Sunday, November 25, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 25, 1987

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.

On Wednesday Nov. 25, 1987 Toronto lost 5-3 at the New York Rangers to fall back to .500 for the last time that season. With a 10-10-2 record, they were actually still tied atop the (S)Norris Division with Chicago. The Leafs had scored 95 goals to that point, third most in the entire league.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Leafs was the play of 21 year old, fourth year defender Al Iafrate. Jumping to the NHL as an 18 year old and the fourth overall pick, "Skis" had seasons of 21, 33 and 30 points. He started 1987/88 on fire with 6 points and a +7 rating in the first two games of the season, and by this point in late November Iafrate had 12 goals, 9 assists and 21 points in 22 games. Even more impressive, he was a +17 rating.

However, it was all downhill for Iafrate and the Leafs after that. In the next 15 games before the New Year, Toronto went 4-9-2 and not coicidentally Iafrate cooled off with 2 goals and 8 points. Worse even, he was a -7 in those 15 games.
The second half of the season was even worse.

From January 1st onward, Iafrate's stats were 40-8-15-23 and an amazing MINUS 50 +/- rating.
Toronto stumled along at a 7-30-6 clip to finish with a dismal 52 points. This of course was good enough to snag a playoff spot in the Norris as Minnesota finished with 51 points.

The Leafs took on the first place Red Wings who had 93 points and the results were predicatable.
After surprising Detroit with a 6-2 win in game one, the Wings won 6-2, 6-3 and 8-0 at Maple Leaf Gardens in game four. The Leaf faithful were so disgusted with the latter performance they littered the ice with boos and garbage afterward promting Leaf Todd Gill to comment,"They can boo all they want, but when they start throwing things it gets scary. It's not very nice getting pop thrown in your face and having change bounce off your head."

The Leafs would steal a 6-5 overtime win in game five before dropping a 5-3 game to mercilessly end the 87/88 campaign.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

25 years ago today; Coffey traded to Pittsburgh

"It's not fair to the players who are working hard now to keep going if I can ice a better team by trading Paul." said Glen Sather, a few days before he actually did pull the trigger on a trade. New York Rangers, Detroit, St.Louis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were the teams making serious pitches at Slats.
One report had the Red Wings ofering Adam Oates, two 1st-rounders and cash for Coffey. Detroit coach Jacques Demers was stunned by Edmonton's refusal. Another rumour was the Flyers offering Doug Crossman, Scott Mellanby and a 1st-round pick. Perhaps the craziest rumour was a three team trade involving Pittsburgh, Rangers and the Oilers wih the main players being James Patrick, Bob Froese and a Penguins 1st-rounder.
In the meantime, Coffey himself stayed in shape by skating with a Junior B team in Toronto. He and his agent, Gus Badali had begun their holdout mere minutes after Canada's victory over Russia in the Canada Cup on Sept. 15. They wanted the Oilers to renegotiate the last two years of Coffey's $325,000 contract. The demand was from between $600,000 and $800,000.

In the end, the deal went down as a seven player swap with the Pens, Edmonton getting Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha and Chris Joseph for Coffey, Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp. Pens GM Bob Johnson proclaimed,"He's a world-class player. He's going to look great in black and gold."

Prior to his first game with Pittsburgh Penguin Doug Bodger said Coffey told him "Don't give me the puck too hard because I won't have my timing yet." After the match Bodger said,"Holy geez. I wonder what it's like when he does have his timing," as Coffey produced three assists in a 6-4 win over Quebec. He also had about 27 minutes of ice-time.

 At the time of the trade, Pittsburgh sat one point out of the playoffs with a 7-10-4 record, and Coffey would indeed help lead them over the .500 mark. They finished with 81 points yet still had fallen to sixth and last in the ultra competitive Patrick Division. Coffey would finish with 67 points in 46 games for Pittsburgh. The Oilers who were only point ahead of Calgary when the trade was made, finished in second place in the Smythe, but of course went on to win their fourth Stanley Cup in five years even without Coffey.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NHL Lockout is good for my mind.

I'm getting smarter by the week. I really believe that, and I have the NHL lockout to thank. With no hockey to dominate my television viewing, I have ample time for much more informative and educational programming.

The three games per week that I would usually watch translate into a good nine hours of quality time spent elsewhere. Last week for instance, instead of watching the Leafs lose to St. Louis and Pittsburgh I engaged myself in Nova on PBS and CBC's The Nature of Things. On top of that, being Remembrance Day week, National Geographic had a fascinating program called "Inside World War II".

