The Last Time the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Have Won the Stanley Cup

INGLEWOOD, CA - MAY 28: Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Los Angeles Kings with a slap shot on game 6 of the on MAY 28, 1993 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. (Photo By Bernstein Associates/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CA - MAY 28: Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Los Angeles Kings with a slap shot on game 6 of the on MAY 28, 1993 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. (Photo By Bernstein Associates/Getty Images) /

Every fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs throughout the 1990s remembers the missed call.

Having the 1993 Stanley Cup Final be that close only to then so quickly slip away from them, has haunted the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans ever since.

It was Game 6 of the 1993 Western Conference Finals, between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Los Angeles Kings. The Maple Leafs were leading the best-of-7 series 3-2 at the time.

The game was tied 4-4 through three periods of play, so extra time was needed to determine a winner. With this victory, Toronto would be off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1967.

Setting the Stage

Overtime was underway. The Kings were on the attack in Toronto’s zone, when the puck found its way to Wayne Gretzky, who took a slapshot from just inside the faceoff circle to the left of Felix Potvin.

Gretzky’s stick then carelessly hit Doug Gilmour in the face, causing a bloody cut. In other words, it was a high-sticking penalty and should have been considered a major which would have resulted in Gretzky being kicked out for the rest of the game.

After referee Kerry Fraser prompted a short conversation between on-ice officials, they deemed there would be no penalty and play resumed.

But, to anyone who watches the replay, it’s clear that this was a miss.

Even Fraser now admits that, as he did in this interview about the infamous non-call:

"After the game, the NHL’s director of officiating Brian Lewis came into the referee’s room and said, “Good job tonight, guys.” We really thought we got it right. There weren’t all the slow-motion cameras like they have today. It wasn’t until the next day that I saw another angle of the play on television. You could clearly see Gretzky high-sticking Gilmour.It was missed. Period."

Not only was the non-call in favour of the world’s biggest hockey superstar, but Gretzky also scored the game-winner seconds later to send this series to Game 7.

Toronto never saw another lead throughout that post-season, as Los Angeles went on to win the deciding game by a score of 5-4. After which, they made their way to the championship round where they met the Montreal Canadiens.

The Kings barely posed a challenge from that point forward, as the Canadiens only needed five games to win the series 4-1 and capture the 1993 Stanley Cup.

If Toronto Moved On Instead

The 1992-93 Toronto Maple Leafs finished the season with a record of 44-29-11 and 99 points. By comparison, the Montreal Canadiens earned 102 points after going 48-30-6 that year.

Although they had similar seasons, Montreal was dominating every opponent they faced throughout those playoffs as they had only lost a total of three games through their first three rounds. They quickly became Cup favourites.

However, that Maple Leafs team swept its season series with four franchises that year. And the Montreal Canadiens were one of them.

Toronto achieved a 2-0-0 record, accumulating nine goals for and four goals against. Although a small sample size, the Maple Leafs would have had the versus edge from their success throughout those games heading into a series against Montreal.

They were a focused team on an attainable mission that year. Had they won Game 6 of the Conference Finals, the Maple Leafs would have already played 20 games that post-season.

Despite the smooth path Montreal had paved for themselves towards the Cup that year, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to predict that a battle-tested Toronto team would win it all against their biggest rivals and with the Stanley Cup on the line.

One Play Can Make a Difference

It’s generally unjustifiable to conclude that a single call can dictate an entire game, let alone the fate of a team’s success throughout that campaign. Typically, it takes a multitude of plays to all collectively contribute to the outcome.

Yet, sometimes timing is everything. This miss occurred during a potentially series-ending overtime. It meant more in that instance than similar failed calls, throughout the various points of any other game, would have.

Not calling that penalty did directly contribute to deciding this specific game, since the player that should have been in the dressing room because of it ended up scoring the winner.

If Kerry Fraiser made the right call that night, Toronto would have gone on and challenged the Canadiens for the 1993 Stanley Cup. And all signs point to the fact that the Maple Leafs were serious contenders.

Toronto hadn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967, so if they captured it in 1993 that would have been their first in 26 years. Instead, their drought is now currently 52 years and the longest in the league.

Next. 2020 is Hardest Stanley Cup for Toronto to Win. dark

As the Toronto Maple Leafs begin to prepare for their play-in series, to see if they will even have a spot in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, only time will tell if that streak will continue or if they can start a new one this year instead.