(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) Thanks to divisional realignment and the birth of the Pacific Division, the Toronto Marlies will be playing in the Eastern Conference for the first time since entering the AHL in 2005, but don’t expect it to have a major impact on how the Marlies fare this season. Instead, expect the biggest impact to be the continued improvement of Maple Leafs prospects such as Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic, Ryan Rupert and, should he not make the Toronto roster, William Nylander. The Marlies are going to benefit greatly from the current turnaround/rebuild period in Toronto. A number of fresh young faces are going to come through the AHL and with Mike Babcock at the helm for the Maple Leafs, expect development to be patient and cautious. The trade that sent Phil Kessel from Toronto to the Pittsburgh Penguins brought the Marlies two nice prospects in Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington, both of whom project to suit up in the middle of the lineup at their respective positions. In goal, expect 22-year-old Christopher Gibson to continue to improve. He posted a stellar .921 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average in his second season in the AHL. He could be a future goaltender for the big club, but he’s going to continue to work the kinks out with the Marlies.
Team History: The Marlies franchise history takes root in Moncton, N.B., where the Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks shared an affiliate in the New Brunswick Hawks. The AHL club played its first game in the 1978-79 campaign and the joint affiliation would make the Hawks one of the most formidable clubs in the league. By 1982, however, the Black Hawks were ready to move on from the affiliation in New Brunswick. In their final season in Moncton, the Hawks gave the fans quite a last hurrah, cruising through the first two rounds of the post-season and finishing the year as Calder Cup champions with a 4-1 series victory over the Binghamton Whalers. With Chicago out of the picture, the Maple Leafs chose to move the franchise closer to home. In time for the 1982-83 season, the St. Catharines Saints were born. The move wasn’t without some controversy, though, as the Buffalo Sabres attempted to block the move of the AHL franchise to St. Catherines, Ont. However, the threat of a $20 million lawsuit from Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard convinced the Sabres to allow the Saints to enter the market. In St. Catherines, the Saints didn’t reach near the heights the Maple Leafs affiliate had when in Moncton. After four seasons — two of which the Saints failed to make the post-season — the club was moved to Newmarket, Ont., where the struggles continued. Though they made the post-season in 1988-89, they finished just two games above .500. It was the only season of the five in Newmarket that the club finished with a winning record. By 1991, they were once again on the move, this time back to the Maritimes to become the St. John’s Maple Leafs in 1991. With a new crop of talent on its way to the AHL, the AHL’s Maple Leafs were an instant success in St. John’s, Nfld. In their very first season, the club made it deeper in the post-season than they had since the last time they played in the Maritimes as the Hawks. That first season, St. John’s made it all the way to the Calder Cup final before finally being stopped by the Adirondack Red Wings in seven games. The AHL’s Maple Leafs became a perennial playoff contender, failing to make the post-season in only three of their next 13 seasons. Unfortunately, however, the club was unable to make it out of the second round in any of their subsequent playoff appearances. By the end of the 2004-05 NHL lockout season, the Maple Leafs were ready to move on and shipped off to Toronto to become the Marlies. Over their first decade in the AHL, the Marlies have remained a rather successful club. The team has appeared in the Western Conference final in two of the past four seasons and made the Calder Cup final in 2011-12. The Calder Cup has eluded the franchise since their first victory in 1982, however. The franchise’s all-time leader in goals (177), assists (283) and points (460) is Bruce Boudreau, the coach of the Anaheim Ducks. Nathan Dempsey has played more games for the Maple Leafs’ affiliate than any other player in franchise history, spending a remarkable nine seasons with St. John’s and suiting up for 508 games.
Logo History: The famed Maple Leafs blue and white has been a common thread no matter where the affiliate has been, but the logos have gone from original to copycat and somewhere in between.
The New Brunswick Hawks logo was an attempt to turn the club’s name and word mark into the logo, but the attempt fell flat. The Hawks logo looks more like a chicken than a hawk, but points for using the hockey stick to make the bird’s eye. In St. Catharines and Newmarket, the Saints logo wasn’t much more than a simple cartoon friar inside an outlined Maple Leafs logo with a Saints wordmark. For the entirety of the nine years as the Saints, the logo remained largely the same, until the move to Newfoundland where the logo was phoned in with a simple change of the NHL Maple Leafs’ logo to read as the St. John’s Maple Leafs.
Current Logo: While other logos are pure copycats, what the Marlies have done by taking the Maple Leafs heritage and mixing it with original elements — the Marlies word mark and shield — makes for a unique logo that helps the club identify as its own entity and differentiates the farm club from the NHL team. The shield, with crossed sticks behind the curved Marlies word mark, also gives a nod to the Maple Leafs with the NHL club’s logo in white above the ‘R’. Kudos to the Marlies for also including a third shade of blue which Toronto’s NHL franchise has never used. That also helps set the logo apart from the Maple Leafs’.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)