Monday, July 21, 2008

Waiting for Sundin


Tragicomedy's probably a good name for this one.

Fans in Vancouver are either pulling their hair or crying their eyes out. In Toronto, it's a real mixed bag of emotion, while the Habs are rather Zen about the whole thing.

Everywhere else, there are chuckles all around.

I haven't covered the Mats Sundin saga at all this summer because there honestly hasn't been a whole lot to say. On July 1, he was the best free agent available, and any team he signs with is going to benefit considerably, but at this point, we're just reading tea leaves.

And they're getting mouldy.

Three weeks ago, I would have guessed Sundin's most likely course of action would be to return to the Maple Leafs or retire — but neither of those options seem realistic at this point. Toronto's shown very little interest in bringing the captain back, and with only around $6-million available under the cap (and the team having no desire to give him another no-trade clause), the fit simply isn't there.

Retirement? With $20-million on the table and the chance to lead Sweden at the Olympics a year and a half from now?

Besides, does a star athlete ever "weigh his options" for a few months and not return? Have we seen a future Hall of Famer call it quits in August after four months of soul searching?

Sundin showed last season that he has plenty left in the tank, and he's desperately wanted by the undermanned Canucks. While I still believe his preference would be to play in Toronto where he's comfortable, I can also see Sundin choosing Vancouver over Montreal simply because he won't have to face his former team multiple times a year.

After 14 years as a Leaf, the last thing he wants is to be booed by the blue and white faithful a handful of times a year.

All in all, it's a bizarre story — much more so than when Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne took a breather last season and came back. Those two had both racked up a ton of miles over a long Stanley Cup run, playing into June and facing the prospect of training camp starting two months later.

Sundin? It's been 114 days since he stepped foot on an NHL ice surface, and we still don't have a clue what he'll do.

I'm not sure he does either.



UPDATE Sundin speaks to the Swedish press.
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29 Comments:

At 2:07 AM, July 21, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

The Habs, on paper, offer him his best shot at winning a Cup. I'm sure that's been part of his consideration. I'm not as quick to dismiss Vancouver's chances over the next two years as others have been, but it definitely doesn't seem as good of a move hockey wise for him to choose them. That being said, Vancouver is offering $2.5m more per year than the rumoured Montreal deal, which is a lot of money to walk away from. And from the way I look at it, Vancouver has a very good chance at winning the Northeast with Sundin centring their 1A line with Demitra on his wing and the Sedins being on line 1B.

If he wants to return to Toronto, that's fine. If he wants to win and make a more than fair wage, then it's Montreal. If he wants to cash in and go for a harder road to glory, then it's Vancouver. It's a choice of personal comfort, a better shot at glory, or money.

They're 3 fine choices. He can't really make a wrong one... although returning to the Leafs would be probably the worst of the 3 playing options. But it'd be better than retirement... retiring while leaving so much still on the table would be the ultimate cop-out.

 
At 2:10 AM, July 21, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Also... Ryan Smyth signed with Colorado. Why would Mats signing with Montreal be so hard on him personally to face Toronto 6 times a year? The Montreal-Toronto rivalry really hasn't been all that intense recently at all. If we were talking Mats jumping ship to Ottawa, I'd understand it a bit. Even Philly. But Montreal? That just seems like a lame argument.

 
At 7:28 AM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mats gave an inteview in today's Aftonbladet in Sweden.

-He has not decided about playing or retiring but he will make that decision soon. Maybe by the end of this month or early August. He said that he wants to play a full season from training camp on if he is going to play.

-Mats also said that Vancouver's offer was great and he couldn't believe that anybody was willing to offer a two-year deal at his age.

He was asked if Vancouver 2010 Olympics would factor in when he makes his decision but Mats said that Olympics are too far ahead.

He is not certain that he will play for national team again. Yet, he said also "never say never".

-When asked if money was a factor Mats said that when you're a professional player salary is always a factor but if it was the only factor he would have signed with Vancouver immediately.

-Mats has been taking it easy. Enjoying Swedish summer in his cottage on island outside of Stockholm but he also went fishing in northern Sweden.

