Maple Leafs Commentary: Bower, Matthews, Tavares, Spezza & Marner

In a recent post, upon learning that Jason Spezza had retired and moved into management with the team, I wrote why he was my favorite Toronto Maple Leafs player. Then I asked THW readers if they would like to share who their favorite Maple Leafs’ players were and noted I would share them with the community.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Commentary: Spezza Was My Favorite Maple Leafs’ Player

Here are your thoughts. Again, just a note about how much I appreciate your readership of my work (along with my often co-writer Stan Smith). Thanks for sharing in the conversation section. Note that I have edited a bit just for length and format, but I’ve tried to leave readers’ comments pretty much as they were.

Move Votes for Jason Spezza as a Team Favorite

Two readers commented (Blueballs and Boston Buzzard) that Spezza was also a favorite and “It is like the end of an era as he was on the ice in the last game.” 

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Doug B noted that “Spezza brought the intangible to the team (a sense that) I’ve been there, done that.” Doug B also noted that “It’s good to see that attitude is still surviving because the obscene amounts of money floating around are the siren song of selfishness.”

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

BossSause added that “Coming to Toronto seemed to invigorate him (Spezza) and I was pleasantly surprised with his play, his enthusiasm, and his ability to really still skate with tons of speed. His power-play entries were always dependable and his leadership by example (the playoff fight in the playoffs) and ability to rally the troops on the ice or in the dressing room were second to none.” 

BossSause added that he “admired his dedication to the Leafs taking on team-friendly contracts and, as a result, Dubas has hired him to stay with the team. It’s a good result for a true hockey man and a gentleman.”

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Average Joe weighed in on Spezza as well by agreeing about his “leadership abilities on and off the ice.” Average Joe noted that he “especially enjoyed the time he settled Soup down when he let a goal in.”

Doug Gilmour, Johnny Bower, and Auston Matthews Are Also Favorites

After Spezza, a number of other readers added some different names from both current and past Maple Leafs’ teams. For example, looking to the past, Firecaptain added that “By far my favorite Leaf is Doug Gilmour. Loved his style and he played with his heart on his sleeve.”

Doug Gilmour Toronto Maple Leafs
Doug Gilmour of the Toronto Maple Leafs, January 14, 1992 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

Doug Madill shared that both Johnny Bower and Auston Matthews were favorites. Specifically, Doug noted that the question about favorites was difficult because there have been so many great players “since I became a fan of the team.”

However, Doug noted that “My favourite player would be Johnny Bower because he and his family were next door neighbours when I was growing up in Etobicoke.” 

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Doug then moved to the present day and noted: “I would have to say that I really admire Auston Matthews, not so much because he is thrilling to watch and is probably the best player in franchise history. What strikes me is his humbleness and his down-to-earth attitude.”

Doug then shared an example. “When asked on television one night about how he felt about reaching the 50 goal milestone, he deflected the question by answering that the team had a much larger and more important agenda in the days ahead (or words to that effect). He recognizes the importance of not only his performance on ice but also that of his teammates. To sum it all up, he personifies the essence of being a role model both on and off the ice.”

Maple Leafs’ Captain John Tavares Gets a Vote from California

The Maple Leafs seem to have fans everywhere. One reader who was originally from New Orleans but now living in California (FanOfTavares) shared a great story of how John Tavares became a favorite. 

“I only become a hockey fan in June 2018 on a visit to Toronto through the efforts of a longtime friend of my wife’s that hosted us for four days. He gifted me his autographed Tyler Bozak sweater, which I wore later in the trip while in Montreal, to the groans of the hotel staff where we stayed.”

John Tavares Toronto Maple Leafs
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

“We were there on July 1, when the Leafs signed Tavares and quickly traded Bozak. The hotel staff ruefully congratulated me on the signing of Tavares. To be right in the midst of the melodrama which is hockey, I allowed myself to be sucked in and have since been unable to extricate myself. Football, baseball, soccer, and tennis have all faded in varying degrees into disinterest at the expense of puck-madness.” 

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FanOfTavares finished by saying “And no player has been at the center of Leafs’ play more than Tavares, whose role as the Leafs’ captain and leader I have come to appreciate. (He’s) always giving maximum effort, keeping his head, and never calling attention to himself. We all got to see the strength of his game on display in the Tampa Bay series.”

Current Maple Leafs’ Forward Mitch Marner Gets a Vote

Reader Cantbeleafit shared that Mitch Marner was a favorite because he “plays both ways and kills penalties and has recently begun to play more physical. He seems to get better every year. More shots coming from him open up Matthews even more. He is a great player who continues to develop.” 

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Cantbeleafit added that “when I watched him play in the Memorial Cup in Red Deer I knew he was going to be a great Leaf. I am not disappointed.’

Once Again Thanks for Sharing

It was great to read and share your favorite players on the team – both past and present. Funny, how one person’s favorite just doesn’t cut it for another person. Also interesting is that there are often stories that generate interest. 

Related: Maple Leafs THW Readers’ Insights: Klingberg, Hyman, Bunting & Soupy

Thanks for reading and sharing yet again. What a rich history this NHL franchise has. I’m pleased to have a small part in sharing it with readers.