Leaf of the Day - Dec 17, 2008 - Mats Sundin

Editor's Note: With a possible end in sight to the Mats Sundin Saga it looks like his card has come to the top of 1967ers' pile. I'll save the rest of the editorializing for when the announcement comes.

Dec 17, 2008 - Mats Sundin

Well, here we are again.

Another Leaf captain is about to wander off to another team under something less than ideal circumstances, continuing the trend that began with Keon.  The last captain to retire as captain was Ted Kennedy, who wanted to set a good example, so he did it twice.  Armstrong ceded the captaincy two years before finally calling it a career.

Now, to be fair, the Leafs have done a better job at mending fences of late, and Sittler, Gilmour and Clark were all brought back into the fold, the last two as players ending their careers.  Those were nice touches.  Even Keon came back.

Mats, I'm not so sure.  This one could be kind of ugly.

When Keon, Clark and Gilmour returned to Toronto for their first games with other teams, there were huge ovations.  Dave Keon potted a couple of goals and the place erupted.  I don't remember Sittler's return, though I can't imagine it was much different.

Mats could well be booed, though I hope he isn't.  Personally, I get that you can say you want to stay in a particular place, and then have things change later that make it impossible to return.  It doesn't mean that the original statement was false.  It was just true at the time, and is not so any longer.

I think people got a little greedy, too, with visions of the package that might have been had for him (we never got to find out what that might have been - the package for Kaberle was actually leaked, that was worse).  I think it's kind of callous to turn on a guy because he didn't want to leave town.  We tend to treat people like cattle.  He's an asset to be manipulated, rather than a person with an attachment to a place and a team and the contractual right to veto a move.  This isn't Vince Carter here, dogging his way out of town and crapping on folks on the way out.  The only thing Mats did was stick to his guns. 

Had it worked and the Leafs gone on the run he envisioned, he'd have been a hero.  As it turned out, there was the groin injury and the whole thing ended with a whimper.  There was no proper sendoff, no ovations, just a guy limping off the ice with a handful of games to go.  It's not the right way to end it.

The real kick-in-the-teeth teams are out of the picture, thankfully.  I have no real hate-on for the Rangers and Vancouver is kind of 'meh'.  I'm not convinced either will win a Cup with Mats and I'm not sure how a 38-year-old is going to perform having missed half the season, particularly since he's had groin/hip problems the past two years.  If he'd missed any more time, we'd be talking about him making a comeback, not just signing somewhere.

Funny that a number of players tried or made a comeback with the Rangers despite having no contact with them in their previous careers.  Lafleur, Geoffrion, Bobby Hull (it didn't work out), there's another who is escaping me.  And they complain about the Leafs being old.  Maybe it's only fair that the Rangers get Mats.  We got Brian Leetch and the Rangers have nothing to show for that deal, either.  We also got Conn Smythe from them, yet another story for another day.

My hope, in the end, is that when the time does come for #13 to be put in the rafters with the others, bygones will have become bygones and he'll get the cheers he's owed.  No more captains leaving on bad terms.  It's poor karma.

Good luck, Mats.  Go win something.



1987-88      Nacka HK Jr.      Swe-Jr.                                                       
1987-88     Sweden     EJC-A     6     5     4     9     8                        
1988-89     Nacka HK     Sweden-2     25     10     8     18     18                        
1988-89     Sweden     EJC-A     6     6     2     8     14                        
1989-90     Djurgardens IF Stockholm     Sweden     34     10     8     18     16         8     7     0     7     4
1989-90     Sweden     WJC-A     7     5     2     7     6                        
1989-90     Sweden     WEC-A     4     0     0     0     0                        
1990-91     Quebec Nordiques     NHL     80     23     36     59     58     -24                    
1990-91     Sweden     EJC-A     10     7     5     12     12                        
1991-92     Sweden     Can-Cup     6     2     4     6     16                        
1991-92     Quebec Nordiques     NHL     80     33     43     76     103     -19                    
1991-92     Sweden     WC-A     8     2     6     8     8                        
1992-93     Quebec Nordiques     NHL     80     47     67     114     96     +21     6     3     1     4     6
1993-94     Quebec Nordiques     NHL     84     32     53     85     60     +1                    
1993-94     Sweden     WC-A     8     5     9     14     4                        
1994-95     Djurgardens IF Stockholm     Sweden     12     7     2     9     14                        
1994-95     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     47     23     24     47     14     -5     7     5     4     9     4
1995-96     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     76     33     50     83     46     +8     6     3     1     4     4

1996-97     Sweden     W-Cup     4     4     3     7     4                        
1996-97     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     82     41     53     94     59     +6                    
1997-98     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     82     33     41     74     49     -3                    

