2015-16 Maple Leafs: Celebrating the “Worst” Team in Franchise History

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only seven years since the Toronto Maple Leafs were one of the worst teams in the NHL. During the 2015-16 season, the Maple Leafs capped off a decade of mediocrity by finishing last in the league. That no longer is the case.

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Over the past seven seasons, the present iteration of the Maple Leafs has set numerous franchise records. The 2015-16 team also set a record. It was one of the few Maple Leafs’ teams ever to finish last overall in the NHL since the league expanded beyond six teams in 1968.

The Coming of Auston Matthews

However, that 2015-16 Maple Leafs’ team, along with the luck of the draw, played a crucial role in the present success of the team. Finishing last gave them the best odds in the 2016 Draft Lottery, which they won. They used that lottery win to make Auston Matthews the first overall pick. 

2015-16 Maple Leafs: Celebrating the “Worst” Team in Franchise History

Picking Matthews was the right choice. We wrote about the important role Matthews has played on this team over the last five-plus seasons and noted that Matthews has become the best per-game goal-scorer in the NHL over those seasons. But that all started with the 2015-16 team.

13 Dubious Facts About the 2015-16 Maple Leafs Team

Here are 13 interesting little fun/dubious facts about that 2015-16 team.

Fact 1: Their record for the season was 29-42-11. The team had 69 points, with a .421 winning percentage. They scored 192 goals and had 240 goals scored against them.  

Related: Terry Sawchuk – How the Maple Leafs Snagged the Hall of Fame Goalie

Fact 2: Their longest winning streak was three games, which they did three times. 

Fact 3: Their longest losing streak was six games, which lasted from the fifth game of the season to their tenth. In fact, the start to their season was a sign of things to come, as they only won two of their first 14 games.  

Fact 4: It took the team a lot of players to have such a poor season. A total of 46 players stepped on the ice for the Maple Leafs during 2015-16. The team played 29 forwards, 14 defensemen, and three goalies. 

Fact 5: Only 17 of those 46 players still play in the NHL. That leaves 29 players who are no longer in the NHL. 

Fact 6:  The only player who was on the 2015-16 opening night roster who remains with the Maple Leafs is Morgan Rielly. Rielly was also the only player to play in all 82 games that season. 

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fact 7: Rielly was the leading scorer for defensemen and fourth overall on the team with nine goals and 36 points. [Trivia Question: Who is the only other player to skate for the Maple Leafs that season who is still on the Maple Leafs’ roster? Answer later.]

Fact 8: Nazem Kadri was the team’s leading point producer that season with 45 points. He also led the team in penalty minutes with 73.

Related: Ray Bourque – A Long Way to the Stanley Cup

Fact 9: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was the Maple Leafs leading goal scorer with 20. Leo Komarov was second with 19. 

Fact 10: Because of the rule that every team had to be represented at the All-Star game, Komarov was awarded that honor. He was the Maple Leafs’ sole player at the game.   

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Fact 11: Roman Polak led the team in plus/minus with plus-8, which is amazing when you consider he only had one goal and 12 assists himself, and the team overall gave up 48 more goals than it scored. 

Fact 12: Jonathan Bernier played 38 games in goal, which was the most on the team. However, James Reimer had the best record at 11-12-7. Reimer also had the best save percentage at .918 and goals-against-average at 2.49. Honestly, those were great numbers considering he was backstopping such an inept team. 

James Reimer, NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs
James Reimer had his struggles in a Leafs uniform, but always battled for the blue and white. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fact 13: The Maple Leafs made six trades leading up to the 2016 trade deadline. They moved out 12 players and a fifth-round draft pick. They acquired 11 players and six draft picks in return. Notable players moved out included Dion Phaneuf, Reimer, and Polak. 

The 2015-16 Team Was Where Current Maple Leafs Started

In truth, the 2015-16 Maple Leafs were probably not the worst Maple Leafs’ team in franchise history. That dubious honor probably goes to the 1984-85 Maple Leafs who had only 48 points in 80 games. 

Those two awful teams share similar bright spots. After the 1984-85 season, the Maple Leafs got the first overall draft choice and drafted Wendel Clark. After the 2015-16 season, the Maple Leafs got the first overall draft choice and drafted Auston Matthews. Both have had great Maple Leafs’ careers, and Matthews is only beginning. 

Answer to the Trivia Question

William Nylander was called up from the Toronto Marlies after the trade deadline when the rosters were allowed to expand. He played 22 games with the team and scored six goals and added 13 assists.

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs: Revisiting the Wendel Clark for Mats Sundin Trade

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]