This might be cheating my rule of playing a full season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but when one of the best defenseman of the 1990’s and 2000’s plays 15 games for the Leafs, you make certain exceptions.
Brian Leetch was acquired from the New York Rangers at the 2004 NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immonen, a first-round draft pick in 2004 (Lauri Korpikoski) and a second-round pick in 2005 (Michael Sauer).
In those 15 games, Leetch amassed 15 points (2 goals, 13 points). His production didn’t stop in the regular season as he had eight assists in 13 playoff games.
Even though his time in Toronto was very short, he enjoyed his time wearing the Blue & White. Prior to being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, he had this to say about Toronto.
I wasn’t in Toronto long, but it still meant a lot to me. I didn’t want to leave New York, but (after the trade) I had to play the next day. I came into (the ACC), saw the locker room, saw my sweater with my name on it … it was breathtaking.
After those 28 games as a Leaf, Leetch still had one year left on his contract. Unfortunately, the 2004-05 lockout erased that year. Leetch had this to say about missing out on a full season with the Leafs.
“I was looking forward to it, I had another year left on my contract, but the lockout came … so obviously it wasn’t meant to be.”
Leetch may not have been a Leaf for long, but for one of the best American hockey players ever, it doesn’t take that long to make an impact.