Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Nightmare Team: Defence and goalies

(This is part one of a three-part series. You can find part two, the forwards, right here. Part three, the front office, is here.)

Leafs blogger General Borschevsky recently unveiled his all-time Leafs dream team. And while its always nice to think back to the good times, my readers know that I sometimes have a little trouble staying positive when it comes to the Leafs.

So I got to thinking, what about the other side of the coin? What about those Leafs that we all loved to hate? Or, in some cases, just plain hated?

I humbly present my selections for the all-time Leaf loser squad: the players we'd all rather forget. As always, this list includes players from my roughly 25 years as a fan. Sadly, it wasn't very difficult to come up with a full roster.

Today, we'll focus on the defencemen and goalies.


No, really, boo.
Larry Murphy (1995-97)

Why we hate him: Murphy is the poster child for Leaf fan whipping boys. He's used as an example in the 50% of Leafs coverage that mentions how unreasonably demanding Toronto fans are (as opposed to the other 50% of Leaf coverage which mentioned how Leaf fans are gullible patsies who never boo anybody). Everyone now agrees that Murphy got a raw deal in Toronto from dumb fans who didn't recognize a superstar when they saw one.

There's one problem with that storyline: Murphy was absolutely terrible with the Leafs, and he deserved every boo he heard. For whatever reason Murphy never found his game in Toronto, playing the worst hockey of his otherwise excellent career. At the 1997 NHL All-Star game, the league invited Murphy to skate five strides behind all the players during the breakaway competition just so Leaf fans would feel at home.

Redeeming qualities: First ballot hall of famer. Won the Stanley Cup pretty much every year he wasn't playing for the Leafs.

Bryan Marchment (2003-04)

Why we hate him: Probably the dirtiest defenceman of all-time not named "Ulf", Marchment made a name for himself in the early 90s by going after the knees of Leaf players like Peter Zezel, Glenn Anderson and Wendel Clark. That last one turned out to be a mistake, since Clark eventually almost killed him during a brawl.

He ended up playing for the Leafs for a season, which normally is enough to wipe the slate clean. Not for this guy.

Redeeming qualities: Still pees himself whenever he walks by a Wendel Clark poster

Tom Kurvers (1989-91)

Why we hate him: Kurvers was acquired in an infamous deal by GM Floyd Smith that saw the Leafs trade their first round pick in the 1991 draft to the Devils. While most bad deals are only truly awful in hindsight, this trade was immediately labeled a disaster since Smith had apparently forgotten that a.) the Leafs sucked and b.) 1991 was the Eric Lindros draft year.

Once it became apparently that the Leafs had essentially traded the next NHL franchise player for a journeyman defenceman, Smith went into full-on firesale mode to ensure the Leafs would only finish second last. They did, but the Devils still used the pick to draft Scott Niedermayer, which Leaf fans then had to hear about every single time they played the Devils until he was mercifully murdered by Tie Domi in the 2001 playoffs.

Redeeming qualities: Not really his fault that Smith was a moron. Is apparently now a decent up-and-coming hockey executive. Was traded for Brian Bradley, who had a funny helment.

Andy Wozniewski (2005-2008)

Why we hate him: He was really, really bad at hockey. That wouldn't be that big a deal, except for the fact that he somehow wound up playing hockey for the Maple Leafs. Professionally. Which he was bad at.

Seriously, when you're a defenceman for the 2007 Leafs and you're known as "the bad one", you suck.

Redeeming qualities: Gave hope to a generation of children who dreamed of playing in the NHL even though they couldn't skate.

I miss the mohawk
His barber refused to waive
his no-mullet clause
Bryan McCabe (2000-forever)

Why we hate him: After several years as a fan favorite, McCabe's career went off the rails starting with his epic playoff meltdowns against the Flyers. He signed a massive contract in 2006 that included a now infamous no-movement clause, and almost immediately fell apart as a player. His mental lapses have become legendary, and at one point last year his defensive zone coverage was so awful that Paul Maurice briefly considered cutting down his ice time before going back to thinking up funny one-liners for the Toronto media to lap up.

When not scoring into his own net in overtime, Bryan enjoys whining to referees and telling the media that the last place Leafs are a really good team. There is at least a 10% chance that Cliff Fletcher is going to sneak into his house and kill him before training camp.

Redeeming qualities: Can be counted on to always make sure you don't feel so bad about your own haircut.

Jeff Finger (2008-present)

Why we hate him: Signed a four-year, $3.5 million contract during the 2008 off-season, which would be fine except that nobody had ever heard of him. This was the signing that made everyone stare at Fletcher with that "maybe Grampa should move into the assisted living facility" look. It was later revealed that the Leafs may have had him confused with Kurt Sauer. That last line was easily the funniest one in this whole post, which is sad because it's actually true.

Also, his last name resulted in eight million variations of the exact same "Fletcher gives the Finger" jokes in the first 24 hours after he signed, half of which appeared in the Toronto Sun.

