Toronto Maple Leafs First Round Draft History 1976-1980
By the middle of the 1970s, the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the upswing. After winning the Cup in the spring of 1967, they missed the playoffs 3 times, and were eliminated in the Quarterfinals 4 times. In fact, from 1967-1974, the Leafs won only 3 playoff games. But, building through the draft, the Leafs started in the 1973-74 season on a run of 8 straight playoff appearances. Change in the playoff format with the addition of a preliminary round set the stage for playoff successes also.
1976 – #12 Selection (Peter Lee RW) traded to MTL in exchange for Wayne Thomas G, June 1975
The Maple Leafs had issues in the early 1970s solidifying their goaltending. Trades and contract issues had seen a revolving cast of netminders, including Bruce Gamble, Jacques Plante, Bernie Parent, Gord McRae, Ron Low, Pierre Hamel, Doug Favell, Ed Johnston, Murray McLachlan, Dunc Wilson. The Leafs took a chance, trading their 1976 first draft choice to acquire Wayne Thomas who had filled in when Ken Dryden had left the Habs during a contract dispute. Thomas played 64 games in ’75-76, going 28-24-12 with a 3.19 GAA and 2 shutouts. With the draft pick, Montreal selected Peter Lee, a high-scoring wing from Ottawa of the OMJHL. Lee was traded to Pittsburgh in a deal that sent Pete Mahovlich to the Habs. Verdict: Peter Lee scored over 200 goals as a junior, but would not score more than 120 in 431 NHL games. In the second round the Leafs took Randy Carlyle. Drafted between Lee and Carlyle were Greg Malone, Brian Sutter and Reed Larson all who’d play more than 700 NHL games. Wayne Thomas struggled the following season, going 10-13-6 with a 3.86 GAA, as Mike Palmateer emerged as the top goalie. Thomas was waived and the Rangers took him, where he played another 94 games before retiring in 1981.
1977 – #11 John Anderson RW
1977 – #12 Selection (Trevor Johansen D), plus Blaine Stoughton F acquired from PIT in exchange for Rick Kehoe F, September 13, 1974
With their first selection the Leafs added a key piece to the lineup in John Anderson. Playing with linemates such as Tiger Williams, Rick Vaive and Laurie Boschman, Anderson got into 534 Leaf games and posted 4 consecutive 30+ goal seasons. Trading Kehoe, the Leafs got not only Blaine Stoughton but also chose Trevor Johansen. Johansen was thrown right in, playing 79 games on the blueline in the 1977-78 season. He’d play 40 games the following season before being traded. In 1982, he was claimed by the Leafs from Los Angeles and played 13 more Leaf contests. Verdict: This draft has to be scored something of a split decision. John Anderson was a key forward for the Maple Leafs in the early 1980s. He was traded for Brad Maxwell, a defenceman who would only play 58 Leaf games before being traded for Vancouver’s 5th round pick in 1988 (Len Esau). Esau would in turn be traded for Ken McRae, a centre who would only play 11 games as a Leaf. Blaine Stoughton played parts of 2 seasons with Toronto, but jumped to the WHA. He would return to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers and have 2 40-goal and 2 50-goal seasons. Johansen played under 300 NHL games, and was never a top defenceman. He was sent with Don Ashby to Colorado for Paul Gardner. Gardner played 56 Leaf games, with 33 points. He was sent to Pittsburgh for Kim Davis and Paul Marshall, who together played 25 Leafs games. Gardner would have 3 consecutive 30 goal seasons with Pittsburgh. To make matters worse, the Leafs did not use either pick to select a young skater from Laval, Mike Bossy, selected 3 spots after Johansen. Had the Leafs taken Anderson and Bossy, NHL history would have been completely different.
