The Athletic’s ever-proliferate Down Goes Brown, a.k.a. Sean McIndoe, paid tribute to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ signing of Hockey Hall of Famer-to-be Joe Thornton by examining the “10 other times the Maple Leafs signed a veteran Hall of Famer.” Usually, I’d avoid this Leafs-related story like the plague, but there was one time that the Maple Leafs signed a HOF’er-in-the-making, it worked out horribly for them, and they literally gave away an integral part of two Red Wings Stanley Cups as a result:
Level 2: The whipping boy
The player: Larry Murphy
The transaction: Cliff Fletcher acquired the 34-year-old blueliner from the Penguins in 1995, hoping a player who’d had three top-five Norris finishes in the last four years could spark the Leafs’ fading offense.
The outcome: For reasons nobody is quite clear on to this day, Toronto fans never took to Murphy. He was never a bruiser, and he certainly had his share of shoddy defensive moments. But he also racked up 61 points in his only full season in Toronto, which made it strange to see him all but booed out of town. The Leafs shipped him to Detroit midway through the 1996-97 season for literally nothing at all, then watched him help the Red Wings to two Cups.
Luckily, there’s no way this market would glitch out and turn on somebody as universally beloved as Joe Thornton, right? (Laughs nervously while imagining Toronto Sun headlines saying stuff like “Dumbo Joe.”) No, of course not, let’s move on.
Continued; I will always be grateful for the fact that the Wings grabbed “Murph” for future considerations, that he helped Nicklas Lidstrom become truly elite along the way toward earning those two Stanley Cup titles, that he made his post-hockey home here, and that Fox Sports Detroit employs the affably awkward broadcaster (for the second time). Murph is the gift that keeps on giving.