Redeeming qualities: Technically hasn't played for the Leafs yet, meaning his reputation will never be better than it is right now.

Defencemen who also received consideration:
Aki Berg (somehow left off my original list), Garth Butcher, Calle Johansson, Pavel Kubina, Drake Berehowsky, Jim Korn

Defencemen who did not receive consideration:
Todd Gill - Look, I know some fans still blame him for the giveaway against the Hawks in 1989. Those fans are idiots, and you should ignore them. Gill was awesome. I'm not going to argue about this.


#1 in your program, #52 in save percentage
Rare footage of Andrew
Raycroft not being scored on
Andrew Raycroft (2006-08)

Why we hate him: Like a lot of players on this list, Raycroft serves as an enduring testament to moronic reign of John Ferguson Jr. With Ed Belfour on the way out of town, Ferguson decided to deal the organization's top prospect, Tukka Rask, to the Bruins for Raycroft in 2006. The deal seemed sketchy at the time, looked bad during the season and finally assumed full-fledged disaster status as Raycroft floundered.

Raycroft hit rock bottom during the 2007 season finale against the Habs. With a playoff spot on the line, he was pulled after giving up three soft goals and then told the media he was happy with how he'd played. The next year, he engaged in a battle for the starter's job with Vesa Toskala that was roughly as competitive as the Clark-Fetisov fight. He spent the rest of the year sitting on the bench with a baseball cap pulled down to his waist.

Redeeming qualities: Doesn't play for the Leafs anymore.

Scott Clemmensen

Why we hate him: Clemmensen is one of the rare players who've managed to annoy Leaf fans both before and after arriving in Toronto. He first made a name for himself on the final day of the 2006-07 season, when as a New Jersey Devil he had a chance to put the Leafs in the playoffs by beating the Islanders. In a dramatic shootout, Clemmensen chose to debut his patented "stand completely still while everyone scores on you" move, and the Leafs were eliminated.

His demonstrated ability to torpedo the Leafs playoff hopes made him irresistible to John Ferguson Jr, who signed him to a minor league deal that presumably included a no-trade clause. Having already destroyed the Leafs' past, Clemmensen set to work on the future as a Marlie by somehow convincing head coach Greg Gilbert to nail top prospect Justin Pogge to the bench for the entire playoff run.

Redeeming qualities: Appeared in three games for the Leafs, winning one. Which is one whole game more than you or I have won.

Goalies who also received consideration:
Curtis Joseph (now redeemed), Mikhael Tellqvist, Trevor Kidd

Goalies who did not receive consideration:
Allan Bester. Yes, yes, I know, the Momesso goal in 1991. Believe me, I know, I was there. But Bester stood on his head for some truly terrible Leaf teams in the 1980s. He doesn't deserve scorn, he deserves a medal.


  1. Awesome. I don't think I've ever been happier in my whole life. It's like an idea that I couldn't be bothered following up on turning into masterpiece. Totally awesome.
    Of course, Larry Murphy heads the class. Does he wear the "C"?
    No Jyrki Lumme? What happened there? Too comical to stay angry at?
    Also Berehowsky needs a spot. He was a disaster. I hated him. Maybe unfair of me, but he should've played better if he wanted to be liked so much.

  2. Great post.

    I don't think I've ever been happier in my whole life

    Now that I've stopped laughing that sounds weird. I meant, "ever been happier in a Maple Leafs related context".

    Can't wait to see the rest.

  3. Very good article.

    Just one question.

    Does Smith trading the first round pick of the 1991 draft make him a worse GM than JFJ?

  4. last i heard, aki berg was RIPPING the finnish elite league. which means the league must incredibly suck.

    i think guys like berehowsky and berg deserve to be there before finger. finger can be the healthy scratch on defence. we gotta give the guy the benefit of the doubt!

  5. The problem with doing this sort of article is I know I'll forget some obvious choices. Aki Berg is definitely one of them. Damn.

    Re: Smith. His worst deal was worse than any of Ferguson's mistake. But JFJ was consistently bad over five years, where Smith only had two seasons to mess things up.

    Who was worse? You'll have to ait for the front office section.

  6. Aki Berg is a tough miss and Todd Gill is an unacceptable ommission!

    You'll be hard-pressed to pick forwards I think not to mention management but I am looking forward to that post!

  7. Thank you for you passionate defence of my namesake.

    And dude, Jeff Ware. JEFF WARE.
    I will not argue about this.

    I really enjoyed this post.

