Oilers at Leafs, G68, 09-10

This is Jim Dorey. He was a wonderful player for the Leafs, a young man with a complete skill set. He could move the puck, block shots, hit like a jackhammer and fight all comers. Back in the early 70′s Toronto had a ton (seriously, an actual ton) of young blue trying to establish themselves but Dorey was the most fun to watch.

Dorey, Glennie, Ley, Pelyk, McKenny. Selwood. I could tell you a bunch of thing about them. Punch Imlach used to tell Dorey he was trying to carry the puck too much. It took him two years to throw out the advice and return to his strong suit, and shortly after that he left for the WHA.

Glennie was a good body checker, McKenny was in the 1971 movie Face Off and was once compared to Bobby Orr (as a junior). Rick Ley was small but tough, a big time hitter (played LD). Selwood may have had more actual talent than all of them (it is a stretch but he was good) but spent his peak seasons in the WHA. Pelyk was much-heralded and had a couple of good seasons but his career was generally considered a disappointment.

Which was the story of the early 1970′s Leafs team. Honestly, these were really good young players and the Leafs (actually Ballard) pissed them all away. They traded Dorey to the Rangers during the 1971-72 season but it was really just getting him out of town because the club felt they might lose him to the new league.

All that talent. In 1970-71, Ley & Selwood were 22-years old, Dorey & Pelyk were 23, McKenny and Glennie 24. The Leafs finished +22 at even strength (source: Hockey-reference.com) and would have rolled 5 defensemen a night (I’m almost certain this is true, please correct me if I’m wrong). So a good defenseman on that team would have finished +7 to +10 depending on his TOI. Here’s the list:

  1. Bob Baun +17
  2. Mike Pelyk +17 (paired with Baun)
  3. Jim McKenny +11
  4. Rick Ley +11
  5. Jim Dorey +6
  6. Ken Murray +1 (24gp)
  7. Brian Glennie -1
  8. Brad Selwood -7

Quality young defensemen with some experience and plenty of good years ahead. Pelyk stayed with the Leafs at the beginning of the WHA raids, not leaving until 1974 summer (two years after the raids began). McKenny stayed the whole time and proved to be an impressive offensive defenseman with some chaos defensively. Glennie also stayed, but Selwood, Ley & Dorey jumped as soon as the WHA opened its door for business.

It took the Leafs very little real time to recover (they were an impressive drafting team during this era and ventured overseas to help solve the issue) enough to contend; by 1973-74 they added Borje Salming and Ian Turnbull and were well on their way to recovery. I don’t think it is a massive stretch to suggest that the Leafs might have won a mid-70′s Stanley if they’d managed to keep Jim Dorey, Brad Selwood and the others. Not pissing off Keon may also have helped the cause.

The Oilers have a large group of blue trying to establish themselves in the NHL. The most promising of the group, Theo Peckham, has battled injury and conditioning issues this season but looks much improved since his latest recall. The most frustrating of the group, Taylor Chorney, hasn’t gotten a minus during the anthem but he’s getting closer. The new hope, Jeff Petry, may or may not leave college and join the pro ranks in the fall.

Johan Motin and Alex Plante are not ready for prime time players.

What this blueline badly needs is a more complete young player, a young Jim Dorey. Ryan Whitney, Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid will need more help than is available in the system at this time in order to contend and unless Jeff Petry is all that the Edmonton Oilers have some real issues on the blue now and into the future.

And you know, it was a strength not so very long ago. Too bad we don’t have Ballard and the WHA raids to blame.

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