Toronto Maple Leafs Team of the Decade

Toronto Maple Leafs Decade
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Last Word On Hockey brings our Team of the Decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the Toronto Maple Leafs decade lineup.

Toronto Maple Leafs Decade Team

Left-Wing: James van Riemsdyk

James van Riemsdyk was often opposing goalies’ first impression of Toronto over the years, as his net-front scoring touch was unmatched on the club. He led all Toronto wingers in the decade with 413 games played along with 154 goals. He played for the Leafs from 2012 to 2018, bookending his tenure in Toronto with stints with the Philadelphia Flyers, the team that drafted him.

The trade that brought him to Toronto was arguably one of Toronto’s best trades of the decade, as they brought him in in exchange for defenceman Luke Schenn. Schenn never panned out in Philadelphia, nor did he ever pan out anywhere else in the league. He reached the 30-goal mark multiple times with the Leafs, including the first 30-goal campaign of his career in 2013-14.

van Riemsdyk was a consistent goal-scorer throughout the next six seasons with the Leafs, especially in his final year with the team, where he netted 36 goals to supplement an emerging core that included Mitch MarnerAuston Matthews, and William Nylander as the Leafs bowed out to the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. His tenacity in front of the net became one of the team’s hallmarks. His selection on this list is a no-brainer.

Centre: Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri had a memorable decade in Toronto. The fierce, agitating centre led all Leafs in games played over the decade with 560. In those games, Kadri posted a solid stat line of 161 goals, 196 assists, and 357 points. Aside from being traded to the Colorado Avalanche before this season, Kadri played the entire decade in a Leafs uniform. He was their longest-tenured player at the time he left the team.

The first season of this decade started with a bang for Kadri, as it included his first NHL goal which just happened to be against Tim Thomas and the rival Boston Bruins. Kadri would end up playing in three first-round playoff series against Boston this decade with the Leafs, though he wasn’t victorious in any of them. His suspension history in those series is arguably the reason he no longer wears the blue and white.

His best campaign in Toronto was arguably the lockout-infected 2012-13 season, where he notched 44 points in only 48 games, his highest single-season pace. He’s since hit the 20-goal and 50-points mark multiple times with Toronto, playing anywhere from first-line to third-line centre. A truly versatile player who put his heart and body on the line for Toronto, Kadri certainly deserves his spot on this list.

Right Wing: Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel, more commonly known as ‘Phil the Thrill,’ was at the centre of attention for years in Toronto. While it’s been a solid few seasons since he’s played for Toronto, he still leads all right wings on the decade with 376 games played, 151 goals, and 339 points. Despite his rocky relationship with the media and fans in the city, his performance on a bad edition of the Maple Leafs deserves to be recognized and appreciated.

Since being acquired from the Bruins before the commencement of the decade, Kessel was consistently the best forward on the Leafs night-in-night-out. Topping the 30-goal mark multiple times, his shot and goal-scoring touch became defining factors of the early 2010s for the Maple Leafs.

While he’s gone on to have remarkable success with the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning two Stanley Cups, he still helped defined the 2010s for Toronto. The 2020s may bring more success with a young core. However, Kessel’s strong play on a poor squad will be talked about for years in Leafs nation.

Left Defence: Jake Gardiner

Jake Gardiner, like the man before him on this list, faced his fair share of controversy and criticism while playing in Toronto. Despite that, he remains as the all-decade selection at left defence. In the decade, he led all Toronto defenders in games played (551) and provided solid offence throughout. While his offensive numbers were eclipsed by counterpart Morgan Rielly, Gardiner’s growth as a player and endurance through tough moments make him an extremely memorable player.

After being drafted by the Anaheim Ducks but never playing for them, Gardiner began his NHL career in Toronto during the 2011-12 campaign. That year, he led rookie defensemen in points with 30 and finished sixth in Calder Trophy voting, signalling a bright future for the Leafs prospect. Gardiner’s offence was a constant all through the decade for Toronto, but the same can’t be said for his defence. His extreme lapses at key moments earned him plenty of criticism from Leafs fans, which may have sparked his free-agent departure to the Carolina Hurricanes.

However, his endurance through the jeers and critics made him a true Leaf. His play never truly suffered for it. Gardiner earns his spot on this list, although Rielly makes a strong argument.

Right Defence: Cody Franson

The Leafs have never had a true weapon on the right side defensively for a long time, so Cody Franson makes the cut over less offensively-inclined names like Roman Polak. Franson played 236 games this decade with the Leafs, tallying 20 goals and 95 assists for 115 points. His three-and-a-half season tenure was long compared to other right-hand shots the Leafs have had on defence this decade.

His best season in Toronto was undoubtedly the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, like Kadri. He tied for sixth in points among all NHL defensemen with 29. He also ended up with six points in the Leafs’ seven-game series against the Bruins. His mean streak also endeared him to fans throughout his tenure. The offensive weapon wasn’t afraid to lay the body down.

While not with the Leafs for long, he helped Toronto make their improbable playoff appearance in 2013. He served as a solid offensive weapon for a few seasons.

Goalie: Frederik Andersen

‘Freddie’ has become a common chant at Scotiabank Arena, and for good reason. Frederik Andersen is the best goaltender Toronto’s had in quite some time. He’s been a driving force behind the team’s recent turnaround. He leads Leafs goalies this decade in games played with 244, and he’s compiled a solid record of 136-66-33. His save percentage of .916 and a goals-against-average of 2.77 are also solid numbers.

Andersen’s four-year career in Toronto has been eventful. He’s started more than 65 games twice and has three 30-win seasons. His play has helped lead Toronto back to the status of a perennial playoff contender. That’s something the team hasn’t enjoyed since the early 2000s. He was also named an All-Star for the 2020 rendition of the game. His legacy is cemented as a great goalie for the Leafs.

Andersen’s played the longest and won the most for the Leafs this decade. This makes him a simple selection for the position.

Honourable Mentions

Tyler Bozak – The undrafted centre was one of Toronto’s most consistent players over the decade. He left as a free agent for the St. Louis Blues before the 2018-2019 campaign.

Morgan Rielly – The choice at left defence was tight between Gardiner and Rielly. Rielly leads all Leaf defenders this decade with 270 points and remains an integral part of the Leafs’ ‘D-‘core.

Dion Phaneuf – The former captain deserves a mention on this list, as Phaneuf ranks third in both games played (397) and points (186) behind Gardiner and Rielly for Leafs defencemen this decade.

James Reimer – Since the 2010-11 season, Reimer ranks second behind Andersen in almost every important goalie stat. Reimer became one of the Leafs’ more lovable players from his rookie season in 2010 up to his departure in 2016.

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