-And for Steve Simmons couple of scoops: He has had some minor problems with his hip, shoulder and knee...

After reading that Q & A you have to think that he is returning for sure. There's been some stories in other Swedish fishwraps that he has already made his decision about playing and his new team but I quess we'll hear soon.

Vancouver it is!

 
At 7:43 AM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the link for Sundin story in Aftonbladet:

http://www.aftonbladet.se/sportbladet/hockey/nhl/article2940655.ab

 
At 9:01 AM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Conrad said...

If we learned anything from Forsberg last year it's that the media will continue to run "where will he go?" stories all the way up to this season's deadline. With Sundin, given he's a Leaf, you can multiply those stories and their accompanying hyperbole by a thousand. For that reason alone I hope he decides one way or another. I'm already tired of this non-story.

As for Vancouver, who knows what they're thinking? Sundin's an improvement over Naslund, but not at $6 million more than Naslund is making -- not even at $4 million more if they had re-signed Naslund at his old salary. Sundin's a great player, but has never won anything either. I can't imagine why he'd want the pressure of being the highest paid player in the league on a team depending on him for all of their offense. (Well, I can imagine ten million reasons, but none that don't have to do with Sundin wanting to buy a new house.)

If I were him I'd go to Detroit for $1M, win a cup, go out on a high note.

 
At 10:17 AM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's never won anything? How about Swedish Championship, few World Championships and one lousy Olympic Gold few years back.

Everybody in European side of this debate think Sundin is better leader than Forsberg. And Lidström.

I don't think it's Sundin's fault that he didn't have a chance to play with Gretzky, Kurri etc. or Sakic, Roy and Bourque.

Sundin's nickname is Sudden and you'll find out how it came about if just look at NHL stats a little bit closer.

It's almost sad how Canadian hockey fans fall over themselves when it's Wendel or Iggy or whatever. Who cares if they have won cups or not because they're true leaders.

And for crying out loud don't you dare wait to make up your mind! Media is going to write and talk about it so much that it's your responsibility stop it when we want.

You should go, you should stay, you should retire... because we said so! Shame on you for keeping us waiting. Loser.

 
At 10:29 AM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Under no circumstances would Toronto fans boo Mats Sundin if he were to play against the Leafs in Toronto for another team. Well, unless he signs with Ottawa.

 
At 10:44 AM, July 21, 2008, Blogger general borschevsky said...

I can also see Sundin choosing Vancouver over Montreal simply because he won't have to face his former team multiple times a year

If Sundin goes to Montreal, I would call that a very brave and bold decision, that will take a fair amount of guts to follow through on. Chasing the Cup shows heart and courage.
If, however, he decides on Vancouver over the Habs, either for the money, or based on the reasoning above, then I call that move gutless, dishonarable, and cowardly.

 
At 11:01 AM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Conrad said...

So, anonymous, at the same time as you say it's not his fault that he never played on a good enough team to win a Cup, you congratulate him for winning a Gold with the Swedish national team. Who were pretty good, if I remember right.

Look, Sundin's amazing. No one is debating that. His leadership and his skill make him a player anyone would want on his team. I was just saying that paying him $6 million more than your departed captain doesn't make a lot of sense. I would rather have Naslund back at $4M and spend that $6M savings on a number of depth forwards than have almost a fifth of the cap tied up in one player.

 
At 11:34 AM, July 21, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

I can also see Sundin choosing Vancouver over Montreal simply because he won't have to face his former team multiple times a year

Technically, Vancouver plays Toronto twice.

 
At 11:49 AM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conrad, you proved my point exactly. He's won something and he had good players with him when he won.

Winning goal: Lidstöm (Forsberg, Sundin)

Maple Leaves: Pokahonska, Hoglund, Kilger, Antropopov...

Roger out.

 
At 1:27 PM, July 21, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

I'd rather have Sundin on my team for $10M than Naslund for free. Naslund is a player who used to be able to score and was never able to play defence. All you're getting for $4M is the hope that he'll rediscover his scoring touch.

