February 23, 2008

A Dying Dream

The wheels are in motion. It's actually happening. Mats Sundin is on the verge of being traded. Tonight, at the Air Canada Centre, may be Sundin's final game on home ice as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. My dream of Sundin hoisting the Stanley Cup above his head in the blue and white is dying a slow and painful death.

The dream has been on life support for some time now, and Cliff Fletcher is reaching for the cord. He's pulling the plug. As difficult as it may be to do so, it's the right thing to do. The time has come. The moment has passed us by.

The odds of Sundin remaining a Maple Leaf after Tuesday are looking mighty slim. TSN "hockey insider," and long-lost twin brother of John Ferguson Jr., Darren Dreger, reported yesterday that Cliff Fletcher asked Mats Sundin for a list of teams he'd be open to being traded to (assumed to be Anaheim, Detroit, Vancouver, and maybe even New Jersey or Montreal). Fletcher apparently asked Bryan McCabe the same. Come Wednesday night down in Florida, the Leafs could potentially be sporting a new lineup minus their Captain and alternate captain. That would be something.

By asking both Sundin and McCabe for lists, Fletcher is showing he means business. He knows the Leafs are out of it, and don't have a prayer at the playoffs. Toronto, as James Mirtle has so graciously informed us, has been the worst team in the Eastern Conference since the start of 2008, with only 10 wins in 23 games. On Thursday night, The Buffalo Sabres hammered the final nail into the coffin of the 2007/2008 Toronto Maple Leafs with a resounding 5-to-1 thumping of the Buds. Stick a fork in 'em, they're done.

I've got to give Fletcher some props. He knows the Leafs are one pathetic hockey team and he's taking the job of setting the table for the next general manager seriously. Fletcher knows that with Peter Forsberg's return looking doubtful, Sundin is the hottest cat on the market. Pulling the plug on my dream hurts, but trading Sundin is the best course of action for the franchise.

Will Mats come back? He is a free agent come seasons end, but who, other than Sundin, really knows? It's a risk. But one I think the Leafs have to take. If Sundin really loves the blue and white and truly desires in his Swedish heart of hearts to retire as a Maple Leaf, he can come right back home in the summer. Toronto will always be his home, and the door will always be open. I believe he's got at least three solid years of hockey left in him.

I do have something to get off my chest though. I'm sick and tired of hearing the word "loyalty" being thrown into the discussion in regards to the Sundin situation. There have been a couple of douche bags writing in the papers and online (I'm not going to link to these pieces because, one, I'm too lazy, and two, they're written by douche bags so there's no point in reading them) that Sundin "owes" it to the Leafs to accept a trade out of town.

Sundin doesn't owe the Leafs a damn thing. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. He signed a contract given to him by the Toronto Maple Leafs and he has the final say in whether he uses his no-trade clause. Sundin didn't put a gun to any one's head demanding the terms of the contract and a no-trade clause, so how does he owe the franchise anything? It's up to him. If he chooses to stay, that's his right. Same goes for Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle and Darcy Tucker. They all have no-trade clauses and can exercise them if they please.

Frankly, it's agitating to hear about how Sundin should be loyal to the franchise and accept a trade. There is no loyalty in pro sports. It simply does not exist. Sundin can help the Leafs out by accepting a trade, yes, absolutely, but I don't think refusing a trade makes him any less loyal. He's been more than a dedicated soldier to this team.

Speaking of Tomas Kaberle, Fletcher also inquired whether Kabby had any interest in being moved. Kabby said no, and that he was committed to the Toronto Maple Leafs and wants to remain with the club. This corner is glad Kaberle doesn't want to go anywhere, because I don't want to see him leave. He comes at a decent price ($4.25 million) and is still one of the best puck-moving defencemen in the league. TSN is reporting that Philadelphia was offering up Jeff Carter and a draft pick for him. Carter's no slouch and has a decent career in front of him, but I've got a special place in my heart for Kabby and am glad he's sticking around.

And you can take Alex Steen's name off the list of potential trade bait. Word is that he's been signed to a two-year extension at $1.7 million per-season. Steen's 26 points in 56 games don't exactly knock the socks off my feet, and while he is a decent hockey player, I'm beginning to wonder if he'll ever be more than a third-line, defensive checker. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's going to be an interesting, and nerve-wracking, few days up until the trade deadline. Sundin could be dealt at any moment. Hell, he may be traded by the time you read this. An era is on the verge of ending.

Truthfully, it still hasn't kicked in. It won't, probably until after I watch Sundin play a game in a new uniform with a new team. One can never really prepare for something like this. Sure, I think about it, but until it goes down, Sundin is still a Maple Leaf, and still the Captain. He is so until Cliff Fletcher announces that he's traded away the man he traded for 14 years ago.

Whatever Sundin decides, I support him 110%. If you're at the game tonight, give it up for Mats. Show him some love on my behalf. Lord knows the man deserves it.

No one knows what the future holds. There are no guarantees in life, and if Sundin chooses to continue his career elsewhere in the fall of 2008, I'll understand. He's got to chase the dream of winning the Stanley Cup. Even if he wants to return in the off-season, it doesn't look like the Leafs can offer him much in the hopes of winning a championship. So even if Mats returns in July, if he does get traded in the next three days, my dream leaves with him.

Whether tonight is his final game in a Leafs uniform, or whether it's Monday night in Florida, I only want to say "thank you" to Mats. The Sundin era in Toronto will live on forever through people like me. I will spread his gospel across lands near and far. It has been an honour watching you, Mats; cheering for you, and following your lead...

1 comments:

Preet_S said...

He'll certainly be missed and I don't know if It'll be the same anymore. Not sure if I can watch him play on another team.