The Great Debate: Maple Leafs Dream Team

Back a couple of weeks ago I commenced collecting our follower’s thoughts on a Maple Leafs Dream Team through a series of polls via twitter. The debate was fierce, with some names making the cut and others that didn’t. Below is the roster selected via the polls:

Foward Lines
Clark-Gilmour-Vaive
Mahovlich-Matthews-Conacher
Hyman-Kadri-Tucker
Roberts-“Red” Kelly-Thomas

Defence
Salming-Horton
Kaberle-Iafrate
Reilly-McCabe

Goalies
Bower
Potvin

There were two names which immediately caused a lot of debate. Mats Sundin whose exclusion from the Maple Leafs Dream Team brought some bewilderment and the other was Auston Matthews, who finds himself included on the team.

Let’s start with how a player of Mats Sundin’s career achievements could be left off. Sundin remains the most talented Maple Leaf in franchise history, that isn’t a shot at the current group or to Gilmour, Clark and other great names who too donned the blue and white, but no Maple Leaf has achieved as much success with the club or internationally as Sundin.

His 420 goals, 567 assists by a forward and 987 total career points rank first among retired and active Maple Leafs, and his gold medal win at the 2006 Olympics as captain of team Sweden highlights a 18 year career.

Still some see Sundin as overrated. On a recently posted Maple Leafs poll by Andrew Bershire on the topic of who was the most overrated Maple Leaf by fans, long time Maple Leafs blogger Michael Augello asked “Where is Mats Sundin as an option”.

I can’t imagine thinking the franchise points leader could be considered overrated by anyone. But the answer could be found in the very debate that continues to brew in Leafs Nation.

During his time in Toronto, Sundin was the engine of the team which lifted his supporting cast and made them stars but was also seen as an egnima by some media and fans alike.

To get a further opinion on this topic I asked Joe Tilley from the “Tilley and Billy Show” for his thoughts and here is what he had to say on the matter:

“There may be some truth to the grinder business. But I think some fans are disappointed that the Leafs never got to the Cup Final with a guy who had Mats talent.

Others were upset that he wouldn’t wave his no trade clause so the Leafs could have grabbed some prospects. They might have been willing to resign him if he had done so.

Also, he was kind of a boring dude. Never lost his cool on the ice. While many would view that as an asset, some felt it showed a lack of desire. Not me.”

I agree with Joe’s comments, as successful as he was as a Maple Leaf, Sundin’s time here had a level complexity, be it for how appeared to carry himself on the ice to his eventual departure. However noone should overlook the mark Sundin made on the Maple Leafs franchise that has yet to be duplicated.

Now for the inclusion of Auston Matthews in the polls. Some felt it was too soon, but the pace to which Matthews has been able to rewrite the franchise’s record books has been historical:

  • Fastest Maple Leaf to score 25 goals
  • Most points by a rookie: 69
  • Most goals by a rookie: 40
  • First and only Maple Leaf to score at least 30 goals in the first four seasons of his career.

Had this season not been placed on hold, Matthews may have also surpassed Rick Vaive’s single season goal of 54 goals, Matthews had 47 in only 70 games.

Realistically, Matthews will only need about nine and a half more years at his current point production rate to catch Sundin. The site SBD puts it at +250 that he can overtake Sundin and become all time franchise leader in points, so he has a decent chance to do so.

With this said, here is how my team looks like today:

Foward Lines
Mahovlich-Sundin-Vaive
Keon-Matthews-Ellis
Clark-Sittler-Conacher
Roberts-Gilmour-Thomas

Defence
Salming-Kaberle
Horton-Iafrate
Reilly-Turnbull

Goalies
Bower
Sawchuk

What I tried to do with my version of the roster was provide a more balanced team and also have as many of the greats who donned the legendary blue and white throughout the years.

There are still some amazing names mentioned like Sittler, Clark, Gilmour Mahovlich and so on. These greats don’t come with much debate, and can be placed up and down the roster based on preference and vintage.

But we can’t discuss Maple Leafs history or Maple Leafs greats without discussing the importance of Mats Sundin and Auston Matthews. One player currently has his name all over the Maple Leafs’ history books and the other is well on his way to rewriting it at speed never seen before.

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