Christmas Mail Bag
Not surprisingly, people still want to talk about Mats Sundin.
In fact, this chatter is going to continue right through Sundin’s visit to Toronto with the Vancouver Canucks Feb. 21, and who knows, maybe even through next summer again if Sundin goes through another one of his thoughtful periods.
Don’t forget, he’s only signed a one-year contract. Yessir, this entire drama could be played out AGAIN next summer and fall, with Sundin considering his future and sifting through potential offers. Slowly. Deliberately.
So don’t worry you won’t get enough Sundin talk over the course of the next few months. It could go on a lot longer than that.
Now on to our Christmas mail bag. And Merry Christmas to all our faithful readers/contributiors and their families.
Q: Hi Damien. I'm happy that Mats Sundin has signed with Vancouver. Canucks' fans seem rather excited, and rightfully so. However, I'm curious to know if you can think of any player in recent memory who signed with a team mid-way through a season and had a demonstrable impact on the team's playoff run? Thank you.
Chris Clay, Mississauga
A: Funny, but I remember Reijo Ruotsalainen, a clever finish defenceman who made a habit of showing up late in NHL seasons, twice for the Edmonton Oilers, and once for the New Jersey Devils. With the Oilers, Ruotsalainen arrived late in the 1986-87 and 1989-90 regular seasons and then was part of Edmonton clubs that went all the way, winning the Stanley Cup.
As a Euro free agent, it seemed he could come and go pretty much as he wanted, and he got a couple of rings out of it. If that’s recent memory, he would be might. But generally speaking, it just doesn’t happen much any more, both because NHL regulations and waiver rules make it tougher for players to move in and out of the league. Peter Forsberg has tried, but few have been able to do it and make a difference.
Q: Am I right or am I wrong? With respect to Mat Sundin, I speculate that he simply wanted to play out his days loyally in Toronto. Knowing that Wilson and Burke would eventually not want his services, Fletcher tried to unload him. Sundin became disappointed in the procedure. Mats quietly honoured his contract, team and fans by finishing the year. He would have continued to play for the Leafs, but the management abandoned him. Understandably depressed, he chose to possibly retire instead of going to another team. In due course his passion bettered him, so if it can't be Toronto, he took some time to decide on which team to play. Vancouver is the closest sweater in colour to the Leaf uniform he wore with pride. Fans should be preparing his banner to be honourably raised to the rafters of ACC.
Wayne Wheeler, Schomberg, Ont.
A: Well, we can all speculate what exactly happened with the Leafs. Fletcher didn’t know in February that Burke would be the GM or Wilson the coach, so he wouldn’t have been able to try to deal Sundin based on their thoughts. He just wanted to dump all the highly paid vets, but couldn’t. It’s clear the way in which he was dealt with upset Sundin, but he couldn’t have come back to Toronto even if he wanted after Burke replaced Fletcher. It no longer really matters anymore how he felt, only that he’s a Canuck. But I agree that his number should and will one day be honored at the ACC.
Q: Unfortunately Mats Sundin has now joined the infamous list of players that have declared their love for the city and intention to stay at the trade deadline only to jump the next season leaving the team with nothing. Carlos Delgado, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and A.J Burnett are just some of the names from recent memory that had the opportunity to be forever loved by the people who follow their respective teams, yet are now perceived as villains. Will this also be the way Mats Sundin will be remembered?
Ryan Peterson, Oakville
A: I sure hope not. But you know what? Sundin was never particularly beloved by the Leaf Nation, who preferred the likes of Tie Domi and Darcy Tucker. Take from that what you will. But I have a hard time believing any serious person could see Sundin as a “villain” for the way in which he left town. If there were any villains, they sit in the executive offices at the ACC.
Q: I really disagree with your video clip stating that Mats was never the player to bring the cup to TO. I think for years he was, but the leafs never did anything to surround him with team he needed to do it. There is no doubt that Mats single-handily won some playoff series for the leafs (Phillie and Pittsburgh in the same year) but there was never really a team to back that up. Do you honestly think he wasn't able to produce a cup or was it that he never had the support in TO?
Jeremy Hamilton, Kingston (Toronto originally)
A: I no more agree that Sundin never had good teams or players to play with in Toronto than I believe the notion that Pat Quinn couldn’t coach young players when he was with the Leafs. Look at the long list of quality players that were acquired by the Leafs during Sundin’s tenure, from Alex Mogilny to Brian Leetch to Gary Roberts to Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour, there’s no question that Sundin did have talent around him at different times. Just not enough.