1978 – #12 Selection (Brent Peterson C), plus #31 Selection (Al Jensen G), plus #11 Selection (Mike Blaisdell RW) in 1980 Draft, plus Errol Thompson LW traded to DET in exchange for Dan Maloney LW, plus #25 Selection (Craig Muni D) in 1980 Draft March 13, 1978
The handling of the 1978 draft might be the way the reputation for poor drafting by the Leafs got started. Player for player (Thompson for Maloney), it was fairly even. Thompson would have a 34-goal season with Detroit, while Maloney would score 65 goals, 84 assists and have over 400 penalty minutes for Toronto before retiring in 1982 and becoming the Leafs’ head coach. However, the Leafs also threw in 3 draft picks, including 2 first rounders, in return for 1 second round choice. Verdict: None of the players drafted became stars in the NHL. Except for a 55 point season by Blaisdell, Detroit really did not benefit from the players they drafted. That said, Brent Peterson played over 600 NHL games. Jensen had a 95-53-18 record in the NHL with 8 shutouts, mostly for the Capitals. We’ll discuss Blaisdell and Muni in the 1980 draft. After Peterson was drafted, Steve Tambellini, Al Secord and Dave Hunter were drafted before the Leafs took Joel Quenneville with a pick they received when St Louis signed Rod Seiling as a free agent.
1979 – #9 Laurie Boschman C
The Amateur Draft became the Entry Draft. The folding of the WHA caused some issues regarding player eligibility, as some players were pros having played for the WHA. The Leafs chose to draft a tough forward from Brandon, Laurie Boschman, who’d had 200+ PIM twice in the WHL. In 187 Leaf games, he’d score 39 goals and 109 points. He’d be sent to Edmonton for Walt Poddubny and Phil Drouillard. Verdict: An extremely deep draft, there were many players the Leafs could have chosen that may have been better. Their second round pick traded, Leafs did not select until #51, missing out on Messier, Carbonneau, Lindbergh, Ruff, Goulet… a number of players. Still, Boschman was a good, tough forward, played over 1000 NHL games, and had over 2200 penalty minutes. A bout of mono had sidelined him in his brief Leaf career. He was rushed back early, causing Harold Ballard to question his work ethics, precipitating the trade. Drouillard played no NHL games. Poddubny began well as a Leaf, but injuries hit. Management labelled him a floater, shipping him to the Rangers (and a couple 85+ point seasons) for Mike Allison. Leafs would get 86 games and 26 points from Allison before sending him to LA for Sean McKenna, who would contribute only 48 games to Leaf history.
1980 – #11 Selection (Mike Blaisdell RW), plus #31 Selection (Al Jensen G) in 1978 draft, plus #12 Selection (Brent Peterson C) in 1978 Draft, plus Errol Thompson LW traded to DET in exchange for Dan Maloney LW, plus #25 Selection (Craig Muni D) in 1980 Draft March 13, 1978
The trade made for Dan Maloney, partly covered in 1978, would affect the Leafs 1980 draft. Detroit used the pick to take Mike Blaisdell. Blaisdell had a 55 point and a 41 point season with Detroit, but would only have 58 points over 7 more seasons, including 27 games over 2 seasons with the Leafs from 1987-89. The Leafs ended up with the 25 and 26 selections in the 1980 draft, taking Craig Muni and Bob McGill. Verdict: Muni played only 19 Leaf games posting 2 assists before leaving via free agency. He played another 800 NHL games. McGill played 298 Leaf games as a hard-rock defenceman, before being included in the trade that sent Vaive and Thomas to Chicago for Olczyk and Secord. He would return for 19 games in 1992.
It is well documented that the Maple Leaf franchise suffered during the Ballard era. By the end of the 1979-80 season, the Leafs could have consisted of 3 top lines of Sittler-McDonald-Kehoe, Boschman-Anderson-Thompson and Boutette-Ferguson-Williams, with a blueline including Salming, Turnbull, Quenneville and Carlyle, with an up and oming Mike Palmateer in net. Instead, many of these players were sent away before they reached their peak, and brought little in return. As the Leafs sank in the standings, the franchise would, in spite of Ballard, rebuild over the next decade.