Have the Leafs ever had a good right-shooting defender? Okay, Tim Horton, sure. But since then? Sometimes it feels like the answer must be no. Even when the Leafs get a bona fide, top-pairing, famous, experienced righty defender, we end up disappointed. Is it us? Is it something about Toronto? Maybe there never has been a good one in all of time.

Hockey Reference gave me 112 right-shooting defenders who have played for the Leafs, and allowing for how some of the earliest players in the NHL seem to have moved between forward and defence more easily, I’m calling that definitive enough to see how many of them are any good.

Beginning in 1917 Ken Randall, the captain of the Toronto Arenas and other forerunner teams to the Maple Leafs, played some right defence, but he was more of a forward. His teammate Harry Cameron played that position more, and Cameron not only won the Cup twice with a Toronto team, he’s also in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Harry Cameron was a strong puck carrying defenseman who could electrify the crowd with his speedy rushes up the ice,[8] end-to-end rushes which also made him a viable goal scoring threat in the face of the opposing teams, as he was also a crafty stickhandler.[9] During his first two seasons in the NHA with the Toronto Blueshirts Cameron made a strong defensive pairing with Jack Marshall, and even though Cameron was only of average height (5 ft 10 in) and weight (155 lb) he could still use his body on the defensive side of the puck to stop oncoming opponents.[10] Later on, with the Toronto Arenas, he would pair with big-bodied defenseman Harry Mummery (220 lb). In the NHL Cameron had among his defensive partners Sprague Cleghorn (Ottawa Senators and Toronto St. Patricks) and Red Stuart (Toronto St. Patricks). - Wikipedia

I’m never going to hear the term “modern, puck-carrying defender” again without laughing. If only Cameron were alive today, he’d be at home in the Leafs dressing room and on the ice.  Clearly the foundation for the Leafs was laid well back then, and since then... well... Since then, the results have been mixed.

First, the full list:

Toronto’s right-shooting defenders

Ken Randall19171923128513485
Harry Cameron*191719231067147118
Dave Ritchie191819194000
Joe Matte19191920178311
Ted Stackhouse1921192213000
Bert Corbeau19231927131182139
Bert McCaffrey19241928118302353
Harold Halderson1926192726123
Bill Brydge1926192741639
Art Duncan19271931122151429
Red Horner*1928194049042110152
Cliff McBride192919301000
Alex Levinsky19301934150112132
Roger Jenkins1930193121000
Bingo Kampman19371942189143044
Jack Church193819428611112
Bob Goldham1941194779122234
George Boothman194219439112
Buck Jones1942194316000
Jack Ingoldsby1943194421505
Jimmy Thomson1945195771715208223
Bill Barilko19461951252263662
Garth Boesch1946195019792837
Bill Juzda1948195221132932
Stan Kemp194819491000
Tim Horton*194919701184109349458
Frank Sullivan194919536000
Phil Samis194919502000
Fern Flaman*1950195422842731
Larry Cahan1954195679088
Bob Baun1956197373929140169
Stephen Kraftcheck*195819598101
Joe Crozier195919605033
Jim Mikol196219634011
Jim McKenny1965197859481246327
Darryl Sly1965196819000
Ken Murray196919715011
Randy Murray196919703000
John Grisdale1972197551178
Claire Alexander19741977123102939
Kurt Walker1975197731235
Blair MacKasey197619771000
Trevor Johansen1977198213242125
Ron Wilson197719806471522
Greg Hotham197919826041115
Darryl Maggs197919805000
Dave Shand1980198348055
Barry Melrose1980198317351520
Bob McGill1981199331842529
Fred Boimistruck198119838341418
Bill Stewart198319858321921
Gary Leeman19831984524812
Bill Root1984198796459
Chris Kotsopoulos19851989182113748
Brad Maxwell198519865281826
Rick Lanz1986198915195059
Dale DeGray198719885661824
Darren Veitch19881991393811
Rob Ramage19891991160186684
Drake Berehowsky1990200413372835
Bob Rouse19901994237134558
Michel Petit1990199288103242
Jeff Serowik199019911000
Dmitri Mironov19911995175226385
Ric Nattress199119923621416
Len Esau199119922000
Greg Smyth1993199713011
Garth Butcher1994199545178
Dmitry Yushkevich1995200250625110135
Larry Murphy*199519971511981100
Jamie Heward199519965000
Yannick Tremblay199619997841115
Jason Smith1996199916252934
Tom Pederson1996199715123
Sylvain Cote199720009483139
Jeff Brown1997199819189
Alexander Karpovtsev1998200012553944
Kevin Dahl199819993000
Greg Andrusak199920009011
Gerald Diduck1999200026033
Wade Belak2000200728861723
Nathan Dempsey20002002281910
Petr Svoboda2000200118123
Karel Pilar200120049062430
Ric Jackman2002200471268
Robert Svehla200220038273845
Ken Klee2003200612273744
Ian White200520102962877105
Pavel Kubina200620092153269101
Anton Stralman200720098841822
Luke Schenn20082012310146175
Jeff Finger2008201010582533
Phil Oreskovic2008200910112
Mike Van Ryn20082009273811
Jaime Sifers2008200923022
Mike Komisarek2009201315821719
Korbinian Holzer2010201558279
Cody Franson201120152362095115
Ryan O'Byrne201220138112
Mike Kostka2012201335088
Petter Granberg201320158000
Roman Polak20142018240123345
Stephane Robidas2014201552167
Connor Carrick2015201813081624
Frank Corrado2015201741156
Nikita Zaitsev20162019223125163
Alexey Marchenko2016201711112
Justin Holl201720208141721
Igor Ozhiganov2018201953347
Tyson Barrie201920207053439
Timothy Liljegren2019202011011
Cody Ceci2019202056178

