Editor's Note: 1967ers keeps going like gangbusters. His latest is a look at the numbers that the Leafs have worn in their history and who has stood out from the pack. Just to take away all of the warm memories he's added in who will be wearing the number this season.
(Thanks to TSM for this year's list.)
A few years ago I thought it would be interesting to go through the Leaf sweater numbers and see who was the best player to wear a given number. Each year now, I revisit it. I learned a couple of things in this exercise - the Leafs have always had a LOT of player turnover. By and large, players come and go REAL quick. Plus, since the Leafs rarely retire numbers, you see the great players concentrating around a handful of sweater numbers. 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 21, 27 could all have been retired for multiple players. Meanwhile, numbers like 15 and 16 are really tough to pick because they've been worn by an infinite number of subs. It's too bad that TML management always gives short shrift to the St. Pats, as there were some REAL good players there and you never hear of them.
Here's my kick at it, along with the likely wearers of each number this coming year. See what you think:
(note - sometimes a great player wore a different number during a call-up - like Frank Mahovlich in #26 - I don't count these. However, if a modern player is the only person to wear a given number (see Ondrus, Ben or Colaiacovo, Carlo), he'll show up twice. Some players, like Ellis, could arguably appear in more than one place (numbers 6 and 8), while for others, they wore a bunch of numbers and I've had to make a call. Barilko, for example, wore #19 longer than #5, but #5 is retired for him, so I picked #5. Similar problem for Mortson, though he never had anything retired. When in doubt, I've tended to go with the lower number, since in the old days a low number led to a better sleeping berth on the train and players tended to want them.)
The Best at Each Number
No 1. Turk Broda - all time leader in wins and shutouts, won 5 Stanley Cups. Honourable mention to Johnny Bower and Harry Lumley. Plante was very good, but not around all that long.
No 2. Carl Brewer - this was a tough call between Brewer and Red Horner. Nod to Brewer for all he did for the game. Other mentionables - Wally Stanowski, Jim Thomson, Ian Turnbull, Bob Goldham. Leetch was interesting while he was here. 2008-09: Luke Schenn (assuming he gets a call-up)
No 3. Gus Mortson - #3 is surprisingly difficult. It seems to be a number that nobody wore for particularly long and while there are a couple of good names associated with it (notably Hap Day, Wally Stanowski and Marcel Pronovost), it seems to be a number they only wore for a short time (well, Pronovost had it the whole time, but the whole time wasn't that long). Looking for people who actually had it for a number of years, you start looking at guys like Bob Neely and Jim Benning. Mortson was a key Leaf on the Cup teams of the late 1940's.
No 4. Hap Day - hard call between Hap Day and Red Kelly. Red won 4 Cups and was a HoFer, but Day did it all - he was captain, coach and GM. First captain of the Leafs and a bridge from the St. Pats to the Leafs. Other notables - Harry Watson, Reg Noble, Dave Ellett. 2008-09: Jeff Finger
No 5. Bill Barilko - hard to argue against the guy they retired the number for. Still, Corb Denneny was an excellent player for the St. Pats and from 1918-23 scored 91 goals in 106 games. 2008-09: Retired
No 6. Babe Dye - I said above that it is hard to argue against the guy they retired the number for, but Babe Dye is the forgotten Toronto superstar. As good as Bailey was, and his numbers suggest he was very good indeed, Dye scored goals like it was nobody's business. Ron Ellis was a good #6 as well, but was never the scorer Bailey or Dye were. Dye gets forgotten because Leaf management inexplicably wants to pretend the team didn't exist prior to 1927. 2008-09: Retired
No 7. Tim Horton - this is another tough one. Get a load of some of the other 7's: Max Bentley, King Clancy, Joe Primeau (really #10, though), Lanny McDonald. 2008-09: Ian White
No 8. Sid Smith - Leaf captain and Cup winner, won two Byngs and was a three-time All-Star. Good thing. 8 is a thin number. Ron Ellis was a good #8 for a lot of years, Gus Bodnar was pretty good as well. Pete Langelle was a favourite of some, but his career was short in Toronto. 2008-09: Carlo Colaiacovo
No 9. Ted Kennedy - I'd been giving Conacher the edge here over Kennedy just due to his dominance in the 30's. I've revised this. Kennedy was the heart and soul of the team for a decade, captained them to two Stanley Cups and was a complete warrior. #9 is in the rafters for both of them, though they honoured Kennedy first. Tough pick. Other notables: Dick Duff, Norm Ullman. 2008-09: Mark Bell
No 10. Syl Apps - As much as you want to pick George Armstrong, I think you have to go with Apps. Armstrong won more Cups (4 vs. 3) and was captain longer, but I think Apps was a more impactful player during his shorter career. Notables: John Anderson, Vince Damphousse, Joe Primeau. 2008-09: Alexander Steen
No 11. Busher Jackson - a great winger for this team. Notables: Tod Sloan (also a 15), Gary Leeman, Howie Meeker, Sweeney Schriner. A lot of people forget that Schriner was goal-for-goal with the Rocket in his 50-in-50 year until he broke a leg in mid-season. Owen Nolan doesn't make the list. Go figure. 2008-09: Jiri Tlusty
No 12. Gord Drillon - 12 is another thin one. Drillon was the last Leaf to lead the league in scoring. Notables: Ron Stewart, Mark Osborne, Errol Thompson.
