The Hockey News recently put out their top 100 defensemen of all-time list, and the Maple Leafs are represented by 21 of those players. Here is a look at which Maple Leafs defensemen made the list.
Leafs In The Top 25
#7 Red Kelly
Kelly played 20 seasons in the NHL between 1947 – 1967. During his career, he only played for two teams. Those teams were the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. During those 20 seasons, Kelly scored 281 goals and added 542 assists for 823 points in 1,316 games.
Kelly is an eight-time Stanley Cup champion. He helped bring four Stanley Cups to the Red Wings in 1949-50, 1951-52, 1953-54, and 1954-55. Then went on to help the Maple Leafs win four Stanley Cups in 1961-62, 1962-63, 1963-64, and 1966-67. He also won four Lady Byng Trophies and one Norris trophy.
During his eight seasons with the Maple Leafs, Kelly recorded 119 goals and 232 assists for 351 points in 470 games. He made the playoffs in all eight seasons with the Maple Leafs and recorded 17 goals and 38 assists for 55 points in 70 playoff games.
#12 Tim Horton
Horton played 24 seasons in the NHL between 1950 – 1974. He spent 20 of those seasons with the Maple Leafs. He then spent parts of two seasons with the New York Rangers, one season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and his final two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. Horton scored 115 goals and added 403 assists for 518 points in 1,445 NHL games.
While playing with the Maple Leafs, Horton would win four Stanley Cups. He helped them win those Cups in 1961-62, 1962-63, 1963-64, and 1966-67. He recorded 109 goals and 349 assists for 458 points in 1,184 games as a Maple Leaf.
Horton opened his first Tim Horton’s Doughnut Shop in Hamilton, Ontario, on Ottawa Street in 1964.
His life was cut short in 1974 when he died in a car accident in the early morning hours of February 21, 1974. He lost control of his car, which was given to him as a gift from the Sabres GM as an incentive to sign for one more season. It is believed that both speed and alcohol played a part in Horton losing control of the car. He was just 44 years old.
#15 King Clancy
Clancy played 16 seasons in the NHL from 1921 – 1937. He started his career with the original Ottawa Senators and played with them for nine seasons. In the 1930-31 season, Clancy joined the Maple Leafs after being traded by Ottawa. He would play his final seven seasons in the blue and white. Clancy had 137 goals and 150 assists 287 points in 592 career NHL games.
Clancy won two Stanley Cups with the Ottawa Senators. The first in 1922-23 and the second in 1926-27. He also won a Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs in 1931-32. He would record eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 55 career playoff games.
Clancy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958. The King Clancy Memorial Trophy was named in his honour. It is awarded annually to the NHL player who demonstrates leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made exceptional humanitarian contributions in the community.
#18 Brian Leetch
Leetch played 18 seasons in the NHL, and almost all of them were with the New York Rangers. He spent 17 seasons with the Ranger before being traded to the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline during the 2003-04 season. Leetch recorded 247 goals and 781 assists for 1,028 points in 1,205 NHL games.
With the Maple Leafs, Leetch had two goals and 13 assists for 15 points in 15 games to end the regular season. He also recorded eight assists in 13 playoff games for the Maple Leafs that year.
Leetch won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994 and also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP in the playoffs that year. He won the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year in the 1988-89 season. Leetch also won the Norris Trophy for top defenseman twice. First in the 1991-92 season and then again in the 1996-97 season.
#19 Pierre Pilote
Pilote played 14 seasons in the NHL from 1956 – 1969. He spent all but one of those seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was not until his final NHL season that he played with the Maple Leafs. He recorded 80 goals and 418 assists for 498 points in 890 games.
With the Maple Leafs, Pilote recorded three goals and 18 assists for 21 points in 69 games during the 1968-69 season. He only recorded one assist in four playoff games that year.
Pilote won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 1961, and he also won the Norris Trophy three seasons in a row. After coming in second place for the trophy in 1962, he won it in 1963,1964 and 1965. He would follow that up with being the runner up two more times.
#22 Borje Salming
Salming played 17 seasons in the NHL between 1973 – 1990. He spent 16 of those seasons with the Maple Leafs. In his last NHL season, he played for the Detroit Red Wings. He recorded 150 goals and 637 assists for 787 points in 1,148 games. Salming was also the first European raised NHL player to reach 1,000 games played.
In his first NHL season, Salming scored five goals and added 34 assists for 39 points in 76 games. He finished third in Calder Trophy voting and fifth in Norris Trophy voting as a rookie. His best season stats-wise was in 1976-77 when he recorded 12 goals and 66 assists for 78 points in 76 games and had a plus/minus rating of +45.
Salming was one of the first Swedish players to enter the NHL. He did not receive a warm welcome. He endured many dirty hits, hacks, and slashes on a nightly basis, but he stood tall and continued to play the game his way. Eventually, he earned the respect of the other players and would go on to have a great career. A career that got him inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.
Reading up on all these great defensemen has been incredible. I hope you enjoyed part one of this four-part series looking back at some of the greatest defensemen to ever wear a Maple Leafs jersey.
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