Adding truculence to the lineup was a thing that enamoured executives of the Toronto Maple Leafs long before Brian Burke infamously popularized the term in Toronto. The worst example of swapping skill for muscle in franchise history came back in the late-1980s.
As the Leafs slipped into the Harold Ballard-led purgatory days in the early 80s, they were frequently landing picks towards the top of the NHL entry draft each summer. One of those picks was used on a speedy winger from British Columbia named Russ Courtnall, who the Leafs grabbed with the seventh-overall pick in 1983.
After using three-consecutive top picks on defencemen (Gary Nyland in 1983, Jim Benning in 1982, and Craig Muni in 1981), the Leafs needed an influx of high-end talent up front, so they went with Courtnall. He was coming off of a season in which he posted 97 points in 60 games for the Victoria Cougars of the WHL and appeared to be close to NHL ready.
The following season, Courtnall posted 66 points in 32 games for the Cougars, 13 points in seven games for Canada at the World Juniors, and 12 points in 14 games for the Leafs. Courtnall quickly established himself as a quality offensive talent, breaking the 20-goal …
Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation