Anyone else getting tired of the Mats Sundin saga? I know you’re out there.
I’m sick of it, too, but I’m using my space to write my two cents about it. I apologize. Never again, I promise.
Last season I saw no reason for fans to think any less of the big Swede for refusing to be dealt out of Toronto. His reasoning was that he didn’t want to finish the journey with one team after starting it with another, that it would taint a Stanley Cup championship if he wasn’t involved in the entire trek.
Fair enough, he had his reasons and no matter if you think he was full of it or not, after 17 seasons in the NHL – most of them as captain of the team that draws the largest and most cynical media scrums – he earned the right to do what he wanted. It was never Sundin’s duty to be traded for the betterment of the franchise down the road. That’s just ludicrous.
His reasoning was one I, and likely you, cannot relate to. I’d give anything to have a shot at lifting the Mug, but I haven’t walked in Sundin’s shoes, so I accepted his decision.
But everything has changed.
We’re one month into the season and Sundin is reportedly just now starting to work out in Los Angeles to get back into game shape. He won’t be ready to go until December and by then we’ll be at least 20 games in.
While he had every right to do whatever he wanted last season – and as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, every right to move on to another team – he’s contradicting himself with his actions this season and that’s more of a kick in the groin to Leaf fans than not waiving his no-trade clause last year.
This is their captain, a guy you could stand and watch, admiringly, as he answered all the questions that needed to be answered, without flinching, after both good games and bad. He did what he had to do, whether he wanted to or not and handled it better than most could.
I was never a big fan of Sundin, but having the opportunity to watch him deal with all the post-game questions while maintaining a calm demeanor as last season slowly spiraled to its destined, dreaded conclusion, made me respect him more as a professional and as an NHL captain.
But what does all that mean if he goes back on last year’s word? What if he signs with a team other than Toronto in mid-December? It’ll be hard to ruin an influential legacy built up over more than a decade – and I’m sure it will never be completely soiled, fans will cheer him in future alumni nights – but I wouldn’t be surprised if 20 years from now Leaf fans look back at Mats and say: “He was a great player, could score a big goal at key moments and was a strong leader for a long time, but he never won anything and we all know how it ended…”
Mats is poking a sensitive, albeit loyal, bunch of fans who are big on their history. And as history shows, Sundin’s countryman and fellow long-time Leaf Borje Salming regretted not finishing his career in Toronto.
Sundin has got to play this hand wisely, though it’s not looking good.
TWO WINNERS, ONE OT
Chris Campoli had a great birthday present for his mom Lindsay.
In the Islanders’ 4-3 overtime win against Columbus Monday night, Campoli scored one goal in regulation. If that wasn’t enough to give his mom, the young defenseman scored the game-winner…twice.
It was a weird play and one we’ll probably not see again in a long time. A broken up odd-man rush resulted in a loose puck coming back to Campoli at the point. He ripped a wrist shot past Columbus goalie Fredrik Norrena and threw his arms up in the air in celebration.
But wait, the play wasn’t done there. The referee didn’t see it go in the net – in fact, the puck went through the net – and as Campoli turned back around, realizing the goal hadn’t been counted and pointing at the net in protest, the puck came back to him and he fired another wrister past Norrena.
Talk about a birthday surprise. Who else can score two game-winners in one game for their mom?
Thanks a lot, Chris.
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