  8. Awesome post:

    Here are my additions ( I am a tad older ) brings back great memories from the old MLG

    On D:
    Ken Baumgartner
    Drake "Berehowsky
    Aki Berg
    Fred Bomstruck
    Garth Butcher
    Cory Cross
    Brian Curran
    Slava Duris
    Anders Eriksson
    Alexander Godnyuk
    Phil Housley
    Kenny Jonsson
    Alexander Karptovsev
    yirki Lumme
    Brad Maxwell
    Chris McCallister
    Barry Melrose
    Dmitri Mirinov
    Gary Nylund
    Luke Richardson
    Daryl Shannon
    Jason Smith
    Jeff Ware

    In Goal:

    Tom Barraso
    Don Beaupre
    Tim Bernhardt
    Jiri Cirha
    Don Edwards
    Mark Laforest
    Jeff Reese
    Damien Rhodes
    Rick St. Croix
    Ken Wregget

  9. Great post.

    You could ice a complete set of Leafs D-men called, "high draft picks that, through injuries or bad coaching/development/inability to handle pressure, went on to suck..."

    Fred Boimstruck
    Gary Nylund
    Jeff Ware
    Drake Berehowsky
    Jim Benning
    Jamie Heward

    I look forward to your thoughts on Mike Craig in a future post..

  10. TSM, some of those guys were good players, especially Jonsson.

    DGB, what happened to our link? We're still a Leafs blog...

  11. Godd Till:

    Wasn't arguing he Jonsson wasn't a good player- Leafs fans hated these guys, we ran jonsson out of town like we did with Jason Smith. Larry Murphy is a hall of famer...


    Also, how could we forget Cory Cross?!?!

    What a depressing (but funny) exercise...

  13. Jeff Ware was considered. I remember when the Leafs and the Jays both had top draft choices named Jeff Ware who were busts at the same time.

    Cory Cross wasn't very good, but I just can't include anyone who scored a playoff OT goal against the Senators.

    (Or can I... ?)

  14. Forwards I wouldn't mind seeing - Momesso, O'Neill, Hoglund, Craig (with the promise of a funny anecdote if you include him), Todd Warriner (ditto), Podollan, Suglobov (it will wind up Kim), the Polish Prince, Reichel... so many choices.

  15. Here's a contrarian pick (because I know that's how you roll ;)) for the forwards:

    Nikolai Antropov

    There may be tonnes deserving but tell me that you can't make a great case for a #10 draft pick that teased with potential for 8 freaking seasons and was never used as a bargaining chip to get a pre-dummy Lindros.

  16. "Alexander Godnyuk"

    I'll always remember that one game where he ripped his own helmet off and threw it to the ice before getting into his (first? only?) fight.

  17. Alexander Godnyuk

    Most random autographed picture ever is my friend's high gloss version of Alex in a Leafs' jersey.

    And he's a Canucks fan.

  18. m .ilard: I remeber that as well. The NHL had a rule about instigating a fight while wearing a visor meant an extra misconduct penalty. This was explained to Godnyuk but somehow it got lost in the translation. He thought he was supposed to take his helmet off if he ever got into a scrap.

  19. Still don't understand the wall of silence against Lumme, but fine, what about Mathieu Schneider? I hated that guy's rat-face. His hockey as a Leaf was terrible too.

  20. I never had a problem with Mathieu Schneider, who played OK for the Leafs. I always found it ironic that everyone shrieked about trading up-and-coming superstar Kenny Jonsson, yet he's know out of hockey and the veteran defenceman the Leafs got back is still going strong.

    I remember Lumme being pretty mediocre, but he never really made me angry. Maybe I missed out on something.

    (P.S. I'd hoped to have part two up tonight but it looks like it will be sometime tomorrow evening instead.)

  21. I think a big name you left off your defenceman list was another of JFJ's great signings. he played one year here and has never been heard of since. Khavanov. Whatever happened to that waste of skin??

  22. McCabe and Finger definitely deserve to be replaced by Berg and Cross.

  23. I can see the argument for Berg, but how do you even have a team like this without McCabe?

  24. Awesome series of posts!

    Anders Erikson would be on my list for sure.

  25. Where is Aki Berg?????

  26. I cringed when Hal gill was on the ice, was ecstatic to see him go to Pitt where he actually played ok.

    Maybe the lack of offence made him seem more of a liability.

    Cory cross. lol!! Where is he now?

  27. Can we add Toskala to this list now? Please ..

  28. "Let's save space and just like all the good things Ferguson did... managed not to get completely bent over on the Vesa Toskala trade. That's it. Three things in almost five years."

    History has spoken! We now see that JFJ did in fact get completely bent over on the Vesa Toskala trade. That makes two positive accomplishments in almost 5 years.

  29. @Dan...

    I actually re-read that just a few days ago. It goes up there with some of my other excellent analysis, such as suggesting during the first month of the 2008/09 season that the Leafs needed to trade Ian White for a fourth or fifth round pick because his value would only keep dropping.

    Fifth round pick, Dion Phaneuf... pretty much the same thing.

  30. Looking back at this, who's been worthy of being on this list that's been here during the past four years? Toskala seems like an obvious one, and Mike Komisarek is dreadful and has an awful contract. I'd add him as well. My mind is at a blank when thinking about forwards, partially because I don't care to remember much of them.