Friday, December 18, 2009

The Top 20 Maple Leaf moments of the decade - Part 1

Quinn and Ferguson
What has four eyes, no rings and one brain?
Oh, the 00's. What a terrible god-forsaken soul-crushingly awful interesting decade you were.

We had good times (cough, Quinn, cough), bad times (cough, Ferguson I hope you get run over by a cement truck in front of a daycare, cough), and cautious optimism. The decade had a little bit of everything.

Well, except for that big trophy thing. Can't remember what it's called. The Stanford something? It's probably not important.

So here's part one of a look a back at the top 20 Leaf moments of the decade. To keep it simple, we'll limit this to moments that happened on the ice. (Or, in limited cases, in the opponent's bench.)

20. Luke Schenn vs. Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy - Jan. 31, 2009

This wasn't the biggest hit of the decade, or the most entertaining fight. Not even close, really. But the moment did come to symbolize Schenn's potential, and his status as the centerpiece of the Leafs long-awaited rebuild. Finally, after years of JFJ-induced misery, there was hope. There was a future.

Of course, that was before Schenn regressed into a seventh-string press box denizen. But it was fun for a few months.

Watch it on youtube

19. Owen Nolan wins the "flu game" - Feb. 5, 2004

This game was one of the most bizarre NHL games in recent memory, featured the Leafs greatest comeback of the decade, and marks the first of approximately 18 appearances by the Senators in this list.

The game started off as a typical Leafs/Sens regular season matchup, which is to say the Senators were on their way to an easy blowout win. Midway through the second period, Ottawa was cruising with a 4-0 lead.

Cue the comeback! Oh, and also the explosive diarrhea.

Both teams were battling a severe flu outbreak, but the Ottawa strain was apparently worse. Halfway through the game, the Sens bench began emptying as players were making between-shifts sprints to the restrooms. This marked the first time the Senators had ever soiled themselves during a game that didn't involve Tie Domi making eye contact with somebody.

By the end of regulation the Leafs had tied the game, and Nolan ended it in overtime with a long range slapshot. Afterwards, when reporters went to Nolan looking for a sympathetic quote on the Senators illness woes, he responded with an infamous quote: "boo hoo".

18. Cory Cross scores in OT to beat Ottawa - April 16, 2001

This was probably the least memorable of the (many) overtime goals the Leafs managed against the Senators, since it came in the middle of a fairly easy four-game sweep in 2001. But it was actually a critically important goal.

The Leafs had won the opening two games, shutting out the heavily favored Sens twice in Ottawa. In game three, Curtis Joseph took yet another shutout into the third period as the Leafs lead 2-0. But then a potential series turning point: the Senators scored twice, including the tying goal in the dying seconds. With the game headed to overtime, Leaf fans had to wonder if this was the beginning of an epic collapse.

It wasn't. Journeyman defensive defenceman Cory Cross drilled home a rebound to win it, and in the process became the worst player to ever score an overtime goal for the Leafs (sorry, Gary Valk).

Watch it on youtube

17. Belak vs. Janssen - March 20, 2007

This just seems appropriate for #17, no?

Everyone remembers the circumstances leading up to this epic battle. Weeks earlier, Cam Janssen had sidelined Tomas Kaberle with an obvious cheap shot. Everyone knew that payback would be coming from Wade Belak, and everyone was right.

I'm not saying this was a long fight, but they dropped the gloves in March of 2007 and it just ended a few minutes ago.

Watch it on youtube

16. Travis Green's OT winner against the Flyers - April 21, 2003

A lot of fans have forgotten this overtime winner, and with good reason. The 2003 playoffs were the only ones of the Quinn era that saw the Leafs make a first round exit, and most fans have saved precious space in their long-term memories for the longer runs that marked the first half of the decade.

Here's a depressing thought, though: this happened in 2003, and the Leafs haven't had an overtime playoff win since.

15. Kaberle quiets the Devils - May 5, 2001

Sometimes, hockey games seem destined follow a predictable storyline. Game five of the 2001 series between the Leafs and the Devils was one of those times.

This was the first game after Tie Domi's elbow had sidelines Scott Niedermayer, and the Devils were vowing revenge. Every hockey columnist on the continent had already agreed on the storyline: Domi's cement-headed cheapshot had robbed the Leafs of their momentum, woken up the sleeping Devils, and all but handed them the series. The Devils were officially the good guys, the Leafs were the hated villains, and game five would be a lesson in hockey karma.

Apparently, somebody forgot to tell Tomas Kaberle.

In the dying seconds of a 2-2 tie, Kaberle managed to sneak one by Martin Brodeur for the game winner. (By "sneak one by", I really mean "shot the puck into a wide open net because Brodeur had been blatantly run over in his crease seconds before", but let's not get picky.)

The Devils would still get their revenge, winning the last two games to take the series in seven. But for one night, at least, Tomas Kaberle and the Leafs gave the hockey world a nice big middle finger to go along with their blindside elbow.

14. Daniel Alfredsson's hit from behind on Darcy Tucker - May 12, 2002

OK, this one will seem like a strange pick. But stay with me.

