The All-Time “Could Have Been A Maple Leaf” Team

The Toronto Maple Leafs have recently gotten better at something they used to be really bad at: trading draft picks.

Under past General Managers, the Leafs would trade draft picks like they were still using Cliff Fletcher’s “Draft, Schmaft” way of thinking. Along the same line, prospects were also traded away with little thought.

It was all involved with making the playoffs by any means necessary, trading away picks for players that could give them a boost late in the season, even if was only for that season. It did a lot of damage to the Maple Leafs, and their long-term success. Sure, they made the playoffs, but they never won the prize that really matters. Contrary to popular belief, that would be the Stanley Cup, not playoff revenue.

Now, most of the time, the picks didn’t become players of much consequence. However, there have been more than a few that you look at and say, “How could they have made that trade?” One need look as the Phil Kessel trade as the most recent example.

So here is an entire team’s worth of players that could have been Leafs. To be eligible, the player had to never play a game for the Maple Leafs had they been drafted by the team. Of course, if a player was taken with a pick that originally belonged to the Leafs or at least at one point belonged to the Leafs.

The Forwards

First Line

Brandon Saad – Tyler Seguin – Brad Boyes

Saad Blue Jackets
Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Yeah, this one hurts. Of course, the big one here is Seguin. The first of two first-round picks sent to the Boston Bruins, Seguin would definitely look good in a Leafs jersey right now. With Saad, it could be even worse. The Leafs had two picks in the first round in 2011 and used them on Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy before Saad went at 43rd overall. The Leafs had originally acquired that selection from the Calgary Flames before sending it to Chicago to reacquire their own second-round pick in 2010, which was also sent to Boston in the Kessel trade. Brad Boyes was drafted 24th overall in 2000, but was sent to the San Jose Sharks in a package for Owen Nolan.

Second Line

Vaclav Prospal – Mike Cammalleri – Jimmy Hayes

Prospal was taken with the 71st pick in 1993 by the Philadelphia Flyers, who acquired the pick in exchange for the rights to Mike Bullard. Cammalleri was taken with the 49th pick in 2001 by the Los Angeles Kings after the Leafs sent it and Adam Mair to LA for Aki Berg. The Leafs traded prospect Hayes to the Chicago Blackhawks, who had  drafted his younger brother Kevin, a year after he was drafted for a second-rounder in 2010.

Third Line

Kevin Stevens – Pavol Demitra – Shawn Thornton

The Kings took Stevens with the 108th pick in the 1983 Draft after acquiring it for Don Luce. Demitra was taken with the 227th overall by the the Ottawa Senators after they acquired the pick for Brad Miller. Thornton was drafted by the Leafs in 1997 but was traded to the Anaheim Ducks before ever playing with Toronto.

Dainius Zubrus
Dainius Zubrus can bring the Stanley Cup to Lithuania in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fourth Line

Benoit Brunet – Dainius Zubrus – Jared Boll

Brunet was taken by the Montreal Canadiens  with  the 27th overall in 1986. The Leafs acquired Gaston Gingras, who played three seasons with the Leafs before returning to Montreal, in exchange for the pick. In one of the few trades in which Toronto didn’t get totally fleeced, the Leafs got Dmitry Yuskevich from the Flyers in exchange for three picks, including the 15th overall pick in 1996, which the Flyers used to take Zubrus. The pick that the Columbus Blue Jackets used to select Jared Boll (101st overall) was originally traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for what ended up being 12 regular season and playoff games each.

The Defense

Roman Josi – Dougie Hamilton

Steve Smith – Darius Kasparaitus

Mark Stuart – Alexander Sulzer

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Leafs sent what would become the 38th overall pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for Yanic Perreault. The Coyotes would eventually trade the pick to the Nashville Predators, who selected Josi. Hamilton was of course part of the deal that brought the Leafs Kessel. Smith was selected 111th overall in 1981, a pick they acquired from the Leafs in exchange for Reg Thomas, who never played a game with Toronto.

The New York Islanders sent the Leafs two picks in the 1982 Draft in order to move up so they could select Kasparaitus with the fifth overall pick. Mark Stuart was the first-round pick that the Leafs sent to the Sharks along with Boyes and Alyn McCauley for Nolan. The Predators traded down in the draft and selected Sulzer with the 92nd overall pick in 2003. The Leafs moved up to select Dominic D’Amour with the 88th pick.

The Goalies

Tuukka Rask

Roberto Luongo

Rask was sent to the Bruins in exchange for Andrew Raycroft one year after being taken by the Leafs in 2005. Luongo was taken with the fourth overall pick in 1996, a pick that was included in a package that netted the Leafs Mathieu Schneider, D.J. Smith and a returning Wendel Clark.

So there you have it. An entire team made up up of players who could have been Leafs. The biggest question: Would you rather have this team than the one the Leafs currently have if all of the players were in there prime?