No 13. Mats Sundin - one of only three Leafs to wear this, the others being Ken Linseman and Gary Yaremchuk. 2008-09: Mats?
No 14. Dave Keon - Finally came back from the cold (well, Florida isn't that cold) a couple of years ago, a definite highlight for me though I'm not sure we'll see him again. Too bad. Other good 14's include Dave Andreychuk and the oft-injured Mirko Frycer. 2008-09: Matt Stajan
No 15. Tomas Kaberle - A couple years back, this seemed absurd to me. Now, I realize that at the end of this coming season, Kaberle could be the second-highest scoring defenseman in Leaf history. Otherwise, 15 seems to have been a number mainly worn by subs. In the old days, when rosters were real small, #15-22 were numbers worn by guys who were in for a game here or there. Some big names wore it briefly as they broke in (Primeau, for example), that's about it. Others: Pat Boutette, Pat Hickey, Ken Doraty. Tod Sloan also wore 15 for a good stretch, but Kaberle is better. 2008-09: Tomas Kaberle
No 16. Darcy Tucker - touch and go with Ed Olczyk. Olczyk was a bigger piece of the puzzle, but Tucker has longevity on his side. #16 is the most-worn number in Leafs history, changing hands on average about twice every three seasons. Another really good #16 was Bert Olmstead, who helped the Leafs pull out of their 1950's funk and become champions in 1961-62. Mike Walton had a lot of talent, but showed it best elsewhere. 2008-09: Niklas Hagman
No 17. Wendel Clark - nobody else is close. Cal Gardner is maybe the biggest other name that wore this number for any length of time. Floyd Smith did, too. Dick Duff was a 17 before switching to 9. 2008-09: Nobody has the nerve.
No 18. Jim McKenny - probably had the most talent of the 18's, which are also a bit thin. Peter Ihnacak, Garth Boesch, Jim Pappin are others. Brewer wore 18, but I'm counting him at #2.
No 19. Bill Derlago - did I mention that 15-22 were mainly worn by subs? Derlago was actually a very good centre on the Leafs' best line during a very, very bad period of time. Other notables: Tom Fergus, Kent Douglas, Paul Henderson. 2008-09: Dominic Moore
No 20. Bob Pulford - I thought that if Belfour could put in a couple more good seasons, he'd threaten Pulford. He didn't, and he doesn't.
No 21. Borje Salming - beats out Bob Baun as the best of the 21's. 2008-09: Jamal Mayers
No 22. Rick Vaive - 3 50-goal seasons and played well despite everything going on around him. Should never have been traded. Others: Tiger Williams, Brian Conacher. 2008-09: Boyd Devereaux
No 23. Todd Gill - try telling that to someone around 1988. Gill wore this number for a long time and was a decent player by the end. Others: Eddie Shack, Dave Hutchison, Pat Quinn. 2008-09: Alexei Ponikarovsky
No 24. Bryan McCabe - A couple years back, I considered Brian Glennie here, but he was never an all-star. McCabe had the most upside of all the 24's, including Glennie, Dan Daoust, that's about it. He wound up 6th all-time for scoring amongst Leaf d-men. A bad end doesn't erase the good times he had. 2008-09: Jonas Frogren (I'd noticed on his pictures from international play that he wore #24 and wondered just what would play out here. Guess I found out....)
No 25. Peter Zezel - I had hopes for Nieuwendyk here, but no-go. Terry Martin wasn't bad.
No 26. Allan Stanley - thank heaven for Allan Stanley. Why? After him, you are left with Chris Kotsopoulos and Mike Krushelnyski. Maybe Van Ryn will do something, but I have a feeling his stay won't be all that long. 2008-09: Mike Van Ryn
No 27. Darryl Sittler - how do you pick between Sittler and Frank Mahovlich? Frank won more Cups, Sittler was the captain and the Leafs' all-time leading scorer (for a while). Miro Ihnacak just doesn't fill the void.
No 28. Tie Domi - the only other players to wear this number for any length of time are Dave Farrish and Brian Curran. (I'm sure there will be pressure to retire this....) Carl Brewer wore it during his 1979-80 comeback.
No 29. Felix Potvin - as great as Palmateer was (before his knees went), Potvin got the Leafs closer to a Cup than any goalie since Bower. Motor City Smitty was an interesting non-goaltender #29.
No 30. Terry Sawchuk - short time in Toronto, but won a Cup and a Vezina, which Allan Bester and Bernie Parent never managed to do.
No 31. Curtis Joseph - was here longer than Grant Fuhr and was better than Ken Wreggett. Pavel Kubina was the first non-goaltender ever to wear this in Toronto, but gave it up for Cujo. 2008-09: Curtis Joseph v2.0
No 32. Steve Thomas - Stumpy always played hard and came up with the big goals when needed. Better Leaf than Daniel Marois or Mike Eastwood....