Until the moment that Daniel Alfredsson blindsided Darcy Tucker (then scored the game-winner seconds later), you couldn't really hate the Ottawa Senators. Oh sure, the "Battle of Ontario" was well into its third playoff matchup in as many years. But it was meaningless rivalry, one that only mattered to insecure Ottawa fans who spent their time hating everything related to Toronto (when they weren't desperately trying to move there).

If you were a Leaf fan, you couldn't hate the Senators. You could feel sorry for them, maybe. You could be bored by them, probably. You could go weeks at a time without even remembering they existed, certainly. But hate them? Why?

Alfredsson provided a reason to, if not "hate" the Senators, at least be mildly annoyed by them. And that made the rest of the decade a lot more fun.

Man, what a cheap shot. I sure hope somebody gets that guy someday.

13. Mark Bell kills Daniel Alfredsson - April 3, 2008

This hit not only served up some long-overdue payback for the Tucker hit, it resulted in the only highlight of Paul Maurice's stint in Toronto: his observation that Senators reacted to the utter destruction of their captain with nothing but "some purse-swinging".

Watch it on youtube
OK, now go watch it again on youtube, you know you want to

12. Darcy Tucker's kamikaze bench dive - April 20, 2004

This is the moment where Darcy Tucker went from "Hey, this guy is crazy in a wacky and fun sort of way" to "Slowly inch away from him while staring at the floor and avoiding sudden movements".

Read more about this moment

11. Sundin and Kaberle beat the Flyers in overtime - April 14, 2003

Much like Green's goal, this one hasn't really stood the test of time as being especially memorable. That said, it has to be on the list just based on the names involved. Mats Sundin executes one of his classic drives to the net, and Tomas Kaberle is in the right place at the right time. The two longest serving (and probably best) Maple Leafs of the decade combine to win a thriller.

Watch it on youtube

Coming early next week: The top ten. Feel free to speculate in the comments, name something I completely forgot about, and make me rewrite the whole thing.


  1. Haha that segue into Mark Bell killed me (and Alfie)!

    Speculation time:

    -The Long Island vs. Leafs Series. Most entertaining series of the decade beyond a doubt. What a war.

    -Leafs knocking the Habs out of the playoffs in the last game of 2007. Best regular season I can remember in a long time. Boxscore tells the story:;_ylt=ArD3o4nOLTmqsKGWKluv4SNivLYF?gid=2007040721

    -Mats Sundin's 500th goal / OT winner against Calgary.

    -Fighting for the playoffs, Sundin clutches up against Florida and goes 4-2-6 in 2006.

    -Game 7 against the Senators in 2004 (a.k.a. the game that axed Jacques Martin and Patrick Lalime)

    -Gary Roberts triple-OT magic.

    -Firing of JFJ

  2. Firing JFJ has to be numero uno

  3. "Kadri's the kid you want?
    Well, we're taking him. Thanks."

  4. @Bryen Birk

    I never get tired of watching Bell clobber alfredsson.

    Definitely the Islanders battles, with Corson going all kicky and Steve "what puck?" Webb, I hated he never got any payback. That still burns me.

  5. How about Tucker cleaning Cam Jannsens' clock with his own helmet?

    Of course that whole 2002 Isles-Leafs series where everybody, expecially Corson, went batshit insane.
    Featuring Tucker taking out Peca with a CLEAN hit.

    Well actually, the entire 2002 playoff run was pretty magical. With Mats out, Gary leading the way, and some unknown kids named Alyn, Karel, and Jeff Farkas playing way above their heads. Right up until Mogilny passed it to the wrong guy in Carolina.

    Brian Leetch as a Leaf. He really was that good. I've never seen a smoother d-man.

    Yushkevich calling out Carlton the Bear as "The most honest person in the Leafs organization"

    And if you can find some sort of verification, those fantastic Mogily quotes. He was the funniest Maple Leaf ever.

    I know for a fact some of those are true, but I'm not sure of all of them.

  6. Hey is there a link somewhere that explains the whole craziness between Tucker, Green and Corson? What did Neil do to make Tucker rush the Sens bench, and to get Keith Acton standing on the Leafs' bench waving a stick? Was that like the time Rob Ray (or was it Brad May?) said something about someone's wife or whatever and Corson was having panic attacks? I would like to know all the weird inside dirt on that stuff.

  7. June 27th 2008 might be my favorite. That would be Raycroft's buy-out day. I celebrate it every year!

  8. Hmm.. in the Alfredsson/Tucker hit they show in the Score crawl "Capitals Fire Ron Wilson"

  9. Surely this list wouldn't be complete without:

    1. Leafs vs Sabres - 3/15/04. Even better comeback than the Ottawa game. Strange goals, Mogliny with his 1000/1001 points, Trevor Kidd making saves like he was Marty Brodeur and 18,000 screaming Leaf fans vs 3 Sabres fans in Buffalo!

    2. Leafs vs Habs - 4/7/07. Closest we've ever come to making the playoffs since the lockout. Up and down game with twists and turns even the best author in the world couldn't dream up.