So instead of lamenting another shoot-out defeat by the Leafs, David Suzuki informed me all about the lives and behaviours of urban squirrels. Rather than ruminating on why Randy Carlyle has not turned around the Penalty-Killing, I learned the intricacies of how NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars. Instead of wondering aloud about the "James van Riemsdyk playing Centre experiment", I was regaled with heart-wrenching stories from WWII veterans on National Geo.

With no NHL hockey, I also have no fantasy hockey or drafts to attend to. In lieu of running my draft at work or maintaining 4 separate Yahoo Fantasy Hockey teams, I have far more time for my Against the Spread NFL pool (in which I've already won a week in our 16 man pool) and I've also delved into the sordid world of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball (I actually won my first two head-to-head weeks).

As for getting my fix of Canadiana that the NHL usually provided, I have quite enjoyed TSN's CFL documentaries "Engraved on a Nation" and in the process learned about how the FLQ in Quebec affected the 1969 Grey Cup.

So, as it stands I'm really not missing NHL hockey at all, if anything I'm grateful for the free time that I'm using to broaden my mind. Thanks Gary and Donald. And if you could hold off on the negotiations for a while more, next week David Suzuki is going to teach me about evidence that Vikings were in the Arctic centuries before Columbus. Looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 18, 1981

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.

Wedsneday, November 18, 1981. Toronto rolls into the Hartford Civic Centre with a record of 5-9-3, last place in the Norris Division. The Leafs had however just beaten the Philadelphia Flyers at Maple Leaf Gardens by the score of 4-0 in their previous outing. The Whale was faring even worse than the Blue and White as they languished in the basement of the Adams Division at 2-8-7, a full 10 points behind fourth place Quebec. Despite their record, Toronto had surrendered only 3 more goals than they had scored to this point in the campaign, perhaps they were better than they had been showing.

Hartford sported a roster of ex-WHA stars Blaine Stoughton, Mark Howe, Paul Shmyr, John Garrett and ex-Leaf Dave Keon. Keon was in his final professional season and at 41 had a respectable 7 points in 17 games to that point. To this mix, the Whalers had just added 18 year-old Ron Francis.

On this day Francis was playing in his second ever NHL match after being recalled from junior Sault Ste. Marie where he put up 48 points in 25 games. The 4th overall draft pick from just a few months earlier would soon show he belonged, starting with this very game against Toronto.

Leafs Vincent Tremblay squared off in net against John Garrett and Toronto jumped out 1-0 on Borje Salming's seventh goal of the young season five minutes in. A minute later, Keon evened the score before Ron Francis collected his first ever NHL point with an assist on Doug Sulliman's tally. Then Hartford exploded in the second.

Sulliman and Garry Howatt beat Tremblay seven seconds apart less then two minutes into the period (Francis collecting another helper), then Ronnie 'Franchise' picked up his first ever goal two minutes later. Before seven minutes had elapsed in the middle frame Blaine Stougton scored his 13th to make it 6-1 Hartford. After two it stood 7-4 for the Whalers and Tremblay was yanked for the third. Teams traded a goal each in the third as 'Bunny' Larocque stopped 4 of the 5 shots directed his way. Francis ended up with a goal and two assists, Keon a goal and an assist and Doug Sulliman had four points.

Somehow, Toronto would play exactly .500 hockey from this point until the middle of January at which point Harold Ballard unloaded Darryl Sittler to the Flyers. They stumbled to a 5-24-4 record the rest of the season and 16 points out of a playoff berth. The Whalers would actually finish with 60 points, four more than the Leafs and Francis ended up a fantastic rookie year with 68 points in 59 games. Another day, another season in a Leaf decade of crap...again, my childhood.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bob Pulford, Legitimate Hall of Famer

With Hall of Fame week just wrapping up, the same old debates on who should or should not be included in the Hall resurface. One of the go-to names as an example of Hall of Famers who are undeserving of inclusion is Bob Pulford. The question is; Is it fair to use Pulford as a Hall of Fame "whipping boy" or is he truly worthy of inclusion?

Pulford's raw stats (1079 Games, 281 Goals and 643 Points) don't exactly scream Hall of Famer, however, he was much more than the raw numbers. In his prime, Pulford was possibly the greatest defensive forward in the game. He was Bob Gainey before Bob Gainey...with more scoring punch. During the first five years the NHL counted Shorthanded Goals as an official stat, Pulford had the most. If the Selke Trophy for defensive forward was around in the 1960's, he undoubtedly would have won it on multiple occaisons.

