Friday, November 25, 2016

Leafs Rookies, Circa 1929/30

A quarter of the way through the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have three of the top four scoring rookies in the NHL. The top five rookies in points are as follows: (G-A-Pts)

Patrick Laine, Winnipeg 12-6-18
Auston Matthews, Toronto 8-8-16
Mitch Marner, Toronto 7-9-16
William Nylander, Toronto 6-9-15
Zach Werenski, Columbus 5-10-15
The Leafs have their best rookie crop in at least a generation. In looking at the top three Toronto rookies on their own, it can arguably be said that they are the best Leafs crop of first-year players in over 85 years. Sure, Toronto has had some nice rookie groups enter the league at the same time through the years;

1985/86 Wendel Clark, Steve Thomas & Dan Hodgson
1982/83 Peter Ihnacak, Walt Poddubny, Dan Daoust
1979/80 Laurie Boschman, Rocky Saginiuk, Rick Vaive, Bill Derlago
1973/74 Borje Salming, Lanny McDonald, Ian Turnbull, Inge Hammarstrom
1955/56 Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Earl Balfour
1952/53 George Armstrong, Tim Horton, Ron Stewart, Eric Nesterenko, Leo Boivin
1946/47 Howie Meeker, Joe Klukay, Gus Mortson, Vic Lynn, Jimmy Thomson
1943/44 Ted Kennedy, Gus Bodnar, Jack Hamilton
1936/37 Syl Apps, Gordie Drillon, Jimmy Fowler

However, the greatest crop of Maple Leafs rookies in one season was in 1929/30 when three guys embarked on Hall of Fame careers and would become one of the greatest lines in history.
Charlie Conacher, Joe Primeau and Busher Jackson.
Truth be told, Matthews, Nylander and Marner are having better first seasons than the Hall of Famers did 87 years ago. This may sound like nonsense, but facts are facts. I'm not saying that the current Leaf super-rookies will all one day become enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but their first twenty games are substantially better than the legends of yester-year.

Matthews, Marner and Nylander have all played 20 games or about a quarter of this season. In 1929/30, the league played 44 games and below are the NHL rookie scoring leaders after the same amount of games in 1929/30. Statistics are from the Montreal Gazette of January 7, 1930. The League standings are shown first.
Rookie Leaders Jan.7, 1930

Ebbie Goodfellow, Detroit 10-6-16
Tom Cook, Chicago 4-10-14
Nick Wasnie, Montreal 8-5-13
James Jarvis, Pittsburgh 7-4-11
Charlie Conacher, Toronto 8-2-10
Joe Primeau, Toronto 2-7-9
Frank Ingram, Chicago 4-4-8
Busher Jackson, Toronto 4-2-6
Baldy Northcott, Mtl Maroons 4-0-4
George Massecar, NY Americans 3-1-4

this list also shows how fleeting and varied careers can be; the three Leafs and Ebbie Goodfellow all had Hall of Fame careers, Tom Cook, Nick Wasnie and Baldy Northcott had serviceable if not spectacular careers, James Jarvis, Frank Ingram and George Massecar (whom I honestly had never heard of before yesterday) all played just around 100 NHL games.

So, after the same amount of games in 1929/30, the Toronto future Hall of Famers sat 5th, 6th and 8th in rookie point scoring with some fairly un-impressive totals. Average goals per game back then was 5.91 compared to today's 5.40. If anything, the old-timers should have been slightly more productive than the current newbies. Of course the Leafs all got into gear over the second half of their first full seasons and the final rookie leaders were as follows;

Goodfellow 17-17-34
Cook 14-16-30
Conacher 20-9-29
Primeau 5-21-26
Wasnie 12-11-23
Jarvis 11-8-19
Jackson 12-6-18
Ingram 6-10-16
Northcott 10-1-11
Massecar 7-3-10

The Leafs finished 3rd, 4th and 7th in the rookie race with Conacher leading in goals and Primeau in assists. Of course there were only these ten rookies that played a significant amount of games in 1929/30. It will be highly impressive, if not un-precedented, if Matthews, Marner and Nylander can finish in the top-five in league rookie scoring with likely 70 plus rookies playing at least half their team's games. We shall see.

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