    3. Leafs vs Panthers - 4/11/06. MATS SUNDIN.

    Only one I'd disagree with from the first half of the top 10 would be Green's goal since it doesn't really stand out in any way.

  10. I'd have to say the biggest thing in that 2002 series with the Sens was actually Ricard Persson (I think that's who it was?) unloading that cross-check on Tie Domi in the 1st period of Game 6.

    For those who don't recall, the Sens had a 3-2 lead in the series and quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 6. It looked as if the Sens were running all over the Leafs, and would finally defeat the Leafs in the playoffs, while the Leafs appeared to be destined for their third straight second round loss.

    No one would've been surprised if the Sens won this series. While the Leafs put forward valiant efforts with wins in Game 2 (on a Gary Roberts triple OT goal) and Game 4, Ottawa had all of the momentum in this series, and looked like they would probably win it from Game 1.

    But, all it took was one dumb move by Persson to change the entire series.

    With his cross-check on Domi, he was given a double minor, which allowed the Leafs get back into the game. They capitalized on this opportunity, scoring twice while on that PP and tying the game. Not only did this shift the momentum in the Leafs' favour for Game 6, but for the entire series.

    After tying the game, the Leafs went on to a thrilling 4-3 victory, and found new life. And, as we all know, Alex Mogilny singlehandedly lit up Patrick Lalime en route to a 3-0 Game 7 victory. The rest is history.

    That was one play by an Ottawa Senator that impacted the Leafs big time; it gave them life, and for once in this decade, when the Leafs were given the opportunity to revive themselves, they took it. Quite the contrast from today's "get within 2 points of a playoff spot, then fold like a lawn chair for two straight games", isn't it?

    Also, I'm just gonna say DGB, Alfie's hit on Tucker made me hate Alfie. Not the Sens. By this point, I already hated the Sens for one simple reason: for once, they looked like they could win it. I began to hate the Sens the second they became a threat and their fans became cocky a-holes.

    Apologies for the essay. :P

  11. And, I should also add that DGB would know this since he posted a Youtube video about this awhile back:

    Also, in a hilarious twist, it would seem Persson would never play in another game in the NHL after that:

  12. The April '03 OT goal from Kaberle sticks out for me. After Roenick tried to seperate Mogilny's head from his neck with his "inadvertant" (cough, bullshit) high stick, Kabby's OT winner sent the Leafs fans watching the game at Peel Pub in Montreal into riot mode.

  13. -Sundin's 500th goal

    -Sundin becoming all-time highest scoring Leaf.

    -Salming's jersey being honoured

    -FIring JFJ

    -Hiring Burke

  14. "What did Neil do to make Tucker rush the Sens bench, and to get Keith Acton standing on the Leafs' bench waving a stick?"

    Neil spat on Tucker, or so legend goes.

  15. Thanks for all the feedback. Remember, we're looking for on-ice moments. So sadly, the firing of JFJ will have to wait for another list.

    @Leaf in Habland...

    Quinn said after the game that Neil spat on Tucker (presumably because Tucker told him so). But he didn't, and the Leafs backed off that claim pretty quickly.

  16. If Neil didn't spit on tucker, what was it that set that off? It had to be some sort of stupid comment...

  17. - Gary Roberts Triple OT
    - John Ferguson gets fired
    - Brian Burke gets hired
    - Five-hole Lalime
    - Mats Sundin's Game 1 OT winner in 2000 vs. Ottawa
    - Wendel Clark hits the crossbar in 2000 and gets a standing ovation
    - Sundin's 500th goal in overtime, shorthanded and the hat-trick
    - Sundin's dying-seconds tying goal vs. Carolina in Game 6, 2002. With obligatory Joe Bowen orgasm.
    - Leafs/Islanders in 2002
    - Comeback vs. Buffalo which included Mogilny's 1000th NHL point.

  18. Oh, and Tucker's wallpapering of Sami Kapanen in 2004.

    And does anybody remember that game against Tampa Bay where the Leafs scored like 5 goals in one period?

    1. And now his son is in the Leafs organization!

  19. Bells hit on Alfie was ten times worse than his on Tuckers.

  20. 1. Leafs 10 game win streak in the 03/04 season
    2. Comeback win vs Sabres Mogliny's 1000th and 1001st point
    3. Leafs beating the senators all the time
    4. The "Mr. 3rd period combacks" in the 03/04 season
    5. Leafs 4-0 comeback vs the Senators
    6. 9-3 Blowout win (2011) vs Atlanta (team that doesn't exist)
    10-2 BLOWOUT WIN (2007) vs Boston
    9-1 Blowout win (2005) vs Atlanta (again, a team that doesn't exist)
    7. Joey's 2 goals that went "right through Lalime" to end the Senators in 7 games (4-1 win in the playoffs).
    8. Tie Domi spraying a flyers fan in the penalty box.
    9. Fans cheering "Eddie Eddie" (Ed's shutouts)
    10. Sundin's 500th goal and hat trick vs calgary