 
At 1:39 PM, July 21, 2008, Blogger Sean Zandberg said...

"If, however, he decides on Vancouver over the Habs, either for the money, or based on the reasoning above, then I call that move gutless, dishonarable, and cowardly."

Oh please! Stop underestimating the Canucks. They continually get blasted by some people yet I forget how they have got any worse this summer, especially after shedding themselves of that boob Naslund.
Sundin is a perfect fit in Vancouver for more than just money. He'd be a captain of a team that actually can make some noise this year.

 
At 1:41 PM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comparing Sundin and Naslund is pretty much the same thing as comparing Messier and Anderson.

There is just that difference. Naslund was great goal scorer for some years but Sundin is top player year after year.

Big, strong and center. Automatic Hall-of-Famer.

Here's hoping that he would end up playing for Leafs.

 
At 2:14 PM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I choose "other."

He will go the Garth Snow route and be the new Toronto GM. :)

 
At 3:30 PM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Godd Till said...

James, I think you're off the mark in your assessment of Toronto's cap situation. One of Kubina or McCabe is still likely to be dealt for picks/prospects, which would give the Leafs the room to sign Mats.

Whether he wants to is of course another matter entirely

 
At 3:50 PM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Rod said...

Avoiding the Habs because of Toronto fan reaction is way overblown in my opinion. Montreal plays only three times in ACC. Big deal. Even if the fans boo--and I doubt it--that's a tiny portion of the schedule. Then there's the schedule itself. Two of the Habs visits are done by Nov. 8th. After that, the Canucks and Habs both have one game in TO. Not a huge difference.

OK, technically there's the playoffs too...but we're talking about the Leafs right?

If I had to guess where Sundin's going, it's Montreal. Better chances of winning than Vancouver simply because Montreal is a virtual lock for the post-season (while the Canucks are question mark at best). Plus, there's travel. Sundin's never played in the Western Conference, and he's going to switch now? Doubt it.

 
At 4:11 PM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous PPP said...

Montreal is a virtual lock for the post-season

Good to see the Gallic arrogance back in full bloom after one good season.

Remember that last year they were virtual locks to miss the playoffs before the season started...

 
At 4:30 PM, July 21, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Remember that last year they were virtual locks to miss the playoffs before the season started...

Wait, what? How is that relevant? Last year, they were an unknown quantity, and everyone decided sight unseen they were shit. Now they're a known quantity. I don't think the two situations are at all comparable.

 
At 4:32 PM, July 21, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Avoiding the Habs because of Toronto fan reaction is way overblown in my opinion. Montreal plays only three times in ACC. Big deal.

In my opinion, it matters to Sundin. That's just a guess, a reading of the tea leaves, but I don't know that he wants to be in the same conference and division as Toronto if he has to play for another team.

 
At 5:11 PM, July 21, 2008, Blogger pierre said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 6:41 PM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well as I leaf fan I feel I must put some input into this. First of all I agree with Saskhab, Montreal does offer him the best chance at the cup. Unless He signs in Detroit for next to nothing(this won't happen). But something tells me that Montreal is the longshot of the three main teams. And why that is, is simply cause he could have chose to play there last year and did'nt he could have signed before July 1st but didn't. But I guess the same could be said about Vancouver although I think Cliff would have wanted him to go to Montreal(Remember Cliff did come in with Montreal and I have a feeling that he still cheers for them and the Leafs of course). I really think Vancouver would become very dangerous with the big swede up front. As for Toronto well they will still struggle to make the playoffs at best even with him in the line-up(it hasn't mattered the last 3 seasons). All is I can say is that I will cheer for him no matter where he is. He's a class act and one of the greatest Leafs of all-time and in 10 years time it will be the Number 13 we are honouring at the ACC.

Oh yeah and James just to correct you about one thing Cliff has said he would offer him a no-trade clause.

 
At 6:54 PM, July 21, 2008, Anonymous scott said...

At this point Sundin is worth ten million to the Canucks simply because Gillis needs to look like he's doing something to improve the team. Not sure what depth forwards are left but
Gillis desperately needs to put his stamp on the team through adding players, not letting them go.

