TLN’s All-Time Greatest Maple Leafs Team: Mats Sundin

As we embark on our annual TLN Top 20 Prospects series, it’s important to remember and recognize the special players that paved the way for tomorrow’s stars. Over the next few weeks, we will be announcing our first ever TLN All-Time Greatest Leafs Team, announcing a new player every day until we’ve filled out our 23-man roster.  

When we get through this entire list and assemble the final team, there’s going to be plenty of debate about which of these players truly stands above the rest as the best Leafs player of all time. Mats Sundin will be in that conversation.

Career Statistics

Alright, first off, shut your stupid mouth, Google.

sedin-sundin

No I didn’t mean that. 

On to MATS SUNDIN‘S career statistics, and damn they are impressive. 

Though just by a hair, Sundin was an above point-per-game player for his career, which spanned 1346 games, 981 of them in a Leafs sweater. He’d put up 987 points in blue and white. [If you’re like me, looking at Sundin being 13 points away from 1000 in Toronto will drive you nuts, but 13 was his number so maybe it was always meant to be.]

Easily the most impressive thing about Sundin’s output was simply how consistent he was in pouring in points each year. Take a look at each of his seasons (excluding his rookie campaign and partial stint with the Canucks), and he didn’t dip below .90 points-per-game in any one year. 

Season Team Points-per-game
1991-92 Quebec Nordiques 0.95
   1992-93   Quebec Nordiques 1.43
1993-94 Quebec Nordiques 1.01
1994-95      Toronto Maple Leafs     1.00
1995-96 Toronto Maple Leafs 1.09
1996-97 Toronto Maple Leafs 1.15
1997-98 Toronto Maple Leafs 0.90
1998-99 Toronto Maple Leafs 1.01
1999-00 Toronto Maple Leafs 1.00
2000-01   Toronto Maple Leafs   0.90
2001-02 Toronto Maple Leafs 0.98
2002-03 Toronto Maple Leafs 0.96
2003-04 Toronto Maple Leafs 0.93
2005-06 Toronto Maple Leafs 1.11
2006-07 Toronto Maple Leafs 1.01
2007-08 Toronto Maple Leafs 1.05

Most Memorable Moments

PING!

And though we were getting into post-lockout Leafs garbage time, who’s going to forget this?

Sundin would go on to be a first ballot Hall of Famer upon retiring, and deservedly so. His 1349 career NHL points rank him first all-time by a Swedish player, fourth among Europeans (behind Jagr, Selanne, and Kurri), and 27th overall. 

hhf

Leafs Milestones

  • First in All-Time Leafs points (987)
  • First in All-Time Leafs goals (420)
  • Second in All-Time Leafs assists (567)
  • Sixth in All-Time Leafs games played (981)

Legacy

A lot of the writers throughout Leafs sites these days likely fall in the age group where Sundin and the Quinn years represent their peak enjoyment of the team. For that reason, I’m willing to bet he’s a personal favourite of a lot of “Barilkosphere” contributors.

Like we mentioned at the top, Sundin will be in any conversation for the best Maple Leafs player of all time. The longevity is there, the scoring is there, and the big moments are certainly there. He never managed to win a Cup in Toronto, but we can at least sleep a little easier knowing he got some hardware on the international stage with Sweden. 

  • CMpuck

    1.If he waived the others would have, he set this franchise back by a decade.

    2. He was never good enough to be the centerpiece of a contender, management fool headily was committed to force it.

    I’ll always remember him as someone that buried this franchise post lockout, I get most Leaf fans white wash this, great player, I can’t respect him as a die heart fan of this team though.

    Leave it to Leaf Nation to worship a guy that didn’t/couldn’t lead the team anywhere.

      • CMpuck

        Head in the sand, to this day the Leafs were screwed over by Mats but everyone still kisses his feet?

        He played for the Leafs because he liked the summers off.

      • Gary Empey

        How can you criticize anyone for not waiving their no trade clause.

        When you ask this, you are telling the player we want to fire you but you have to do us a big favour so we can do it.

        Players try to negociate a no trade or “limited trade” for a very good reason. Getting traded is a major disruption in their lives. Without it every night they go to sleep they never know where they and their family may live the next day.

        To get a no trade clause in a contract a player has to give up something else of great value.

        Both parties know precisely what they are signing when a no trade clause is part of the deal.

        You are asking the player to be extra loyal to the team but don’t expect any loyalty back from team management.

        • CMpuck

          Can you criticize a multi millionaire for pissing on a fanbase that showered him in cash and love to go help another team win a cup?

          Oh wait, Mats did go try to help the Nucks next season and we got nothing.

          Mats was an epic douche. Leaf fans that love him are like a battered girlfriend.

  • CMpuck

    Ryan your last paragraph said it all. Mats Sundin’s performance for his country was exemplary as he often was the best forward in the World tournaments and Olympic play. Oh sure he had a lot of talent around him on those teams and of course he never had much talent in Toronto. He simply willed his Swedish team to excellence in these tournaments.