 In the  Weekend Magazine supplement of Canadian newspapers on Jan. 15, 1966 there is a three page article about Pulford written by Andy O'Brien titled "Bob Pulford: He's So Good You Don't Notice Him". In it are the following quotes which really sum up what Pulford was as a player.
"Pulford is one of my private headaches," says Gordie Howe, "because he has to be classed as one of hockey's greatest forecheckers. There's a deep knowledge of the game in his forechecking - hook, poke check, strength of arms, quickness, the whole bundle of wax." "Pulford is a piece man," says coach Milt Schmidt of the Boston Bruins."Any time he's near you he gets a piece of you. He's possibly the most combative of the modern players." As far back as March 1960, coach Sid Abel of the Red Wings tagged Pulford "the most dangerous of the Leafs."

On top of his defensive excellence, Bob Pulford scored the 14th most goals during the 1960's, only 14 less than Dave Keon and 11 less than Andy Bathgate. Perhaps one of his biggest goals came on
April 11, 1964 in the first game of the Stanley Cup finals versus Detroit. "Bob Pulford scored with just  two seconds remaining in regulation time to give Toronto a 3-2 win before 14,075 fans in Maple Leaf Gardens Saturday night. Red Wing ace Gordie Howe, the all-time scoring leader in National Hockey League playoff competition, described Pulford's unassisted breakaway goal as "a perfect play". Howe chased Pulford as the Toronto centre raced in on Terry Sawchuk in Red Wings nets and backhanded a shot into the upper corner at 19:58 mark of the third period.  "Pulford had one stride on me," Howe said after the game. "But when he changed sides and went to his backhand he had me. It was a perfect play." The 28 year-old Pulford, noted for his penalty killing and clutch scoring, said he didn't know how he got the goal. "It was from about 20 feet out," he said. "I don't know how I got it, but any shot is good if it goes in. You don't think. You just take a quick look and shoot." 

Even early in his career, Pully was recognized as an extremely valuable asset by his coach Punch Imlach. In the summer of 1960 it was reported; "New York Rangers were to have offered Andy Bathgate, Larry Popein and Eddie Shack to Toronto for Bob Pulford, Dick Duff, Ron Stewart and Billy Harris. Leafs said no. The Leafs indicated that any proposal meaning the loss of Pulford wouldn't get anywhere." Imlach thought so highly of Pulford he offered the following when asked about an exchange of Ranger Bathgate for Pulford; "They're asking me to give up a battleship for a rowboat."

After the 1962 Stanley Cup finals in which Toronto won their first Cup in eleven years, Imlach stated; "Actually, I think our success can be attributed to our three centres - Keon, Pulford and Kelly. Those three are better than any three of the Hawks, and I'm including Stan Mikita in there."

Most arguments against Pulford's Hall of Fame credentials centre around the belief that he gained inclusion merely because he was a member of the Leaf Cup victories of the 60's. This of course plays a part in it, but let's look at exactly how big a part of those wins Pulford was. Among the nine skaters who played in all four Cups (1962, 63, 64 & 67) here is what they produced (GP-G-A-Pts);

Mahovlich             47-13-26-39
Keon                      48-22-15-37
Armstrong              45-17-20-37
Kelly                      48-10-26-36
Pulford                   48-15-19-34
Horton                    48- 7- 25-32
Stanley                   48- 2- 17-19
Baun                       46- 2-  9- 11
Shack                      40- 2-  2-  4

So, on top of all of his defensive excellence Pulford was as much a point producer as anyone on the Leafs. Incidentally, each of the top seven on the list are members of the Hall of Fame.
The crowning achievement for Pulford came April 25, 1967 in Game three of the Stanley Cup finals as described by the Canadian Press;
Bob Pulford, an apple-cheeked veteran of 83 playoff games, scored his first ever overtime goal last night to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Canadiens and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final. The 31 year-old Pulford connected after 28 minutes and 26 seconds of spine-tingling extra play during which Johnny Bower and Montreal rookie Rogatien Vachon.

Overall, the inclusion of Bob Pulford in the Hockey Hall of Fame is well deserved in my opinion. I have no problem with defensive excellence being rewarded by the Hall, and Pulford was one of the best.

