There has been a massive debate over which of our many deserving Leafs should be put on our version of Puck Daddy's Mt. Puckmore. Because of a lack of set criteria for the selections, there have been dozens of names thrown around and they (for the most part) have all been deserving players whose names have been etched into Leafs lore for one reason or another. My names after the jump.
(edit: realized the poll question was dumb as you could only pick one, so i switched that up)
The big sticking point for me in this debate has been the distinction between the fan favotires and the players you simply can't leave off the list. Names i've considered go like this:
Wendel is an interesting mix of the two categories as many people feel you can't leave one of the most beloved leafs of all time off this list. He was the heart and soul of the leafs from the moment he put on the blue and white, and having read posts on PPP for a long time, nobody's name is mentioned more. His wrist shot was as deaadly as his fists and he essentially epitomized what the Leafs strived to be and he was the type of player Leafs fans deserved.
George "Chief" Armstrong
The captain. The longest serving captain in Leafs history and one who led us to four cups, not the least of which was our last in '67 in which he iced the cake with the last goal of the series (an empty netter however, if i'm not mistaken). He holds the record for most games played as a leaf. He was the face of the franchise in our last glory days. The man they called "The Chief" was a leader in every sense of the word, has been placed in the Hall of Fame and has every right to be placed among the most influential and memorable Leafs of all time.
Johnny "The China Wall" Bower
While some may argue, he is the most recognizable goalie in Leafs history. Winning four cups and 2 vezina trophies, Bower is the gold standard to which goalies are held when they play for the Leafs. Personally, when i think of great Leafs goaltenders, nobody stands out like Bower does and he was nowhere close to my era. For a team that has often relied on great goaltending, for one man to stand out like Johnny does and his Hall of Fame career cannot be overlooked when discussing the greatest Leafs of all time.
6 goals in one game. 6 goals. That game he also had 4 assists for 10 points, which along with his goal total are records that still stand today. Captain of the Leafs during some of the worst years under Harold Ballard, he played his heart out for the blue and white and was an offensive dyanamo for much of his career as a Leaf. His numbers can't be ignored and he was certainly a face of the franchise for a generation.
Our greatest Offensive Defenseman of the post-expansion era and one of our most influential personalities...Salming broke down barriers for Europeans to enter the NHL and brought the Maple Lefs an advantage with regards to signing Swedes (coming up, Mats Sundin). The man whose smile could light up the entire arena had a way with the puck and a smoothness to his game that have many remember him as one of the greatest talents to don a Toronto Maple Leaf uniform. With 768 points in 1099 games as a Leaf, he ranks 4th overall and 1st for defensmen in scoring. Another Hall of Famer, his inclusion on the list is seen by many as a given due to his impact on and off the ice.
The all-time scoring leader and the link to our modern day Maple Leafs, Mats was one of the classiest individuals to wear the Blue and White. His departure was less than ideal, but nobody can deny his impact on the Leafs organization over his many years of service. The longest, non-North American born captain in NHL history, his bald head and skill in the offensive zone that led to 987 points in 981 games make him one of the most recognizable Leafs of the modern era, especially for the younger fans who looked up to #13 as an idol much like Sittler and Keon were for an older generation. Denied a cup, even when he left for Vancouver, he was a perenial all-star and deserves recognition as a face of the Leafs.
Conn Smyth built the Maple Leaf Gardens during the great depression. The man took the toronto St. Pats and bestowed upon them the Maple Leaf name and traded their green and white jerseys for the classic Toronto blue and white. He has 11 stanley cup rings. He has a trophy named after him...and not just any trophy, its that one given to the guy who "is judged most valuable to his team in the stanley cup playoffs"...kind of a big deal. Conn Smythe was a cornerstone of the NHL at its inception and was asmuch a fan of teh Leafs as he was an integral part of our history. You think great Leafs executives...you think of great idiots like John Ferguson Jr. and you think of greater idiots like Harold Ballard, and you think of legends like Conn Smythe. Every team has its humble beginnings and Smythe may not have been a player, but he was the Leafs and as such deserves a place at the head table of our franchise.
Thats 7 names. 7 Legends.
And I could go on, But those are 7 names that stand out for me. I'm a fan of recent generations, as a kid i watched the likes of Mogilny, Sundin, Kaberle, Potvin, Roberts, Joseph...you get the idea...the point is that i obviously have a bias towards the more recent versions of the team, but i'm doing my best to balance everything and take a look at our history. Having said that...if you're going to look at 4 individuals that epitomize the team we all love...with great difficulty...i'd have to go with:
The Founder, The Heart & Soul, The Original Swede, The Great Captain
**for the record, it took me a looonngg time to justify those so any combo of the previous 7 names will work for me