Saturday, December 1, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Dec. 1, 1988

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.

Thursday, December 1, 1988; Bernie Nicholls goes off.
In front of 11,924 spectators at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, the Kings dismantle the Leafs by a score of 9-3. Bernie Nicholls counts EIGHT points in this cakewalk to assume the leadership in NHL scoring ahead of Mario Lemieux and teammate Wayne Gretzky.

Toronto came to the West Coast with a record of 11-13-1 and sat in second place of the Norris Division behind Detroit. The Kings, although they sat third in the Smythe with a 16-9-0 mark, had scored 133 goals in 25 games; a full 18 goals more than any other NHL squad. Their fire power would be on full display this evening.

Bobby Carpenter, Dave Taylor and Luc Robitaille scored in the first, all with helpers from Nicholls to give L.A. a 3-0 lead. Taylor (from Nicholls) and Bernie himself scored before the game was half over and Vinny Damphousse got the Leafs on the board. Nicholls tallied a shorthanded goal to make it 6-1 after two and give him six points on the night. He would increase that to eight points and the Kings had a 9-1 lead when Daniel Marois and Danny Daoust scored meaningless goals in the last 1:07 of the game. Final score 9-3, Glenn Healy stopped 25 of 28 shots for the win, while Kenny Wregget was aerated for nine goals on 39 shots. Leaf d-man Rick Lanz was a minus five on the day, while King Steve Duchesne was plus six.

The big night for Bernie leap-frogged him over Mario and Wayne for the NHL scoring lead with 63 points in 26 matches. Lemieux stood at 61 (in 22 games) and Gretz at 60. Mario was just getting rolling though, as he ended December with 43 points in 14 games, while Nicholls put up 30 points. By the All-Star break in February Lemieux had wrestled full control of the NHL scoring lead away from Nicholls and Gretzky as he sat with 141 points in 51 games. Gretz was well back with 117 and Bernie was tied for third with Steve Yzerman with 113 points.

As for Toronto, General Manager Gord Stellick denied in the press that their next game in St.Louis two nights later would decide coach John Brophy's job status. Stellick said, "We've been having reports like that before every game for the last three weeks. I'm out of reactions." Toronto would of course lose to the Blues 3-0. It still took six more winless games however before Brophy was turfed and replaced with George Armstrong. Their 11-20-4 mark had dropped them to fourth in the Norris and "Army" couldn't do much more than Broph. They finished a slightly better 17-26-4 yet still fell to last by season's end, out of the playoffs again. Both Stellick and Armstrong were gone by the next season.

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