If you're a die-hard Leafs fan, these have been dark days. It's bad right now. No doubt. But how bad? Have we ever been down to these depths before?
I'm not sure. So this week, I'm going to take a look back over Toronto Maple Leafs history and try to answer the question: Is this the worst it's ever been?
As always on Down Goes Brown, "Leafs History" is defined as beginning when I was old enough to be a fan. That takes us back to the early 80s, and that's where our three-part series begins.
The bad: The team misses the playoffs for the second time in three years, following a streak of eight straight appearances. The team used five goalies, including teenaged rookies Allan Bester and Ken Wregget, and the departing Mike Palmateer. Harold Ballard is alive.
How bad was it? 80/100. The team is terrible, Ballard is a menace, and fans were starting to lose hope. Rightfully so, as it turned out.
The good: Al Iafrate debuts, and immediately begins going bald. A rookie named Steve Thomas arrives, and proceeds to play for the Leafs off and on for the next 30 years. They use the first overall draft pick to choose some farmboy defenceman from Saskatchewan who turns out to be pretty good.
The bad: The team was a laughingstock, managing only 48 points and finishing last overall. They scored 253 goals which would be good today but was awful back then. Harold Ballard is alive.
How bad was it? 90/100. This was in the "fans wear paper bags" days.
The good: The Leafs make the playoffs thanks to a pathetic 40-point season by the Red Wings and even manage to win a round by upsetting the Blackhawks. Wendel debuts, leading the squad with a team rookie record 34 goals and killing and eating every tough guy in the Norris. The Leafs draft Vincent Damphousse, who I refer to as "Damp House" for about two years before my dad corrects me.
The bad: The team manages only 57 points. Harold Ballard is alive.
How bad was it? 70/100. The team was still awful, but Wendel-mania has begun.
Wendel Clark and a cocaine addiction?
Bob Probert had a chance of beating a
The bad: Despite the playoff appearance, the Leafs were still ten games under .500. Nobody on the entire team managed 75 points. Harold Ballard is alive.
How bad was it? 50/100. Make no mistake, the team was still bad. But Brophy was fun and they won a playoff round, and Wendel Clark was punching the blood out of a different guy every night.
The good: The Leafs make a blockbuster deal, sending Rick Vaive and others to the Blackhawks to get Ed Olczyk, who scores 42 goals and leads the team in scoring. Despite only managing 52 points, the Leafs make the playoffs for the third year in a row.
The bad: The string of first-round upsets ends as they lose to the Red Wings. Wendel Clark starts to have some injury problems, but we're sure they're nothing to worry about. Harold Ballard is alive.
How bad was it? 60/100. Wendel's back will be OK after the off-season, right?
The good: Olczyk scores 90 points, showing nice chemistry with Leeman. Daniel Marois scores 31 goals as a 20-year-old rookie. The Leafs rob the Flyers blind, trading semi-decent goalie Ken Wregget for two first round draft picks. They also make the Courtnall-for-Kordic deal. Guess which one of those trades Leaf fans have to hear about constantly for the next two decades?
The bad: Wendel only plays 15 games. Brophy is fired mid-season and replaced by the corpse of George Armstrong. The team misses the playoffs. They have three first-round picks and the best they can do is Rob Pearson. Harold Ballard is alive.
How bad was it? 80/100. Thank god for the Blue Jays.
The good: The Leafs are actually good! Well, not quite, but they're .500 for the first time in the decade. Leeman scores 51 goals, Damphousse has 94 points, the team scores 337 goals and is fun to watch. And best of all, Harold Ballard dies!
The bad: Borje Salming plays an embarrassing final season with the Red Wings this year. Why would a long-time Leaf ever wants to go somewhere else for one crappy year? Must be a Swedish thing. Meanwhile, the Leafs lose in five to the Blues thanks largely to the infamous Sergio Momesso OT goal against Allan Bester. And they trade their first rounder in the 1991 draft for Tom Kurvers, but that's no big deal because the team is good now so it won't be a high pick.
How bad was it? 30/100. In hindsight it was still pretty bad, but this season was a lot of fun.
The good: Remember all that good stuff from 1989-90? Yeah, never mind. Here are the highlights on this season: Peter Ing stops Wayne Gretzky on a penalty shot. That's it.
The bad: Despite hopes that they can build on the previous year, the team starts off 1-9-1. Leeman gets hurt, Olczyk is traded (for Dave Ellett), and Damphousse is the only player on the entire team to crack 40 points. The team prominently features guys like Lucien DeBlois and Dave Hannan. That Kurvers draft pick turns into Scott Niedermayer, who will return to haunt the Leafs in the 2001 playoffs when he vicously headbutts Tie Domi's elbow.
How bad was it? 90/100. It was bad enough that the team was brutal, but it made fans feel like suckers for ever believing things could actually be different.
The bad: Oh right, the actual games. The Leafs aren't good, finish in last place in the Norris and miss the playoffs.
How bad was it? 50/100. They weren't a good team... Yet.
Coming up: The Fletcher era and beyond.