Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ranking every GM the Maple Leafs have ever had

The Toronto Maple Leafs made it official on Friday, naming Kyle Dubas as Lou Lamoriello’s replacement as general manager. It’s a major leap of faith by the team, with the fate of the 101-year-old franchise now in the hands of a GM who’s just 32 years old.

We can’t pass a final judgement on the Dubas era quite yet — we’ll give him about one more week before we get started on that. But in the meantime, we can see how the other men to hold the job stack up with each other.

We’ll be looking at all of the full-time GMs in Maple Leafs history — we won’t count any interim tags, or the time that the team went without an official GM for a little over a year. That leaves us with 16 pre-Dubas GMs to work with, which seems like a good number for a ranking. Let’s count them down from worst to best, starting with the least-effective Leafs’ GM of all-time. As you might expect, there was some decent competition for that particular honour.

No. 16: Howie Meeker (1957)

Record: Not applicable.

Signature move: None.

There could be some debate over whether Meeker even deserves a spot on this list; after all, he didn’t even make it to his first game as Maple Leafs’ GM before he was “reassigned” to the PR department. But he did officially hold the role, however briefly, so we’ll include him.

Meeker had had a distinguished career in Toronto, including winning the Calder in 1947 and spending a season behind the bench in 1956–57. That year hadn’t gone that well, with the Maple Leafs missing the playoffs, and Meeker was bumped upstairs to the GM job once the season ended. But it didn’t last, and Meeker was out of the role before opening night. News reports of the day called it a resignation, but Stafford Smythe left little doubt as to what was really going on, telling reporters that “[Meeker] didn’t have the experience needed in that kind of job and we didn’t have the time to let him gain that kind of experience.”

The Leafs didn’t formally fill the GM’s role until over a year later, going with a committee approach (although Smythe was rumoured to be calling most of the shots).

No. 15: Floyd Smith (1989–1991)

Record: 61-84-5

Signature move: Trading a first-round pick for Tom Kurvers.

The Leafs finished .500 in Smith’s debut season, the first time that happened since 1978–79. But his second year was a disaster, one that saw an aging Leafs team start 1-9-1 and very nearly finish dead last. They rallied to finish ahead of the Nordiques, meaning the Kurvers trade cost them Scott Niedermayer instead of Eric Lindros, and Smith was fired after two years on the job.

To give you a sense of how the Smith era played out in Toronto, here’s local sportscaster Joe Tilley not mincing words.

No. 14: Hap Day (1955–1957)

Record: 45-67-28

Signature move: None stand out; the few Leafs traded during this time basically amounted to selling fringe players for cash.

There’s some confusion as to whether Day ever officially held the GM’s title, but everyone seems to agree that he was running the show at the end of the Conn Smythe era, so we’ll include him. The team made one playoff appearance in Day’s two seasons, but after missing in 1957 he was publicly criticized by the Smythe family and forced out, ending a Maple Leafs career that saw him win seven Stanley Cups as a player and coach.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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