It’s time once again to forget about these young prospects and NHL players barely into their first gigantic contract and focus on the old guys on the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the hockey world now, old starts at 25.
The Eligible Players
The eligibility rules (which I just made up) say this list is for players too old for the Top 25 Under 25 and either under contract to the Maple Leafs or still under team control via exclusive signing rights.
Maple Leafs Over 25
|Jason Spezza||C||6-3||215||June 13 1983|
|Jake Muzzin||D||6-3||213||February 21 1989|
|Frederik Andersen||G||6-4||230||October 2 1989|
|Michael Hutchinson||G||6-3||200||March 2 1990|
|John Tavares||C||6-1||209||September 20 1990|
|Garrett Wilson||LW||6-2||199||March 16 1991|
|Tyson Barrie||D||5-10||190||July 26 1991|
|Justin Holl||D||6-4||205||January 30 1992|
|Martin Marincin||D||6-5||213||February 18 1992|
|Kevin Gravel||D||6-4||211||March 6 1992|
|Kenny Agostino||LW||6-0||199||April 30 1992|
|Zach Hyman||LW||6-1||209||June 9 1992|
|Nick Shore||C||6-1||195||September 26 1992|
|Tyler Gaudet||C||6'3"||201||April 4, 1993|
|Kalle Kossila||C||5'10"||185||April 14, 1993|
|Miro Aaltonen||C/W||5'10"||172||June 7, 1993|
|Pontus Aberg||LW||5-11||196||September 23 1993|
|Kasimir Kaskisuo||G||6'3"||201||October 2, 1993|
|Jordan Schmaltz||D||6-2||190||October 8 1993|
|Cody Ceci||D||6-2||209||December 21 1993|
|Morgan Rielly||D||6-1||221||March 9 1994|
To get a fair vote, I asked whoever was around to tell me if my five were wrong, and then I didn’t listen to their answers. I went heavily on present value because, with all players of this age, they are performing at their peak. So without further ado, or effort, here is the Top 5 over 25 starting with the best.
To Kyle Dubas, Brendan Shanahan, and Leafs fans not sitting in a box at Scotiabank Arena (or on a cushion), today you find yourselves equals. For you are all equally blessed, for I have the pride, the privilege of introducing to you a hockey player, sired by hockey lacrosse players, a player who can trace his lineage back beyond Charlemagne! The one the only, John Tavares!
Enough said, he’s the man, and is clearly the best old man on the Maple Leafs, may he stay forever young.
His full goal highlight video is way too long, so here’s something more fun.
Challenging Tavares hard for the best old man is Frederik Andersen, who is perhaps the most important old man.
It’s tough to measure the value of a quality starting goalie against your 1C, particularly when that 1C is John Tavares, but you can actually get along without Tavares if you have to. Andersen has to be in the game when it matters.
If you’re prone to worry, and what Leafs fans aren’t, you’re likely already anxious about Andersen’s next contract and his eventual decline from his peak performance years. But that’s tomorrow’s problem, today, Andersen is the key to the Leafs success, and if only Babcock would play him five games less than whatever he will ultimately start him, he’d win the Vezina.
Challenging again, this time for long term worth to the team vs present value, is the Captain Morgan of our hearts. He is just barely 25, the youngest player on this list, and is coming off the best year of his career. He’s finally going to play with a D partner worthy of his skill in, uh, well... okay, to be honest, he’s probably going to play with Cody Ceci, which is just another testament to Rielly’s incredible skill, that Ceci might be one of his best ever partners.
A real case can be made that Morgan Rielly is the spiritual and stylistic centre of the Leafs. Their future was ordained the day he was drafted, and the Leafs are never going to be a risk-averse, slow-paced team that trades in offensive opportunity for limiting shots against. Which is good, because limiting shots against is not a thing Rielly is really into.
This is what he’s into:
You: He’s just Morgan Rielly all over again.
Me: You say that like it’s a bad thing.
Tyson Barrie is not exactly Rielly run through a photocopier. He’s a bit more creative and unpredictable in the offensive zone and plays even more like a forward. He might be a bit better defensively, too, and he will find whatever left-shooting defender he plays with on the Leafs to be the best man he’s ever been paired with in the NHL. No slighting Ian Cole, who played a good, simple game last year.
Barrie is not really into limiting shots against either, but he is into this sort of thing, first from the bad old days on the Avs (language warning on the music, you might want to mute depending on where you are):
And now last year:
Coming in at fifth on the list is the one, the only defensively capable defender to ever play for the Toronto Maple Leafs (slight exaggeration). Muzzin isn’t an absolutely perfect player, but he has a versatile mix of skills that fit in the gigantic gaping hole left on the Leafs blueline with the departure of Jake Gardiner.
He can score:
He does help others with that task:
And he does this:
And that’s my top 5 over 25. Honourable mention to Zach Hyman, the only other defensively capable player on the Leafs, and Jason Spezza, just for choosing to ride out his career where we can watch him.
Now, please tell me how very wrong I am, and make your own ranking of the over 25 Maple Leafs.