniors

That does it for part one, check back tomorrow for a look back at 1994-2015.