Tuesday, 1 November 2011

TBC: Maple Leafs Top 100

There have been, since the beginning of time, lists made of the best of everything. The NHL has had numerous entries in these best-of lists, but it starts to get harder once you get down to the team level. After all, could you come up with a top-100 for the Columbus Blue Jackets? How about just a top-10? The teams with longer histories - the Original Six teams - have a better chance at filling out a top-100 list, and that's what we're seeing in the latest read. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Maple Leafs Top 100: Toronto's Greatest Players of All Time, written by Mike Leonetti and John Iaboni and published by Raincoast Books. This book looks at the vast history of the Maple Leafs, and authors Mike Leonetti and John Iaboni come up with the best 100 players in Maple Leafs history. Do I agree with all of the selections? Let's find out.

Mike Leonetti has written a number of hockey-centric books, including Canadiens Legends, The Rocket, and The Mighty Tim Horton, all of which were reviewed right here on Hockey Blog In Canada. Mr. Leonetti lives in Woodbridge, Ontario, with his wife, Maria, and their son, David.

John Iaboni worked as a sportswriter for the Toronto Telegram in 1968, and wrote the first story in a major publication on a ten-year old kid named Wayne Gretzky on October 28, 1971 in the Toronto Telegram. Mr. Iaboni covered the Leafs for the Toronto Sun from 1971 until 1984, and became the executive editor/writer for the Leafs game day program since 1991. Mr. Iaboni lives in Toronto with his wife, Ada, and their son, Matthew.

Maple Leafs Top 100 takes readers through the Leafs' vast history, bringing forth stories and images of players from yesteryear. From players like Ace Bailey, Howie Meeker, and Cal Gardner to this generation's stars like Mats Sundin, Steve Thomas, Wendel Clark, Alexander Mogilny, and Ed Belfour, a panel of 14 people have offered up their suggestions as to who the top-100 Maple Leafs are. Many discussions will be had over who finished where on the list, but there is no denying that this top-100 list defines the Maple Leafs' greatest players of all-time.

The panel of selectors included men from all walks of life in the hockey industry. The fourteen distinguished members of the panel include former HNiC producer Mark Askin, The FAN 590's Howard Berger, radio play-by-play man Joe Bowen, Hockey Hall of Fame journalist Milt Dunnell, The FAN 590 sports director Doug Farraway, Leafs TV's Paul Hendrick, Toronto Sun writer Bruce Hornsby, former NHL head coach and HNiC colour man Harry Neale, Hockey Hall of Fame journalist Frank Orr, hockey video archivist Paul Patskou, former HNiC host Frank Selke Jr., former Leafs GM Bill Watters, and authors Mike Leonetti and John Iaboni. As I said, it was quite a distinguished and well-versed group of individuals who had input into this list.

I'm not going to reveal the top-10, but I do want to point out a few players that made the list that caught my eye. I'm not saying I'm surprised by their inclusion because they are very important in terms of what they did as a Maple Leaf, but I had forgotten just how important to the Leafs these individuals were to the team.

  • He may have been a whipping boy for his questionable defensive play during his time in Toronto, but Bryan McCabe made the list at #47. As of the 2007 publication date, he scored 78 goals and 196 assists as a Leaf. I would have ranked him lower than some of the names that appear below him, but there's no doubt that McCabe led the blueline's offensive contributions during his time with the Leafs.
  • On the other hand, Dmitry Yushkevich made the list at #94. Yushkevich played seven seasons with the Leafs, scoring 25 goals and 110 assists, but was more noted for his toughness and tenacity on the blueline. I had totally forgotten that Yushkevich played in front of Toronto fans as a member of the World All-Stars in the 2000 NHL All-Star Game. Yushkevich scored a goal on Leafs teammate Curtis Joseph and added as assist in the game as the World beat North America 9-4.
  • He played only three seasons in Toronto, and he certainly made a name for himself elsewhere in the NHL, but Jacques Plante made the list at #97. The 42 year-old posted a 24-11-4 record in 1970-71, his first with the Leafs, and he ended his three years with the Leafs with a 48-38-15 record, a 2.45 GAA, and seven shutouts at 45. Not bad for a guy who had retired from 1965-1968!
One of the best features of Maple Leafs Top 100 is that each player featured has all of his sweater numbers listed. For those that like accuracy, this brings forth some great trivia. For example, Frank Mahovlich made #27 famous, but how many people knew he started as #22? Or that Terry Sawchuk wore #24? Nick Metz wore five different numbers over his career with the Leafs - 5, 10, 15, 17, and 19!

Maple Leafs Top 100 is an excellent look at the Maple Leafs' greatest players, and there are some fascinating facts and stories told about the players. The photos contained within the covers are beautiful, and there is enough great information on the pages to keep even the most knowledgeable Leafs fan intrigued. The book sounds long at 238 pages, but there are a lot of full-page photographs in the book. Maple Leafs Top 100 is perfect for all ages, and will give your Leafs fan a great read. Because of the excellent photos and incredible write-ups about each player featured, Maple Leafs Top 100 deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval! And while I'm certainly not a Leafs fan, the work done by Mr. Leonetti and Mr. Iaboni has given me a greater appreciation of the players who made the Leafs the storied franchise that they are.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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