Q: Hi Damien, The last thing anyone needs is another Mats-related question, especially now that he's finally settled on a team and it seems Toronto can finally put this whole Sundin saga aside. But I'll ask one anyway. There's been chatter in these parts about Roberto Luongo being wooed to come to Toronto when his free agency hits. Do you think that Sundin playing with Luongo now may have some sort of positive influence in nudging him our way when the time comes? Mats talks up how great the city is and how he enjoyed his time, and since we have some stable management in place as well as management Luongo is familiar with from Vancouver, I'd like to think there may yet be a silver lining for Leafs fans with Mats in Van City. Your thoughts please.
Daniel D., Thornhill
A: Never heard this one. Can’t imagine Luongo will base any part of his ultimate decision on what Sundin thinks.
Q: Wow, did you see the Leafs game against Boston? Can you remind me why Montreal let Micheal Ryder go? Tim Thomas had a bad game, but statistically is one of the best net minders this season, AND Boston has Manny Fernandez waiting in the wings. Is there another team in the NHL with as deep of a goaltending duo? Finally, Phil Kessel is my front runner for the Lady Byng, you know, that award Mogilny could not be bothered to accept several seasons ago. He also has a shot on the Maurice Rocket Richard award. Who do you see challenging Kessel for the Byng, other than maybe Zach Parise or Patrick Marleau? Could Datsyuk go for a repeat if he picks it up in the scoring department over the last 50 games?
Arthur Bailey, Toronto
A: I think Montreal’s goaltending tandem is as good or better than Boston’s. Anaheim has a good pair. Vancouver, obviously, has very good depth in net. I could go on, but the fact is that nobody is quite sure what Fernandez is any more in terms of a quality NHL goalie because he just hasn’t played.
Re the Lady Byng, to be honest, I don’t have the faintest idea who the top candidates would be, nor to I particularly care. Along with the Selke Trophy, the Lady Byng has, in my opinion, become somewhat of a consolation award for NHL players. I think its time of relevance has come and gone.
Q: With the Leafs in rebuilding mode, there is a lot of talk about getting rid of Nik Antropov for prospects or picks. I'm not sure I agree with this. Antropov is a proven centre and is still young. What sense does it make to trade him away for the unknown. No one is going to give us a top 5 pick for him, so we will be basically trading a decent young centre away for an unknown player that may never be good enough to play in the NHL. I have no doubts that Antropov will be a steady 30 goal performer for the years to come and at about $3-4 Million a year in today's hockey world is not a bad salary for a good smart player.
Mr. Confused, Toronto
A: I agree Antropov is a good player. But right now, would you want to sign him for 5-7 years for between $5-6 million per season? That’s what it would take to get him to skip unrestricted free agency at this point. I just don’t see him as a player you would want to commet $30-40 million to, and the Leafs just can’t afford to lose yet another veteran asset without getting something significant in return. So Antropov has to go before the deadline.
Q: If the Loonie continues to lose value against the US dollar, will we see the return of the Canadian Assistance Program in addition to any revenue sharing? If the Canadian Assistance Program returns, what kind of stress will this put on the remaining profitable teams who must also be feeling the pinch as Peddie as admitted already? If the global financial crises worsens, at what point does even Bettman admit that contracting hugely unprofitable teams will save the profitable teams and the league? Will Bettman save the geese laying the golden eggs, or will he cut off his nose to spite his face?
TJ Edwins, Guelph, Ont.
A: That’s a lot of questions. At this point, I can’t imagine the U.S. teams re-instituting the Canadian Assistance Program. The six Canadian teams are among the NHL’s most profitable, and there are too many U.S. teams struggling to even consider propping up their Canadian brethren. That said, you do have to wonder when the league’s more solvent outfits will grow weary of supporting the Nashvilles and Atlantas of the world.
Q: Damien, I think people would love an article on what exactly it would take to land another NHL team in Toronto. This is far fetched to alot of people, why should it be? There is a demand for it and the franchise would be successful. I think it would take a player like Lemieux or Gretzky to lead a group of investors to make this more than a pipe dream. People want to hear what it would take for this to happen
Mark Wolf, Waterloo, Ont.
A: Mark, I’m feeling Christmas-y, so I don’t want to come down hard on you for this one. I understand why people are intrigued by the notion, but as far as I can tell, this is never going to happen. It’s like the Spadina Expressway. Throwing it out there every once in a while may create conversation, but it doesn’t mean anything.
Every Thursday, Damien Cox answers your questions in The Spin, only at thestar.com. Click here to submit a question.
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