Five HHOF defenders

Beyond Cameron there are four other players in the Hall on this list denoted by an asterisk after their names, so it wasn’t all bad. Tim Horton leads in both games played and points, and he’s in the Hall on the strength of his epic career in Toronto.

Red Horner played in the 30s and had a lot more penalty minutes than points, but he also won the Cup once. This from Wikipedia is interesting:

His election to the Hall of Fame [in 1965] has been controversial, as he never before his final two seasons was regarded as even the best defenceman on his own team—his contemporaries for most of his career were the Hall of Famers King Clancy and Hap Day, who were—and seems to rest more on his unprecedented and unequaled seven seasons as the NHL penalty minute leader. He retired the league’s all-time penalty minute leader, a mark he held until Ted Lindsay broke it in the late Fifties.

Horner seems more like the blueprint for a lot of the Leafs defenders in later decades, at least on the right side than Cameron. It took a long time for Leafs management to turn back the clock to the very beginning and find someone who could carry the puck. They just kept finding lefties, though.

Fern Flaman is not a household name, but he is in the HHOF as well. He played more for Boston than he did the Leafs, and his scoring came on his Bruins teams as well. He was inducted as a player, but seems to have made his mark as an NCAA coach.

Larry Murphy is the only modern Hall of Famer on the list, and while his time in Toronto was brief, but he did win the Norris while he was here.  He got some votes, but didn’t win the Norris, which sadly counts as greatness at this position.

Stephen Kraftcheck was actually named to the AHL Hall of Fame, so ignore his asterisk.

Toronto hasn’t always been known to keep their good players, and Larry Murphy isn’t the only star who was only around for a short time. Sort the list by games played and you see a different history of the Leafs. Dmitry Yushkevich is fifth, but Luke Schenn is eighth, and Roman Polak is 12th.

Surely there’s a 21st century Harry Cameron out there? But if there is, Toronto can’t find him.   For all some of us complain about Tyson Barrie being not quite what we wanted, he’s still the best right-shooting defender in a very long time.

Sort the list by “To” which is the last year the player was in Toronto, and then decide who is the first one that’s better than Barrie. Timothy Liljegren might be the true inheritor of Cameron’s place on the team, but we don’t know that yet. Cody Franson will get a few votes, but I’m not sure that’s fair. Anton Stralman certainly was, but not when he was in Toronto. Dmitry Yushkevich is likely a good choice until you crawl back in time to Larry Murphy.

Maybe someday when someone writes up an all-time great Leafs team, there will be an argument about the right side defence. Maybe a Maple Leaf of the future might touch Horton’s greatness, but until then, we’ll just have to keep searching for the elusive righty of our dreams.