Mats Sundin is on team tank: ‘This is the 1st time I’ve seen that (the Leafs) are really committing to rebuilding’

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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin, arguably the best player to ever wear the blue and white, is on board with a scorched earth rebuild of his favourite NHL club. 

Read on past the jump.

Sundin is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he’s the all-time leading scorer in Maple Leafs history. He spent 13 seasons wearing the Maple Leaf crest on his sweater, and he wore the C on his chest for a decade. 

He was a Maple Leaf player in the high-spending halcyon era prior to the imposition of the NHL Salary Cap. It was a time when the Maple Leafs were always players in free agency and buyers at the trade deadline, and rolled to the Eastern Conference Final time and again thanks to a bloated payroll and the perpetual incompetence of Ottawa Senators goaltending.

Since his retirement from professional hockey, Sundin has apparently kept a close and frustrated eye on the Maple Leafs.

“f there’s one team that I do follow in the National Hockey League, it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Sundin said during a brief appearance on TSN 1040 radio in Vancouver on Tuesday. “It’s the team where I spent most of my career and being the captain there for many years, so obviously I’ve followed them since I retired. I wish that the organization, specifically the fans in the Toronto area that support the team, could get some success.”

So do we all Mr. Sundin.

In terms of how the Maple Leafs should pursue their latest rebuild, Sundin appears to be keenly aware that landing top-of-the-line prospects is the only way to do it right in a salary capped league. Which is why Sundin is all for a patient, long-term, scorched Earth rebuild; and is impressed to see management begin pursuing that course.

“With that said, it looks like they’re going to get a high draft pick and it looks like management is doing – I think – a good job,” Sundin continued. “They’re going to rebuild and find new young players, and sooner or later they’ll have a great team there and have a good run for the Stanley Cup.”

To this comment Vancouver-based sports media personality Jeff Paterson responded “haven’t they been saying that for years though?” to which Sundin laughed. He laughed that familiar, awkward, knowing laugh. The sort of laugh that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who watched Mikhail Grabovski grow into a bona fide two-way ace before being bought out, and then suffered through watching all 100 or so games of David Clarkson’s Maple Leafs tenure. 

“We had a couple of good runs though when I was there… They’ll get back!” Sundin said defiantly, as if convincing himself.

The storied former Maple Leafs behemoth then proceeded to offer a full-throated endorsement of a long-term rebuilding project in Toronto, one premised on the accumulation of top picks and buttressed by a willingness to stay the course and deal with the losing in pursuit of long-term competitiveness.

“I think this is the first time I’ve seen that (the Maple Leafs) are really committing to rebuilding,” Sundin said. “Not only just saying that and then kind of hovering in the middle of the pack. Now they’re actually looking to add some top prospects and hopefully do a great job with finding those players.

“I don’t think there’s any other way to get back there.”

Sundin seems to believe that, as a fan, he can stomach the losing night in and night out. The question remains: can the city of Toronto? Can the Maple Leafs’ corporate masters? Can Brendan Shanahan’s nerves? 

-with H/T to TSN’s Jeff Paterson

  • Maximum Taco

    leave retirement and replace bozak please. i bet he would be a better replacement. he had the same amount of points in his last season at 38 years old as young bozak has in 30 less games (41 points) lol what a joke.

    • CMpuck

      if he were here today, the best to worst centres would be kadri, grabovski, holland, bozak. carlyle misused him. before carlyle, he had more than one 50+ point season. he was well on his way to another 50+ point season in washington (in his first year away from carlyle i might add) but injuries have slowed him down recently (35 points in 58 games with the capitals). he’s solid defensively and very creative with the puck. mix that with his speed and vision and he’s a good #2 centre or elite #3 centre on an very good team if utilized properly.

  • CMpuck

    So we’re all going to ignore that Sundin gave the order to the Muskoka Five to ruin Fletcher’s rebuid?

    Nope, Sundin is gggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggreat.

  • STAN

    C.M. when Sundin represented his country in the Olympics or other international tournaments he truly played at his best. He usually was ranked in the top three forwards of these tournaments.

    I never understood why he didn’t want to live in a hotel for two months and get the opportunity of winning a cup. He cost the leafs a first round pick by not agreeing to be dealt.

    His exploitation of the Canucks was an embarrassment as he basically just took a huge amount of money and gave the Canucks very little production.

