Saturday, August 14, 2010

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1995-96 Season

At the Amateur Draft the Leafs pick Jeff Ware 15th overall who never makes it to the NHL. The Leafs headed into the 1995-96 NHL regular season with high hopes considering the fact that the club reached the playoffs for the last three years. Pat Burns was the head coach until an eight game losing streak (and a miserable run of 3-16-3 over January and February) lead to his dismissal. General Manager Cliff Fletcher felt that Nick Beverley could get the job done for the rest of the season and named him interim coach. The team under Beverley went 9-6-2 and clinched a playoff spot on the final day of their regular season. However, they couldn't get by the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs.

That season also saw one of the worst trades in my memory of the Maple Leafs - the trade with the Islander that brought back Wendel Clark. I should tell you that I ignored the fact that the draft pick sent to the Islanders turned out to be Luongo. There is no guarantee that the Leafs would have picked him. Had the Leafs actually traded to Luongo to New York, then this trade would be much higher on the list. After trading Wendel Clark when his market value was at its peak (how often have the Leafs done that) they bring back the broken down winger two years later. The trade was only to appease the fans who fell in love with the hard working Clark. Leaf fans have always favoured rugged players over skilled players which is why Clark was so much more popular than Sundin. Meanwhile, while Haggerty was a bust and Hendrickson was back in Toronto the next season, Kenny Jonsson was a fixture in New York for a decade. He played 597 games for New York, recording 232 points, many of them in a time where quality Leafs blueliners were few and far between. Mathieu Schneider is the only reason this trade wasn't higher on this list. But he couldn't make up for the mediocre play of Clark.

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