Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1967 Maple Leafs, Getting hot at the right time.

The Los Angeles Kings enter the 2012 Stanley Cup Final on a bit of a roll. They are 12-2 in the post season and overall since Jeff Carter played his first game on February 25, they have a record of 25-7-3. There is something to be said for getting hot at the right time of year. There is perhaps no greater example of this than the Toronto Maple Leafs of 1966/67.

On January 14, 1967 the Leafs had posted a record of 17-11-8 and were in third place, 3 points out of first. They then proceeded to go into the tank as few can losing the next 10 games in a row. Every loss but one was decided by two or more goals. By Feb. 8 they had dropped out of a playoff spot and were now 23 points from first place. The Leafs ineptitude is shown in their "scoring" leaders over the 10 game stretch; (there are no readily available game scoring logs from this period, so I had to compile game by game box scores from The Hockey Summary Project

10 Game Losing Streak Jan. 15 thru Feb. 8 (G-A-Pts)
  • Keon 2-3-5
  • Pulford 1-4-5
  • Horton 2-2-4
  • Baun 1-3-4
  • Conacher 2-1-3
  • Shack 2-1-3
  • Jeffrey 1-2-3
  • Walton 1-2-3
  • Pronovost 1-2-3
  • Ellis 1-1-2
  • Mahovlich 1-1-2
  • Stemkowski 1-0-1
  • Stanley 0-1-1
  • Douglas 0-1-1
  • Pappin 0-0-0
On Feb. 11, Toronto finally gained a point in a 4-4 tie with Chicago. The next day they beat Boston 2-1 for their first victory in almost a full month. On Tuesday Feb. 14, coach/GM Punch Imlach had still not seen enough. During a lacklustre practice Imlach chased them off the ice and ordered his team out of Maple Leaf Gardens. They responded the next night by dismantling the New York Rangers by a score of 6-0.

By the next game however, Imlach himself was banished from the Gardens...for health reasons. Suffering from exhaustion, Imlach was slated to spend at least a week in hospital. Assistant General Manager King Clancy stepped behind the bench. "They examined him from stem to gudgeon. He's all right but he's worn out. Punch has been trying to do more than he's able and he couldn't leave his problems at the office." Clancy is quoted by the Canadian Press on Feb. 17. In his autobiography "Over the Boards", Ron Ellis says that when Clancy assembled the line of Jim Pappin, Bob Pulford and Pete Stemkowski the team really got going. Looking at the numbers, it would appear that line did more than their share in helping to right the good ship Maple Leaf;

King Clancy takes over Feb. 18 thru Mar. 11
10 Games (7-1-2)
  • Stemkowski 5-10-15
  • Pulford 5-7-12
  • Pappin 6-5-11
  • Keon 3-7-10
  • Mahovlich 1-8-9
  • Armstrong 2-5-7
  • Horton 2-5-7
  • Ellis 2-0-2
  • Kelly 1-1-2

On March 12, upon Imlach's return behind the bench, the Leafs were shutout by Chicago and would go 6 and 5 in the final 11 regular season games. Of course, the playoffs saw the line of Pappin, Stemkowski and Pulford continue their terrific play as they finished 1,2,3 in scoring. The numbers are over-whelming when looking at their numbers after the line was put together;

Maple Leafs Final 33 Games including Playoffs (21-10-2)
  • Stemkowski 12-25-37
  • Pappin 18-14-32
  • Pulford 10-22-32
  • Mahovlich 8-21-29
  • Keon 10-15-25
  • Horton 6-13-19
  • Ellis 9-9-18
  • Armstrong 6-10-16 (29gp)
  • Kelly 4-11-15
In a season that saw only three men average at least one point per game (Mikita, Hull, Ullman) the production of this line over what amounts to almost half a season is quite impressive. This is not to say that King Clancy's line juggling was the sole reason the Leafs caught fire to win the Cup, of course not. This along with Imlach's banishing of the players during a practice in February are just a few of the factors in a championship run that lives on in history.

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