With SB Nation Rivalry Weeks winding down we’ll now go over why we hate the Toronto Maple Leafs. You know, the franchise that let beat reporter Steve Simmons chase away one American superstar and is slowly working towards forcing another one out of town. Let’s talk about why we hate them!
I guess the reason for this one is obvious. Darcy Tucker will be remembered in Philadelphia for essentially trying to make Sami Kapanen a part of the boards back in the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals. As the Philadelphia Flyers were struggling in overtime of Game 6 in the series, Kapanen was at the right point trying to collect the puck following a wraparound when Tucker delivered this hit:
This ultimately led to Kapanen providing maybe one of the most resilient moments in franchise by eventually working his way back to the Flyers’ bench in a daze to set up Jeremy Roenick’s series-winning goal. It’s also the last time the Maple Leafs have been to the second round as they have fallen in love with losing in agonizing fashion to the same team the last few seasons while some fans have decided to blame it on the playoff system instead of a general manager who ah *checks notes* traded for Cody Ceci last year?
Back to Tucker, yeah he was a piece of work. He blew out Michael Peca’s knee in the 2002 playoffs and tried to rock Chris Neil on the Ottawa Senators’ bench back in 2003. He also dove a little. What made him more annoying than other pests back then was he could actually do some damage on the scoreboard, as he posted four 20-goal seasons while in Toronto. That’s something that can’t be said about the next guy.
Tie Domi sucked at hockey, but he made his name in the NHL because of his willingness to fight anybody at any time. Well...alright, maybe he wasn’t always willing to drop the gloves.
When he wasn’t running away from Luke Richardson Domi was busy fighting Flyers’ fans at the First Union Center.
These two incidents alone could serve as enough to hate Domi as a Flyers’ fan, but that’s not everything. He and Sandy McCarthy, who Domi fought seven times over his career, had a pretty good back-and-forth back in the 1999 playoffs. Domi also dropped the mitts with Donald Brashear seven times over their careers and got the best of the former Flyer in their bout during Game 2 of the 2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. On top of that he managed to score a pair of goals against the Orange and Black during the playoffs, as he scored in Toronto’s Game 1 win in 2003 and had the Leafs’ lone goal in a 2-1 loss in Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
The Tucker and Domi hate is in part thanks to the Flyers and Maple Leafs Eastern Conference Quarterfinals meeting in the 2003 postseason. Philly ultimately took the series in six games, but it took seven overtimes on the road for the Flyers to end the Leafs’ hopes in 2003.
After they dropped Game 1 5-3 at home, Philly beat Toronto 4-1 in Game 2 (which included that Brashear-Domi fight from above) to tie the series before the teams traveled to the Air Canada Centre. The clubs skated to a 3-3 tie through four periods until Tomas Kaberle concluded his 35:51 of ice time that night with the game-winner 7:20 into the second overtime.
The Flyers needed a response in Game 4 to avoid an elimination back home and provided exactly that, but Ed Belfour wasn’t going to give them a much-deserved win that easily. After Mats Sundin tied it early in the third period, the teams endured another war of attrition that ended with 6:06 remaining in the third overtime period thanks to Mark Recchi’s shot gliding over the goal line to even the series. Philly outshot Toronto 75-38 in the win, the most shots on goal for the Flyers in a single game ever.
Game 5 didn’t start off great as Aki Berg deposited his only NHL playoff goal 2:34 into the tilt, but the Flyers responded with four straight goals to push the Leafs to the brink of elimination. Since Game 6 was in Toronto the clubs kept doing the multiple-overtime thing as the Maple Leafs forced a Game 7 thanks to a Roman Cechmanek mishap in the first period and a Travis Green tally in double overtime. That’s the last moment the series was competitive, as the Flyers walked to the Eastern Conference Semifinals thanks to a 6-1 blowout in Game 7.
Although the series wasn’t notoriously violent, it was still a playoff series in 2003 that went seven games and nine games worth of periods. The Flyers won the series, but it’s not hard to start to hate a team after a series that close and to play them again in the playoffs a year later not to mention the clubs also met back in 1999. Recchi’s winner in Game 4 is one of five playoff games the Flyers have won in double overtime or later and the only other goal besides Keith Primeau’s five-overtime goal in 2000 to come in the third overtime period or later. On the flip side Kaberle and Green’s double-overtime strikes in Games 3 and 6 are two of the Flyers’ six double-overtime losses in franchise history (they have never lost a game that went past the second overtime). Considering the style of play back then and the players on Toronto it’s easy to think of this series when you need to remember why the Leafs are terrible.
Mikhail Grabovski ending Chris Pronger’s career
Even though he played in five games after the incident it was the follow-through of a Mikhail Grabovski shot that caught Chris Pronger in the eye in the Flyers’ 4-2 win over Toronto on October 24th, 2011.
The Hall of Famer suffered a damaging eye injury and a concussion on the play which ultimately led to his retirement, as he had lost a good amount of his peripheral vision. First and foremost, the injury is just tough to watch. Pronger is known as being one of the toughest players to ever lace them up and it was visible he was in severe pain exiting the ice. Watching it live you didn’t know exactly what the injury was at the moment, but you knew it could be career threatening.
Secondly the absence of Pronger on the blue line led to some terrible trades. In February of that season former general manager Paul Holmgren acquired Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossmann in a pair of trades while giving away Jon Kalinski and four draft picks. Then on June 23rd Holmgren made the infamous 1-for-1 of James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn. Those are three terrible defensemen the Flyers brought in to Philly to help replace Pronger’s physicality on the blue line but all it did was export skill and assets while devaluing the defense. Also, as Kurt pointed out back in May, Pronger’s injury really did change the timeline of the franchise.
JVR for Schenn
Speaking of those trades for d-men after Pronger’s eye injury, the most embarrassing one was JVR for Schenn. Even though JVR has since returned to the Flyers the trade at the time felt like a loss for Philly and it turned out to be worse than expected. JVR posted a pair of 30-goal seasons and a pair of 25-goal seasons in his six campaigns with the Leafs while Schenn was essentially a pilon for the Flyers. Philadelphia has made some painful roster decisions over the years, but this was one of the worst ones in recent history.