    In some ways he was similar to the great Frank Mahovlich in that people expected more of him in his N.H.L. career. Ryan notice how in his last 10 years as a leaf he basically was a point a game guy.

    Now for most of the young leaf fans writing and posting in here, your greatest performance of a playoff player you have seen was Gary Roberts carrying an injury riddle leaf team over Ottawa. Sundin was one of the players hurt.

    What really rankles a lot of leaf fans was his refusal to live out of a suit case for 2 months late in his career which would have given the leafs a first round pick. I would suggest the vast majority of hockey players who played on a non winning playoff team for so many years would have jumped for the chance to play on a potential Stanley cup winner. Not Mats though.

    Then there was the three ring circus out in Vancouver where Sundin debated for months whether he would play for the Canucks. He claimed that he wanted to play for a Stanley Cup contender. Funny how he didn’t have that attitude several months before. He finally signed for an exhorbatent amount of money. He came on to the team out of shape with his hilite of his shortened season being scoring a shoot out winner against the leafs. Sundin couldn’t get out of town fast enough to fly back to Sweden with his bushel full of money tightly tucked into his luggage as he ripped the Canucks off with his play.

    One of the problems of this top team will be the fact that a lot of the greats will not have been seen by the selectors. It would be similar to myself trying to select some of the leaf greats of the 1930’s and 1940’s as I was only a dream of my parents.

    As I stated my fondest memories of Mats will always be watching him dominate world tournaments.

      • SEER

        Thankfully.., we seem to have an excess of newbie-centers coming up, though.. LOTS of them in the system, right now.. and with all the throw-outs in face-offs, it would be good to have two on each line, anyway..

        (and I’m not American, using that spelling.. I was an English major, many moons ago.. the word “Centre” de-notes a place.. Like the “Rogers Centre” or “Air Canada Centre”… Sports reporters aren’t the greatest with the English language rules.. (no disrespect intended.. It’s always been this way..) My English profs. usually used them as examples, of what “not to” reference with.. LOL!

  • SEER

    He wasn’t my favorite-ever Leaf player, but he was sure in my top ten…

    Most of the complaints come from fans who don’t know what really went on with management.. and what was said.. (like most of these conspiracy theories)…

    Sundin got the same kind of run-around that Dave Keon and Sittler got.. (although they had it even worse)… He gave them plenty of opportunities to make things work..

    12 seasons with the Leafs.. and some horrible line-mates.., is not the act of someone who didn’t have commitment, by any stretch… I wonder how many people out there would stay in their job position that long, when they knew their boss was always making terrible decisions..?

    MATS SUNDIN (EXTENDED) MONTAGE

    –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTwSbekv8b4

  • silentbob

    the thing with Sundin is, both the lovers and haters are correct. I don’t find a lot of the criticisms of him to be blown way out of proportion the way they are with Kessel or Phaneuf (thats not say those players don’t have their faults)

    He was a fantastic player who put up point-per-game numbers for pretty much his entire time here. He appears to have been a great leader (he also captained most of those Swedish teams), on and off the ice. Just look at how he handled the media compared to how Phaneuf and Kessel did/do. He made the players around him better (look up Hoglunds goal totals) .

    AND

    He did kinda screw the team & fans his last year here. He never had a “Shanahan to his Yzerman”, but lets not pretend that guys like Sullivan, Roberts and Mogilny were bad linemates for him either. When you look at his play and production in Quebec, I think one can argue that he was better suited to a #2 (player, not center) position on a team. While I don’t doubt for a second that he really did love playing for the Leafs, I don’t think you could ever argue that he took a hometown discount.

  • silentbob

    I have long maintained that the Sundin trade was one of the worst in Leaf history. Not because the Leafs got fleeced, not because they got a bad player in return. But similar to the Kessel deal, they just weren’t in a good position to take full advantage of the trade.

    It would have been better to ride out the Gilmour, Clark, Potvin years, try to win a championship with them. Then start over from scratch and build a team from the ground up, instead of dropping Sundin in without the proper support.

    And looking at that picture of Sundin and Sakic together…..that trade might have robbed the NHL of one of the great duo’s. In the 4 years they played together they combined for 167, 197, 201 & 152 points and they both socred at 30+ goal pace 3 times. Had those two remained together in Quebec and then Colorado, they probably be remembered as one of the best and most productive duo’s in league history.

  • magesticRAGE

    Mats Sundin, in all regards, was the best Maple Leaf in history. Fact.
    I can understand if he wasn’t someone’s favorite, as there was some very likable players in Leafdom history.

    He was a great leader, taking accountability for the team.
    He was very durable. Good possession player. Best backhand shot. Great slapshot. A beast on the boards. Great vision for his teammates. Excellent in all zones. Was very tough, even in playoffs. Was clutch in big moments. Very consistent, whatever team he’s on. He bled blue and white, still does.

    SEER has it right, management screwed with him for years. He had too much class to vent to the media. He did not set the franchise back, but John Ferguson Jr. did. Those who hate, see only one side.

    He will go down as one of the best players not to win a cup.