No 33. Al Iafrate - tons of talent, too bad about the knee. Remember when #33 was considered a high number?
No 34. Jamie Macoun - old and immobile at the end, Macoun was a revelation when he arrived in Toronto in the Gilmour deal. He'd step on the ice, and all of a sudden, everything would calm right down. Bryan Berard is a what-might-have-been.
No 35. Vesa Toskala - He's only been here a year, but prior to that, the best #35 was Jeff Reese.... 2008-09: Vesa Toskala
No 36. Dimitri Yushkevich - a real warrior of a defenseman and far better than Frank Bialowas and Len Esau. Stralman may someday take this one... 2008-09: Anton Stralman
No 37. Trevor Kidd - Seriously. Doug Shedden was a real good #37 for about 5 shifts before tearing a knee apart. Ian White was well on his way, but then switched to #7.
No 38. Yannick Tremblay - one of three 38s, with the others being Dave Harlock and Chris Snell (remember them?).
No 39. Travis Green - beyond Green, you're talking Clark Wilm and Simon Gamache.
No 40. Ken McRae - nobody ever wore 40 for a full season. McRae at least managed not to hurt himself on the ice.
No 41. Jason Allison - pushes out Eric Lacroix, who seemed to be a decent enough up-and-comer before being dealt off. Jiri Tlusty wore this for half of last season. 2008-09: Nikolai Kulemin
No 42. Kyle Wellwood - took over from Cup-winner (not in Toronto, go figure) Kevyn Adams, who worked real hard and had more success than David Cooper. Even though last year stunk, that half season of point-per-game was better than anything Adams did here.
No 43. Nathan Dempsey - at least he became a regular somewhere. Harrison might eventually be a regular here. Or maybe not. Is he still in the system or is he permananently in Europe now?
No 44. Yanic Perrault - Bryan Bradley and Anders Eriksson were both disasters. Perrault was pretty good. Staffan Kronwall will need a new number if he sticks or is called up. 2008-09: Ryan Hollweg
No 45. Carlo Colaiacovo - With 7 points in '05-06, Carlo locked this spot up. (Zedenek Nedved and Karel Pilar (briefly) are the others)
No 46. Ben Ondrus - despite not registering a point and being -10 in 22 games in '05-06.
No 47. Nathan Perrott - the only 47 there has ever been.
No 48. Jeremy Williams - not the goal-per-game player he once was, but still the best here. Being the only #48 helps. 2008-09: Jeremy Williams
No 49. Dmitri Yakushin - How on earth did I forget this guy?
No 50. Darryl Boyce - Jan. 24, 2008 marked the first time a player ever wore #50 in Toronto. Unfortunately for Boyce, he wore it for all of 3:20 before getting hurt.
No 52. Alexander Karpotsev - especially since Sean Haggerty only saw a couple shifts. Robbie Earl shows promise here.
No 53. John Pohl - Wore this number as a call-up in '05-06, a season in which he earned himself a contract, a roster spot and a real number (21). Gone this year, though.
No 54. Kris Newbury - Played pretty well in spurts and may or may not see action this year.
No 55. Danny Markov - Larry Murphy was actually pretty good in his time here as public whipping boy, but Markov was here longer and was just fearless. Blake has a lot to do to earn this one. 2008-09: Jason Blake
No 56. Andy Wozniewski - what is it with these training camp numbers being used in the regular season? St. Louis can love the Woz now.
No 59. Bob Wren - the one and only.
No 67. Robert Svehla - either was courageous or obtuse. Not sure which.
No 71. Mike Foligno - because #17 was taken.
No 72. Mathieu Schneider - Presumably wanted 27. Briefly wore 28. Not my favourite. Leaf fans should have jumped on this guy instead of Larry Murphy.
No 73. Pavel Kubina - Wore this for the start of the '06-07 season, most likely because the north american 7 looks something like a Euopean 1, making his new number look something like his old #13. Didn't help. He switched to 31 after a rough start. #77 this year.
No 77. Pavel Kubina - will be unique in that he will be the only person to have two spots on this list. We've never had a 77 in Toronto before. 2008-09: Pavel Kubina
No 80. Nik Antropov - could have theoretically gone back to either 11 or 9, but didn't and now they're both taken. Was born in '80. 2008-09: Nik Antropov
No 88. Eric Lindros - 33 games, 22 points. Eric, we hardly knew ye.
No 89. Alexander Mogilny - All the talent in the world, but I don't think it ever really clicked here. Too bad.
No 92. Jeff O'Neill - Played well in spurts. I don't expect him back in '07-08.
No 93. Doug Gilmour - not the only 93 the Leafs have had. Remember Alexander Godynyuk?
No 94. Sergei Berezin - a good late pick. Too bad the league figured out that little hesitation move. Yanic Perrault wore it for his third Leaf go-round.
No 96. Phil Housley (ick)
No 99. Wilf Paiement - maybe the second best 99 in history.... ;)