It’s not a simple task to remember each and every player who has ever donned the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that’s why you’ve got this new series looking back at some of the players who’ve been forgotten over the years.
While they might only be small pieces of the history that makes up this storied franchise, they are, nonetheless, written into the Maple Leafs’ past. Whether their tenure was short, or their Maple Leafs’ career was overshadowed by their time with another franchise, we look back on some players that might not be atop the list when thinking of this particular NHL team.
With that, the latest installment of this series will look at a defenceman that played just 199 career regular-season games in the NHL. Having spent half of his time with the Maple Leafs, Jeff Finger played his last NHL game as a 30-year-old in 2009-10.
Finger Becoming a Maple Leaf
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the eighth round, 240th overall, in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Finger played two seasons with the Avs after making his NHL debut as a 27-year-old in 2006-07.
After two seasons, Finger became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Maple Leafs as free agency opened on July 1, 2008. Maple Leafs’ general manager at the time, Cliff Fletcher, signed Finger to a four-year contract worth $14-million after just 94 NHL games with the Avalanche.
The signing would go down as one of many poor decisions of that particular management team only two years later.
Donning the Blue Maple Leaf
Following his two seasons with the Avs, Finger debuted for the Maple Leafs in 2008-09. He played 66 games for them during the regular season and tallied six goals and a career-high 23 points over that span.
While the Maple Leafs didn’t sign him for his offensive output – which was quite obvious from the beginning – his defensive zone coverage never really seemed to catch on with the team either. In fact, he had back-to-back minus-rating seasons in Toronto following two season of plus-10 or higher with the Avalanche.
Finger played 39 games for the Maple Leafs the following season in 2009-10 and had a pair of goals and 10 points, finishing with a minus-11 rating. The Maple Leafs missed the playoffs in both of his seasons with the team and the rough go in Toronto spelt the end of Finger’s NHL career.
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He spent the following two seasons with the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies, dressing for just 54 games over that two-year span before calling it quits on the ice.
With all that said, Finger still ranks in the top 100 all-time amongst Maple Leafs’ defensemen in games played, goals, assists, points and points per game. That doesn’t say much for the history of Maple Leafs’ defensemen.
The Rest of Finger’s Career
As for the rest of his NHL career, as mentioned he played two seasons in Colorado, where he had a little more success on the defensive end. That may have led to the Maple Leafs’ decision to sign him to such a big contract entering free agency, but it could be a testament to the team he played on with the Avalanche.
Finger played 94 games for the Avalanche over parts of two seasons, racking up nine goals and 24 assists over that span. He had a plus-22 rating and got his only taste of NHL playoff action with the Avs during his second season in the league. He played just five postseason games with two assists to show for it.
As for his career numbers, Finger finished just shy of the 200-game mark, playing 199 career regular-season games with 17 goals and 57 points over parts of four seasons with the Avs and the Maple Leafs.
While his career wasn’t the longest, his time in Toronto makes him a part of the Maple Leafs alumnus forever.
All-Time Maple Leafs’ Ranks (Among Defensemen)
Games Played: 105 GP (99th)
Goals: 8 G (T80th)
Assists: 25 A (T92nd)
Points: 33 P (T90th)
Points-Per-Game: 0.31 P/G (T76th)
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.