Friday, November 9, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 9, 1985

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.
Saturday Nov. 9, 1985. The Leafs collect their first home point of the season. After six straight losses at Maple Leaf Gardens, they tied St. Louis 2-2. The point gave them a grand total of 4 on the season with a record of 1-11-2. Coach Dan Maloney said afterward, "We're not barnstorming, but we're making some progress. A point each night - that's progress to me. It's a hell of a lot more than we were doing before."
Tim Bernhardt turned aside 23 shots and Miroslav Frycer had a goal and an assist. In the third period  rookie Wendel Clark fought Blues defenceman Ric Nattress, five of his 227 PIMs that season. Clark would notch 34 goals and finish second to Calgary's Gary Suter in Calder Trophy voting. Frycer, in the midst of a career season ended up leading the team with 75 points in 73 games.
Amazingly, after such a putrid start to the season the Leafs still made the playoffs with a measly 57 points, thanks to Detroit's historic 40 point season. Toronto upset first place Chicago in the first round with a three game sweep then took St. Louis the full series games before losing 2-1 in game seven.
Toronto ended up one game away from meeting Calgary in the Stanley Cup semi-finals. This was pretty much the highlight of the decade for a young Leaf fan.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy 88th Birthday Johnny Bower

The living legend Johnny Bower turns 88 years old today (or 89). Check out the link below for a clip from Showdown 1978 featuring a 54 year old Bower in net against Andy Bathgate and George Armstrong, awesome footage!
Bower now sits second overall in all-time North American professional hockey wins, counting his AHL and WHL totals.

 Happy Birthday China Wall!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 7, 1982

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.
Thirty years ago today, Sunday November 7, 1982. The Maple Leafs lost in Chicago to the Blackhawks by a score of 7-3. The Hawks peppered Leaf goalie Michel "Bunny" Laroucque with 22 shots in the first period and held a 4-0 lead in the twelfth minute of the game. John Anderson would make it 4-1 with just over four minutes left in the first and rookie Peter Ihnacak brought them withen two with four seconds remaining.
The Leaf comeback stalled however in the middle frame as they managed only five shots on Murray Bannerman. Tom Lysiak scored Chicago's fifth of the game and Peter Marsh and Bob McGill fought late in the period, both also collecting Game Misconducts. Leaf Miroslav Frycer scored early in the third to gain faint hope before Lysiak and Doug Wilson finished off the scoring. Lysiak would finish with two goals and two helpers, Wilson a goal and two assists.
The loss left Toronto with a 2-7-5 record, their 9 points tied with Detroit for basement of the Norris Division. Larocque, on the downward end of a fine career mainly as a back-up goaltender was traded in the New Year to Philadelphia for Rick St.Croix. In parts of three seasons with Toronto Bunny proved he was a far better back-up than a starter, or at least far better behind Montreal's defence than Toronto's. He left Toronto with a record of 16-35-13 and 4.90 GAA.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Maple Leafs Programme Project

I've started another blog dealing solely with my quest to collect a Leafs program from every year they've been around. It can be found here;

OK, maybe not EVERY season in Leafs history. My first one is from 1930, the last season at The Mutual Street Arena, finding any ones before that will be extremely difficult and expensive. I'm happy trying to find a program of every season from 1930 to perhaps the mid-1980's. I don't really have a desire for anything more recently issued.

Anyway, I'm about half finished. Follow along as I post new (old) programs and if anyone has a lead on ones I need, let me know!

Anyway, I'm about halfway finished. Follow along as I post new (old) programs. If you have a lead on anyones I need, let me know!

Friday, November 2, 2012

2 goals in 3 seconds. Pro hockey record.

The Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League equalled a professional hockey record by scoring two goals in three seconds last night. The victim of the goals was goalie Ben Scrivens of the Toronto Marlies in the 3-0 Abbotsford victory.
With the score tied 0-0 in the third period, veteran defenceman Steve McCarthy scored a beautiful shorthanded goal on Scivens. On the ensuing faceoff Abbotsford centreman Ben Street went forward with the puck, "I tried to go forward myself and got pretty good wood on it. I got it high enough that he didn’t pick up on it. I picked the right club, I guess.” Apparently Scrivens somehow lost the puck in the air, it happened so fast there is no video evidence of it.
The record of two goals by one team in three seconds beats the NHL record accomplished five times, last by Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 15, 1995. The record does however equal the record in the ECHL set by Roanoke Valley vs. Hampton Roads on Jan. 22, 1993.

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