TORONTO (Nov. 7) — An ever–expanding list with the same result.
Indeed, the Toronto Maple Leafs have deployed 76 goalies since the now–ethereal night of May 2, 1967, when the club last won the Stanley Cup. We aren’t sure (neither will we spend the time to check) whether this is a manpower record amid the 32 National Hockey League members… but we are certain it’s an all–time mark among the team with the longest championship drought — approaching 56 years. Newcomers Matt Murray (for one game) and Ilya Samsonov added to the roll call early this season. And (heaven forbid, Leafs Nation), if misfortune should befall Erik Kallgren, the club’s recently signed fourth–stringer, Keith Petruzzelli, will balloon the goalie count to 77.
Here is the chronological archive, beginning with the 1967–68 season opener: JOHNNY BOWER, BRUCE GAMBLE, AL SMITH, MARV EDWARDS, GERRY McNAMARA, JACQUES PLANTE, BERNIE PARENT, MURRAY McLACHLAN, GORD McRAE, RON LOW, DOUG FAVELL, DUNC WILSON, EDDIE JOHNSTON, PIERRE HAMEL, WAYNE THOMAS, MIKE PALMATEER, PAUL HARRISON, JIRI CRHA, CURT RIDLEY, VINCENT TREMBLAY, JIM RUTHERFORD, MICHEL (BUNNY) LAROCQUE, BOB PARENT, RICK ST. CROIX, ALLAN BESTER, KEN WREGGET, BRUCE DOWIE, TIM BERNHARDT, DON EDWARDS, JEFF REESE, MARK LaFOREST, PETER ING, DAMIAN RHODES, GRANT FUHR, FELIX POTVIN, RICK WAMSLEY, DARREN PUPPA, DON BEAUPRE, MARCEL COUSINEAU, GLENN HEALY, CURTIS JOSEPH, COREY SCHWAB, TOM BARRASSO, SEBASTIEN CENTOMO, ED BELFOUR, MIKAEL TELLQVIST, TREVOR KIDD, JEAN-SEBASTIAN AUBIN, ANDREW RAYCROFT, SCOTT CLEMMENSEN, VESA TOSKALA, MARTIN GERBER, JUSTIN POGGE, JEAN-SEBASTIEN GIGUERE, JONAS GUSTAVSSON, JOEY MacDONALD, JAMES REIMER, BEN SCRIVENS, JUSSI RYNNAS, JONATHAN BERNIER, DREW MacINTYRE, GARRET SPARKS, FREDERIK ANDERSEN, JHONAS ENROTH, ANTOINE BIBEAU, CURTIS McELHINNEY, CALVIN PICKARD, MICHAEL HUTCHINSON, KASIMIR KASKISUO, JACK CAMPBELL, DAVID RITTICH, PETER MRAZEK, JOSEPH WOLL, ERIK KALLGREN, MATT MURRAY, ILYA SAMSONOV.
Of the names listed here, only Mike Palmateer (in 1978), Felix Potvin (in 1993 and 1994) and Curtis Joseph (in 1999 and 2002) have backstopped the Maple Leafs as far as the Stanley Cup semifinals.
HALL–OF–FAMER JOHNNY BOWER (d. Dec. 26, 2016) STARTED THE POST–EXPANSION ROLL CALL OF MAPLE LEAF GOALIES ON OCT. 14, 1967, WHEN THE CLUB BEGAN DESENSE OF ITS MOST–RECENT STANLEY CUP TITLE. THE POSITION, EVER SINCE, HAS BEEN LARGELY A REVOLVING DOOR.
Still under determination is whether the blame game should be evoked in the current situation. On one hand, it’s a might unfair to castigate the general manager of a team that loses both its roster goalies to injury by the opening week of November. Conversely, when that GM carries on with stoppers that have been regularly sidelined elsewhere, what can be reasonably expected? Murray and Samsonov — in Ottawa and Washington, respectively — were frequent residents of sick bay before joining the Blue and White as free agents. Same applied to Jack Campbell (now with Edmonton) and Petr Mrazek (in Chicago). Kyle Dubas has been rolling the dice with the game’s most–important position since he assumed the GM’s role from Lou Lamoriello in the summer of 2018.
It has clearly caught up to him the past two years with the recurring pains and strains.
That said, how can we criticize Dubas for his acquisition of Campbell from Los Angeles? No Leafs goalie has ever accrued points at the rate of Smilin’ Jack, who crafted an astounding 51–14–9 mark while wearing the blue and white. Yes, he tailed off in the second half of last season… and he could not win a playoff round in two tries. Neither is he off to an auspicious start with the Oilers. But, there’s no way a netminder in the NHL can fluke his way to only 14 regulation defeats in 74 matches. It was cap mismanagement that compelled Dubas to set Campbell free — regrettable given the affection that blossomed amid the fan base. The chants of “Sooooouup!” have migrated west and it’s possible Maple Leaf fans will miss that connection as the current season evolves.
By the way, Johnny Bower, the Leafs legend, would turn 98 on Tuesday were he still alive. The China Wall passed away nearly six years ago. There has never — nor will ever — be as beloved a Toronto hockey figure.
BIG–TIME CREDIT: Unlike many in the local hockey media, I contend the Maple Leafs will not be defined by the current, three–game stretch against the early elite in the NHL. Definition can be established only in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But, I’ll give the club full credit for its rather immaculate weekend performances against Boston and Carolina — four points cleared by expending full energy across 120 minutes while hammering away in the defensive zone. It was the caliber of effort and performance that regularly goes missing from the Leafs when a playoff series is on the line. If they can replicate such combativeness and attention to detail in Game 7 of an opening Stanley Cup round, the Leafs will finally get over the hump. These consecutive–night triumphs, less than 24 hours apart, were accomplished, primarily, with third–stringer Kallgren between the pipes. It proved, in a small but impressive sample–size, what can be achieved when a club buys into a strong, defensive approach. It doesn’t need Auston Matthews to score three goals a night or Mitch Marner to dance with the puck. Kudos to Sheldon Keefe for effectively preparing his club to play the Bruins and Hurricanes. Kudos to the 18 skaters for following his lead.
A DETERMINED EFFORT BY ALL SKATERS ON THE VISITING TEAM ENABLED THE WEARY LEAFS TO UPEND CAROLINA LESS THAN 24 HOURS AFTER DEFEATING BOSTON ON HOME ICE. USA TODAY PHOTO