The Franchise Best Series comes to you to dive into the all-time best single season for every organization. This, of course, includes post-season results. Join us for a look back at some of the most memorable moments in each franchise’s history. Here is the Toronto Maple Leafs best season.
Toronto Maple Leafs 1950-51 Season
67 is a number Maple Leafs fans have grown fond of. 1967 was the year the boys in blue and white won a championship for the Toronto faithful. Fun fact: 100 years before that Canada became its own country via Confederation. Nowadays the young Leaf fan will tell you that the “time is coming” and the “streak will be put to rest”. The older fans will say that the Leafs ain’t no Brock Lesnar and the “Buds All Day” movement will be choke slammed and tombstoned for all eternity till death do them part.
The hopefuls have, had and will always cling to their fandom and believe in their team no matter what. The naysayers can remind them of their dreadful streaks, the bad moves by management over the years, and the embarrassing Harold Ballard era which saw him run the team into the ground (with some help of course). But after this summer’s signing of big-name free agent John Tavares, it’s safe to say that Leafs fans won’t stop believin’ and look onto the street ahead. Those days of being the laughing stock of the NHL are behind them and they see nothing but red skies at night; which is much to the sailor’s delight.
Besides all bad things must come to an end
In recent years Chicago Cubs fans saw their 100+ year streak of not winning the World Series end. Ah to hell with all the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’ nonsense Cubs fans said. Eddie Vedder jumped for joy and the whole city of Chicago partied like it was 1908.
And hey, what about Cleveland (also known as “Believeland”)? A sane person would’ve looked at Cleveland’s sports teams in 2013 and said there’s no way they’re going to end their 60+ year championship drought. The Cavs were in peril without LeBron James. The Indians name and logo generated more attention than their on-field product. The Browns, they were just the Browns; another season and yet another quarterback. It was just the same old story for Cleveland. That is until LeBron said, “I’m coming home”.
After decades of choking when it mattered the most, the tables finally turned. In 2016, Bron helped lead the Cavs past a 3-1 deficit against the stacked Golden State Warriors and won Believeland a championship. Furthermore, putting some ‘spect on the name.
Will Toronto continue the trend? That has yet to be seen. Till that time, we will take a trip down memory lane and look at the good ol’ fabulous ’50s and the Leafs 1950-51 stellar season.
The Previous Year Pre-Season Additions
The Leafs’ 1949-50 season was an interesting one with some controversy.
After Chicago defeated Toronto 6–3 on November 27, Conn Smythe told goaltender Turk Broda, “I’m not running a fat man’s team!” and said that Broda would not play until he reduced his weight to 190 lb. At the time, Broda weighed almost 200. A fella by the name of Al Rollins was purchased from Cleveland of the AHL and Gilles Mayer was brought up for good measure. When he reached 189 pounds, Broda went back into the Toronto net and he gained his fourth shutout of the season December 3 and Maple Leaf fans cheered all of his 22 saves.
Amid the controversy, Toronto had themselves a solid season, finishing third in the ‘Original Six’ NHL standings with a 31-27-12 record. The Leafs could thank players like Ted Kennedy, Howie Meeker, Sid Smith, and Max Bentley for most of their success offensively. Not forgetting to thank Turk Broda for keeping them in games.
As solid as the Leafs season was, they did not make it past the Semifinals. Toronto fought a long and hard seven-game series against the mighty Detroit Red Wings but ended up losing 2-1 in overtime of Game 7 after a timely goal by Red Wings defenceman Leo Reise Jr.
Key Storylines Through The Year
The 1950-51 season was coach Joe Primeau‘s first year on the job. In Primeau’s first season, the Leafs managed to muster up an impressive 95 points in 70 games. That’s the equivalent of a 111 point campaign over today’s 82 game season. The Leafs finished in second place behind the beast-like Detroit Red Wings who were riding on Gordie Howe‘s 42-goal campaign. The Red Wings finished with 101 points.
The Maple Leafs were no offensive slouch either; they had some great players on their team. Max Bentley led the team in scoring with 62 points, but not too far behind were the likes of Ted Kennedy, Tod Sloan, and Sid Smith, who recorded 61, 56, and 51 point years respectively. Sloan also led the team in goals with 31.
Even with such a great regular season, no Leafs appeared on the first All-Star team. Smith, Kennedy, and blueliner Jimmy Thomson all made the second team, however. Goaltender Al Rollins also took home the Vezina with the least amount of goals against over the season.
For their first playoff series, the Leafs took on the Boston Bruins. The Bruins were no match for the Maple Leafs who won the series in five games. Out of nowhere, the Montreal Canadiens beat the first-place Detroit Red Wings. That result set up a Montreal-Toronto Stanley Cup Finals. Something that fans today will never be able to witness, let alone think about.
Toronto faced an interesting challenge with the Habs, with all five hard-fought games going to the deciding overtime period. Max Bently, Sid Smith, and Ted Kennedy were all mighty playoff performers, but perhaps the most well-known playoff performer from this exact year would be the legendary “Bashin” Bill Barilko.
As the story goes, the Leafs were able to knock off Montreal twice at the Forum to win their ninth Stanley Cup and fifth in the past seven years. Scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime would be none other than Bill Barilko. A goal that is touted as one of the greatest in Leafs history.
Four months after that goal, Barilko would go on a fishing trip and would vanish into thin air. Tragically, 11-years later, Barilko had been found dead in a plane accident induced by bad weather. During the 11-year mystery of the disappearance of Barilko, the Leafs did not win a Stanley Cup. The year he was found, the story changed: Toronto won a Cup. Which is odd and somewhat eerie. Many Leafs fans would say it was the “Curse of Bill Barilko“.
This supposed curse would inspire The Tragically Hip’s iconic hit song, Fifty-Mission Cap. The song describes the late Gord Downie (#ThankYouGord) figuring out the story from the back of a hockey card, perhaps stealing the contents of it to include in his tune. To this day, the song is a banger in hockey arenas around Canada. Especially the Scotiabank Arena.
The 1950-51 Maple Leafs season perhaps was the best and most intriguing in the franchise’s storied history. The Montreal-Toronto Stanley Cup Finals matchup. The overtime goal by Bill Barilko, the last goal he ever scored. The 11 years that ensued afterwards. Bill Barilko was missed fully and completely. It’s the stuff that grandparents love to tell their grandchildren about. Love or hate it, the good old days were the best days in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Now after the decades of pain and torture, things seem to be on the up-and-up for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Oddsmakers are already saying, “Plan the parade”. A hometown boy made the treck from the Long Island to the 416. It seems like this 51-going-on-52-year streak may finally come to an end and good fortune might be restored to a fanbase that most say deserves a little.