There hasn’t been a Toronto Maple Leafs player reach the 50-goal plateau since before Auston Matthews was born, but the star forward is on the verge of doing so after scoring his 46th of the season last week in San Jose.
Matthews has only had goalless streaks of three games or more three times this season, so barring an unexpected cold streak or him missing an extended period of time *Leafs fans furiously knocking on wood*, it should only be a matter of time before he gets to 50 for the first time in his career.
John Tavares netted 47 one year ago in his first season with the blue and white, which was the highest total for a Maple Leafs player in a quarter century, and best showing from a Leaf in the salary cap era, yet he fell three short of 50.
Despite the franchise’s storied history, there have been a dearth of 50-goal scorers in Toronto.
Matthews is well ahead of Tavares’s pace with plenty of time remaining in the regular season – in fact he’s currently on pace to set a new franchise record – so we thought it would be worth looking at the five previous times a Maple Leafs player hit the coveted half-century mark.
In chronological order…
Rick Vaive scored 54 in 1981-82
The previous record for a Maple Leafs player was held for two decades by Frank Mahovlich who scored 48 in 70 games in 1960-61. Darryl Sittler had four 40-goal campaigns during his time in Toronto and Lanny McDonald did it thrice, but Vaive took the baton, so to speak, from those two Leafs legends in the early 1980s and in his second full season with the Buds became the team’s first player to reach 50. Vaive’s 54 goals that year was good for fifth place in the league. The franchise record he set was one of the only bright spots for the team that year as they finished a disappointing 20-44-16 and missed that playoffs.
Rick Vaive scored 51 in 1982-83
Vaive proved he wasn’t going to be a one-season wonder, following up his franchise record season by notching 51 which was good for seventh in the NHL that year. Vaive had 79 points in 78 games to finish second on the team behind John Anderson who was a point-per-game player through 80 games. The team fared slightly better than the year prior, finishing 28-40-12 and qualifying for the playoffs before being quickly eliminated by the Minnesota North Stars.
Rick Vaive scored 52 in 1983-84
While he couldn’t quite match the 54 he scored two years prior, Vaive finished with a career-high 93 points despite his team missing the playoffs once again. Vaive’s goal-scoring prowess flew slightly under the radar in large part due to the fact the Leafs were a non-factor in terms of being a contender.
Vaive’s three consecutive years with 50-plus goals was the pinnacle of his 13-season NHL career. In fact, only two players scored more goals than Vaive during that stretch between 1981-1984. Vaive had 157 goals in 231 games, while Mike Bossy potted 175 in 226 games and an early-20s Wayne Gretzky scored an absurd 250 in 234 outings, including his NHL record 92-goal season in 1981-82.
Gary Leeman scored 51 in 1989-90
Leeman was coming off back-to-back 30-goal seasons, including scoring 32 in 61 games in 1988-89 before his first and only 50-goal triumph. Leeman was one of eight players to bury more than 50 that year, falling 21 goals behind Brett Hull’s league-leading 72. The Maple Leafs were a 38-38-4 team that season and got the boot in five playoff games against St. Louis. Leeman only managed to score 47 total goals in the final 208 games of his career after his 51-goal campaign.
Dave Andreychuk scored 53 in 1993-94
Andreychuk, whose 640 career goals currently ranks 15th all-time, gelled with his teammates in Toronto from the moment he was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in 1992-93. Andreychuk scored 25 goals in his first 31 games in Toronto before potting 53 in his first full season with the Leafs. Andreychuk was frequently the beneficiary of Doug Gilmour’s setups. Gilmour was coming off a Selke Trophy-winning season and finished 1993-94 with 84 assists, second only to Gretzky’s 92. Wendel Clark also had an impressive campaign alongside Andreychuk and Gilmour, registering 46 goals in just 64 games. As they did in 1992-93, the Maple Leafs advanced to the Conference finals but fell short of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.