 
At 8:17 PM, July 21, 2008, Blogger pierre said...

SUNDIN as I see it is an honest guy having doubts about how disposed and ready he will be to face the music when all get gowing in septembre ... he has never been 37 before ... he is still waiting from his body the green light sign to be well visible ... he could have signed on the first of july or last week but he is just too honest about the whole thing and I have growned liking him because of it.

He might never see the green light as brithly lit as he would have hoped to see it before making a decision,... such situation would probably convinced him to go and play his final year of hockey.

Being his final year I wouldn't be surprised to see him making a selection based on what would seems to offer him the best challenge/gratification environment as a hockey player.

Toronto and Vancouver have passionnate fans but Montreal has more to offers,.. there is the centenial celebration year but way above that ...
they have a great playing team that would be considered a favorite in the East and a true contender for the Cup with Sundin in the line-up ...

The prospect of being in a winning team playing in the largest hockey arena in the world might just tip the balance in our favor if the big Suede is considering this year to be his last hochey season before retirement.

 
At 11:00 PM, July 21, 2008, Blogger Connecticut Man1 said...

"There is just that difference. Naslund was great goal scorer for some years but Sundin is top player year after year.

Big, strong and center. Automatic Hall-of-Famer."


Instant Hall of Famers have a Stanley Cup on their resume, IMHO. But he should have a decent chance on his first year of eligibility. Being the best player on the Leafs in the last 13 years will only get you an instant free beer in a Toronto bar... And only if you can get there before last call.

 
At 10:46 AM, July 22, 2008, Anonymous PPP said...

Wait, what? How is that relevant? Last year, they were an unknown quantity, and everyone decided sight unseen they were shit. Now they're a known quantity. I don't think the two situations are at all comparable.

The two situations are absolutely comparable. Last year in the pre-season the team was far from an unknown quantity and the predictions on them missing the playoffs were based mostly on how much they got hammered 5 on 5 and how the loss of Souray would kill their main source of offense: the powerplay.

This year's predictions of success are based on a bunch of players replicating breakout seasons (didn't work for Michael Ryder) and a young goalie taking the reins full-time.

Both are based on educated assumptions it's just a case of whether they'll be proven correct this year.

Instant Hall of Famers have a Stanley Cup on their resume, IMHO.

That's ridiculous to think in a team sport.

 
At 11:08 AM, July 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With 590 goals and 1395 points in NHL (so far) Sundin is on his way to HHOF. He has Olympic Gold to show to these whiners who demand Stanley Cup wins to make player great.

I think Raymond Bourque didn't became better player or winner when he moved to a set table so to speak. It was great to see him hoist that cup but he would've been one of the best D in NHL history anyways.

If Sundin had moved to Detroit it would've been nice to see him win but he would still be the same player.

 
At 5:16 PM, July 22, 2008, Blogger itchit said...

@ pierre - "the big suede" = accidentally awesome nickname that I have growned liking because of it!

 
At 9:06 PM, July 22, 2008, Blogger Connecticut Man1 said...

"With 590 goals and 1395 points in NHL (so far)

He is number 30 on the all time points list, and number 22 on the all time goals list. Sounds great until you realize that in both those categories there are some "active players" ahead of him that may retire this year (They have cups and golds). There are many team leaders that are a bit behind him on those lists BUT they have been leaders on Cup winners (some of them multiple Cup winners and gold medalists). Now there are, also, a pile of defensemen and goalies that have had outstanding careers winning Cups and golds to consider...

Making Sundin far from an automatic choice for the HHOF on his first try.

Sakic? Foresberg? Shanahan? Hasek(there is an automatic 1st round ballot choice there), Niedermeyer? Seleanne? heck? Maybe even Recchi? Is Jagr(another likely 1st ballot sure thing) eligible if he doesn't play in the NHL again?

A lot of it depends on what players are eligible for entry in the same year as Sundin. That may be tough for life long leaf fans to accept. But it is the reality.

 

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