On Tuesday night the Toronto Maple Leafs tied a franchise record that hadn’t been touched since the 1966-67 season, the year the Leafs last won the Stanley Cup.
Unfortunately the record wasn’t one to be proud of, rather the team matched their longest losing streak in franchise history. With a 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators Tuesday night, the team recorded their 10th straight loss.
Although there will be some trolls and incredibly superstitious fans who might suggest this is fate, the fact is this team’s season is all but over and the playoffs will have to wait at least another year. With that being said it is interesting to see that despite winning the Cup in ’67, the Buds weren’t the best team in the league that season and look to resemble this Leafs team more than one would expect.
’67 Leafs Didn’t Have the Best Numbers
During the ‘67 season, the Leafs only had to compete against five other clubs and only had to finish in the top 2/3 of the league to make it to the post-season. So in ’67 the team finished fourth out of six teams with a record of 32-27-11 in 70 games.
The team had the third-best goals for with 204 goals and fourth in the league with 211 goals against, so they were a -7 in goal differential. They had the second-worst power play and the worst penalty killing amongst all six teams as well.
During this day and age with just six teams and only four making the playoffs, the team only had to win one playoff series to make it to the Cup final. The Leafs were able to knock off the number one team in the league, the Chicago Blackhawks, in seven games in the first round and then their archrivals the Montreal Canadiens in the final in seven games to claim the Cup.
The Blackhawks Were Favourites
Realistically the Blackhawks should have been the favourites to win the Cup in ’67. The team had the Art Ross, Lady Byng, and Hart Trophy winner, Stan Mikita and the Vezina Trophy winners Glenn Hall and Denis Dejordy. They had the top three goal scorers in the league, Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Kenny Wharram while Mikita and Hull also finished one and two in points.
The Hawks lead the league in goals for and had the lowest goals against. Meanwhile the Maple Leafs in a full-82 game season would only have been on pace for 87 points. To put that into perspective, in the Eastern Conference that would have only been good enough for 12th spot and just three points more than last year’s Leafs. In fact not since the 2002-03 season has 87 points been good enough to get an Eastern Conference team in the playoffs.
It is hard to compare the two clubs since the game has changed so drastically from speed and strength to even more simple things such as rules. For what it is worth, the team’s goals against average this season at 3.04 per game is just slightly worse than the ’67 Leafs who gave up an average of 3.01 per game.
The Maple Leafs did not have one of the top scorers in the NHL in ’67, in fact their most productive player was Dave Keon who had 52 points in 66 games. The team saw their goaltending split between Terry Sawchuk, Johnny Bower, and Bruce Gamble during the season. The NHL didn’t track save percentage at the time, but the three had goals against averages of 2.81, 2.64, and 3.39 respectively.
’67 Leafs Didn’t Lose For Long
It is hard to compare teams from different eras, but it is interesting when current teams match records from decades ago, though Leafs fans are less than impressed with this one. The Leafs of ’67 did manage to lose 10 straight before winning the Cup, but they also succeeded in having a winning streak of seven games and never losing more than three in a row at any other time during the season.
The Leafs aren’t anywhere close to being Stanley Cup contenders, but to their credit the ’67 Leafs didn’t look to be favourites either before they hoisted the franchise’s last Cup.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.