1997-98     Sweden     Olympics     4     3     0     3     4                        
1997-98     Sweden     WC-A     10     5     6     11     6                        
1998-99     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     82     31     52     83     58     +22     17     8     8     16     16
1999-00     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     73     32     41     73     46     +16     12     3     5     8     10
2000-01     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     82     28     46     74     76     +15     11     6     7     13     14

2000-01     Sweden     WC-A     2     0     1     1     2                        
2001-02     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     82     41     39     80     94     +6     8     2     5     7     4
2001-02     Sweden     Olympics     4     5     4     9     10                        
2002-03     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     75     37     35     72     58     +1     7     1     3     4     6
2002-03     Sweden     WC-A     7     6     4     10     10                        
2003-04     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     81     31     44     75     52     +11     9     4     5     9     8
2004-05     Sweden     W-Cup     4     1     5     6     0     +1                    
2005-06     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     70     31     47     78     58     +7                    
2005-06     Sweden     Olympics     8     3     5     8     4                        
2006-07     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     75     27     49     76     62     -2                    
2007-08     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     74     32     46     78     76     +17                    

Leaf Totals     981    420    567    987    748    +99    77    32    38    70    66
NHL Totals     1305     555     766     1321     1065     +78    83     35     39     74     72

Swedish World All-Star Team (1991, 1992, 1994, 1997)
Canada Cup All-Star Team (1991)
WC-A All-Star Team (1992)
Named Best Forward at WC-A (1992)
World Cup All-Star Team (1996)
NHL Second All-Star Team (2002, 2004)
Played in NHL All-Star Game (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004)

- Traded to Toronto by Quebec with Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and Philadelphia's 1st round choice (previously acquired, later traded to Washington - Washington selected Nolan Baumgartner) in 1994 Entry Draft for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and Toronto's 1st round choice (Jeffrey Kealty) in 1994 Entry Draft, June 28, 1994.

the HHOF take on Mats:

Mats Sundin has gone on to become an ambassador for Swedish sport, unarguably one of the most popular Swedish sportsmen ever. But there was a time when Mats Sundin was banned from Swedish hockey. There was even a time when controversial Swedish Ice Hockey Association boss Rickard Fagerlund promised he'd see to it that Mats Sundin never again played in a blue and yellow jersey.

That was a decade and three World Championships ago. In 1991 in Helsinki, in 1992 in Prague and in 1998 in Zurich, Sundin led the proud Tre Kronor to gold medals in competition with the best the world could offer.

After winning the Swedish title with Djurgarden and competing successfully with Tre Kronor in the Bern World Championship, Sundin left for North America without further notice in the summer of 1990. At that point, he had become one of the all-time greats in Swedish hockey. Only two players besides Sundin have won three World Championships, Jonas Bergqvist of Leksand and the legendary Sven Tumba, a 1950s and 1960s star with Sundin's Djurgarden.

Mats Sundin and countryman Peter Forsberg are currently two of the dominant players on the world hockey stage. Since a very quick decision made when Sweden needed reinforcements for the 1991 championship team, Fagerlund has had no reason to regret his decision to let Sundin back into Swedish hockey. It was only a year earlier that the 19-year-old Sundin had "defected" from Djurgarden to try his luck with the Quebec Nordiques, the team that in 1989 chose Sundin as their first pick. Sundin became the first European ever to be chosen first overall in a draft.

Sundin left Sweden under a barrage of fire and slander from various hockey personalities. His decision was hard to fathom. But passions cooled and Mats Sundin was invited to return home in time to play with the national team in Ebo and Helsinki. Sundin was an instant smash hit when he single-handedly won the trophy for Sweden by scoring the most important goals of the tournament. He scored three goals in the game against archrival Finland (4-4) and then the decisive goal against Russia (2-1) in the finals. In all, he registered seven goals in the tournament.

He put in the same kind of performance in Prague in 1992. Accompanied by a team with 17 rookies among them Peter Forsberg, then a 17-year-old hockey wonderkind from MoDo Sundin played at his best. He scored a very important goal in the 2-0 game against Russia that propelled Sweden into the final game against Finland. Sweden won 5-2, securing its second World Championship trophy in two years.

And in Zurich in 1998 came the third trophy for Sundin, who was once again one of the most valuable players on the team.

After being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1994, the young Swede became a smashing success. In just one year he rose to stardom in a city well known for its taste for fine hockey and fighting spirit. He won the honor of being named the team's captain, the first foreign captain in the history of the Maple Leafs.

Since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1994, Sundin has enjoyed a number of accomplishments while leading the club in scoring for each year except one. In 2002-03, he became the first Swedish born player to reach 1,000 points at the NHL level, and as of 2006-07 he has more career goals, assists and points than any other Swedish born NHL player.

In international compeition, Sundin is recognized as being one of the elite players in the hockey world. He has represented his homeland at 14 international competitions, has one Olympic gold medal, and won gold in three World Championships. Sundin has held the position of team captain for the national squad for the better part of the last decade.


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