    • People forget this but he was actually really good in Vancouver! He managed 28 points in 41 games (a 56 point pace) playing with Kesler and Demitra and then was a point per game player in the postseason. IIRC he also left a bit of money on the table when he signed there…

    • TGT23

      I agree with you… Well, mostly.

      I respect Mats, I appreciate the years he put in for the team, but yeah, he screwed the Leafs by refusing to be a “rental” player and cost them picks that could have helped the team.

      It doesn’t erase all that he did and how great he was in the Leafs sweater but I don’t think he takes enough flak for it now, either.

      Imagine the team received a 1st Rounder in the 2008 Entry draft, which turned out to be a fairly deep draft. How different is the roster then? How different is that rebuild?

      And that player, whoever it could have been, would still be young enough for this rebuild.

  • CMpuck

    C.M. when Sundin represented his country in the Olympics or other international tournaments he truly played at his best. He usually was ranked in the top three forwards of these tournaments.

    I never understood why he didn’t want to live in a hotel for two months and get the opportunity of winning a cup. He cost the leafs a first round pick by not agreeing to be dealt.

    His exploitation of the Canucks was an embarrassment as he basically just took a huge amount of money and gave the Canucks very little production.

    • CMpuck

      Good stuff.

      Sundin didn’t play a meaningful game in his NHL career that Cujo or Belfour weren’t 99.9% responsible for.

      Say what you will about Phil, I don’t entirely disagree but at least Phil is willing to move and do what’s best for the organization and not just his himself. Sundin, Domi, Tucker were so passive aggressive to Toronto media, their NMC were a middle finger to the Toronto experience.

  • STAN

    To say that Sundin was “arguably the best leaf ever” is going way over the top. Did you think of guys like Keon, Horton, Conacher, Sittler or Salming? You may have been a little wet behind the ears when some of these guys played for a great franchise. Certainly Sundin had a wonderful career, but he was also one of the Muskoka 5 that would not budge on his no trade clause to get some prospects in. It is nice to hear that now he is gone that he endorses a total rebuild because at the time I felt he was one of the stumbling blocks to a total rebuild as long as he was surrounded by some good help.

      • STAN

        Dead puck era was one season 92/93. Sundin played in the 80 game season most of the guys I talked about were in the 50 to 72 game seasons. Davie Keon was by some the best hockey player ever to have played for Toronto. Just check the numbers.

        • STAN

          Old a very valid point especially regarding the fewer games and the style way back then saw most scores 3 to 2 or 2 to 1. However each era is different as it has been in the N.F.L., N.B.A., and M.L.B. They are all great players who would have excelled 60 years ago or currently.

          To me the biggest change in the N.H.L. is that with the incredulous increase in size of players, there literally is no room for the Keon’s Beliveau’s, Mikita’s, who were just a sampling of the great stick handlers. Todays game resembles a pin ball machine with a player with the puck having two seconds before he is being checked.

          Cam Cole wrote an excellent piece recently showing how much the scoring is going down with no one likely to hit 100 points and the likely point leader being maybe a few points over 80.

          When you have 6 foot 5 to 6 foot 8 defencemen out there on the ice, there isn’t much room to manouvre that old puck.

          Plus the goalies look like the Michellin tire man. Compare a picture to a current goalie to a Plante, Bower, Worsley. They obviously were much smaller but todays goalie is wearing an incredulous amount of padding plus they are that much quicker and stronger.

          I’m not sure how the N.H.L. corrects the lack of scoring as every coach on the road just plays for a 1 to 1 or 2 to 2 tie and then try to win in the o.t. or the shoot out.

  • CMpuck

    The Leafs need a Fred Shero type coach and have to instill the fear of God for visiting teams to the ACC imo.

    Getting a John Scott type player with some huge forwards and defensemen like a Chara. What they would lack in speed would be made up in reach. The Leafs have no other choice but the physical route me thinks.

    The Leafs must be the Beasts of the East !!!!

    Not to mention their fan base would increase again.

    • Who let you in here?

      NEVER use John Scott and the Leafs in the same sentence.

      The physical route is the polar opposite of the way this franchise needs to go.

      Speed, skill, hockey sense. The last few big, physical guys haven’t turned out so well, let’s stay away for a while.

  • STAN

    In other news… with such a rich history of rotten drafting the Leafs are bound to make a mess of the 2015 entry draft. Marner? Strome? Hanafin? The poor sop who gets to be a Leaf will likely have the worst NHL career. Just sayin’.