Yesteryear’s ‘loser’ Leafs loveable

With the Toronto Maple  Leafs running off two impressive wins against the league-leading Detroit Red Wings and the front-running Montreal Canadiens let the illusion of a playoff contender continue.

 Sure the Buds have responded impressively after an 8-0 disaster against the Florida Panthers but rest assured, this is not a championship calibre team, far from it really.

 After attending the Red Wing game this weekend it is obvious the Leafs are playing much better but a fair bit of luck is on their side as well. Also, they are capitalizing on teams playing down to their level.

 On yesterday’s ACC big screen they showed the top 10 point-getters of the 1980s and memories of the sad-sack Leaf squads of Harold Ballard came back and I smiled. Those squads of that decade were horrible but they had great individual characters and heart and soul players. When those teams won, it was because they left everything on the ice.

The anticipation every Wednesday night on CHCH or Saturday night on CBC to see the Leafs either blow up or pull off a win was an event. The players of that era I would still pay to see today, heck, those guys could help this team now.

Captain Rick Vaive and his massive slapshot from the slot. King Borje Salming on the blueline, a Leaf great both smooth and tough-as-nails. Bill Derlago and his bushy moustache charging around the outside of  defenseman. John Anderson on the draw and working in front of the net. Greg Terrion a relentless penalty killer. Speedy Miroslav Frycer and his wicked wrist shot. Alan Bester, Ken Wregget, Tim Bernhardt and Rick St. Croix, the men of the masks left to face a barrage of shots in the Toronto nets.

The latter half of the decade had the speedy Russ Courtnall, what a rocket on skates. The force known as Al Iafrate on defence, a cannon shot and incredible skater. Of course, when the gutsy and tough Wendel Clark came to town, he was a show stopper. A wicked shot and a wicked right hand as well. If every player played as hard as Wendel, what a team those Leafs teams would have been.

Well, now the buds have inflated seat prices, overblown talents and overestimated expectations.

The terrible Leafs of the 1980s were great because they knew what they were and played above their heads. Today’s team may have run off a few wins but they are no championship contender and no New York Yankees of hockey-no matter how much MLSE and deluded Leafs fans think otherwise. 


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