As reported by TSN: "The Toronto Maple Leafs will honour former captains Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour by raising their numbers to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre this season."
Both were great players without a doubt and both were classy guys as well. However, neither brought a championship to the Leafs, the ultimate model of greatness in any league. If these players are recognized as benchmarks for greatness in the Leaf's organization, then it is obvious a Cup is not their measure for success, which explains a lot. It's no secret that the Maple Leafs have crossed the 40 year mark without a championship and decisions like this accept the reality of an organization that annually ends the season with disappointment.
Gilmour and Clark were wonderful hockey players and class acts all the way but their achievements with the Maple Leafs really don't spell greatness. Gilmour won a Cup with Calgary not Toronto and that will be his legacy. After all is said and done that Cup, without a doubt, will be his most cherished memory in hockey, not what he did with the Maple Leafs.
In my opinion, the honoring of these two players is simply a marketing ploy by MLSE to keep Leaf fans talking Leafs. The debates will rage on about who was the better captain. The memories will flow about runs to the Semi-finals. That last sentence is what seems wrong to me. Teams with winning histories don’t honour mediocrity. Can you imagine the Montreal Canadiens retiring the number of a player who never won a Cup? It just won’t happen. There are great players who played with the Habs who have multiple rings and haven’t been honoured in this way. Greatness is truly great in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s true it has been 15 years since there was a parade down St. Catherines but it is safe to say you won’t see a retired number from this era.
Winning cultures start from the top. MLSE is telling their fans this is the best we have to offer and this is about the best we expect going forward. It’s decisions like these that will forever keep the Toronto Maple Leafs an average hockey team. There will be better and worse seasons. However, a parade down Yonge Street with a big silver trophy will remain a pipe dream of Leaf fans for years to come.