December 01, 2008

Go West, Mats

Like the Pet Shop Boys said, life is peaceful there. Peaceful, as in, across the country from the Toronto media, and a few bitter Maple Leafs fans. And that jersey looks familiar. Blue and white, with just a touch of green.

I know what you're thinking: "here we go again." But as Sundin's Secretary of Defence, I've got to weigh in once more on everyone's favourite former captain.

Now that the man, the myth, and the legend known as Brian Burke has officially landed in town - "it's one small step for man, but one giant leap for the Maple Leafs"- Sundin is back in the news. Apparently the Leafs don't exactly fit the profile of team he's looking to join.

Well, no shit.

Mats is 37. He'll be 38 in February. It's December. I don't see him suiting up for game action until January. He's looking for a place to play for four months. Of course he's not coming to Toronto. Why would he? The Leafs are terrible.

Once again, however, Leafs fans are chastising him. Now that it's looking like his Leafs career is truly over, the vultures are back, and circling. Chemmy, one of the great Pension Plan Puppeteers, had this to say after Burke said Sundin likely won't be coming back to the nest:
"Fuck Sundin. Way to not take a deadline trade, like an asshole."
That comment gets to me. I mean, really gets to me. That sense of entitlement. That Sundin, because he was asked, owed it to us, all of us Toronto Maple Leafs fans out there, to accept a trade out of town when he didn't want to go.

You know why he didn't want to go? Because he believed that the team - his team - could still make the playoffs. Yeah, what an asshole.
Of course, fans like Chemmy will argue that at issue is not the fact that Sundin is not returning, but that he is looking for short-term employment elsewhere. Mats did say, after all, that he did not want to be a rental player, and that he wanted to be a part of the "journey" from day one.

I'll be the first to admit that I can't much defend those statements. No matter where Sundin signs, he will be a rental player. And he will not have been a part of the journey since day one. But, hey, that's life. Things change. Sometimes things don't work out the way we plan for them to work out. Deal with it. Let it go. Perhaps Sundin really did think he would return to Toronto. Perhaps he believed he really was ready for retirement. The truth is, we'll never know.

None of this, however, tarnishes Sundin's legacy in these eyes. And it shouldn't in yours. Mats went down with the sinking ship. Don't forget that. 

And Brian Burke is right. Sundin's a better man for staying on the sidelines this season instead of collecting a paycheck when his heart isn't in the game. 

My good friend MF37 over at Bitter Leaf Fan Page has, amidst all the Sundin fallout, been asking a great question: where's the hatred for Darcy Tucker? I was as big a Tucker fan as they came, but I'm beginning to ask myself that question as well. Why are people still all over Sundin, when Tucker also didn't waive his no-trade clause, and saddled the Leafs with a cap hit? 

Tucker, a warrior yes, was a perpetual minus hockey player. He had become a one-trick pony on the power play and a liability five-on-five. The Leafs are now paying $1 million a year against the salary cap for him not to play in Toronto, and will be until 2013. Yet everyone's still pissed at Sundin, who only went about his point-per-game business for, oh, the last 15 God damn years, because he wouldn't leave.

It's unbelievable, really, how fans in this town think sometimes.

I've got no issues with Sundin joining Montreal, New York, or Chicago. But I want him to become a Canuck. Although the fellas at CoxBloc would probably disagree, Vancouver's a wonderful city. A laid-back Toronto, some say. The Canucks are sitting atop the Northwest Division, and Sundin would look great between the Sedin sisters. When Roberto Luongo comes back from his injury, the Canucks could really use Mats' offence down the stretch.

It pains me that I never got to properly say goodbye to Mats, but it's cool. I want him to go west. I want him to try and win that Cup. I'm truly beginning to think that, thanks to a few petty, bitter fans in this city, we don't deserve him anyway.


Loser Domi said...

/start cheezy soap opera music

Mats, it's not you, it's us. We Leafers just can't live up to these expectations you have. I mean, sure it was good for a while but one day,we're going to realize that where there was love is not love but only hate. need to be free and we don't think we can do that for you.

/end soap opera music

Pension Plan Puppets said...

Wait, so Mats can do a complete 180 from "I want to retire in Toronto and won't take a deadline deal because the journey starts in October" to "I am going to play elsewhere and I'll start playing whenever the hell I want to" but fans aren't allowed to go from "Man, I LOVE MATS SO MUCH HE IS SO GREAT FUCK YOU SENS FANS FOR SUGGESTING OTHERWISE" to "Jesus Mats, just fucking say that you're sick of losing and want out. Why lie to us?"?

Because that's what he's done. He's lied. You can paint it as changing his mind and ask us if we've ever changed our mind but the bottom line is he either said things he didn't believe at all or things that meant so little to him that he was easily able to shift them after July 1st.

Fuck Mats and his stupid balding head if he plays elsewhere.

p.s. Kaberle is getting traded for posting that Sundin as a Canuck picture.

general borschevsky said...

Great post, eyebleaf. We're not on the same page, but we're not far off. I'm very frustrated that more fans don't want to have Sundin come back. I really don't want him to play anywhere else.

Consider this: Sunidn's formost desire is not neccesarily to win a Cup, but is to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has not been there since before the lockout. That's what he misses and that's what he will come back for. It is the highest level of competition and Sundin knows it's the hockey that matters most. Sundin is also from the generation of hockey players who believe that once you make the playoffs, anything is possible, and that all teams are on an even level.

Unfortunately, the Leafs will not make making the palyoffs a priority. If they could be a playoff contender by accident while rebuilding at the same time (Cliff's plan, brilliantly excecuted by the way), so be it.

Now that Burke is here, however, all bets are off. It's his team and he'll do as he sees fit. If that means tearing the team apart at the trade deadline even though we're only a point out of 8th, so be it.

The loyalty was between Mats and Cliff (the man who brought Sundin to Toronto in the first place and would most want to protect his legacy) and no one else really.

Cheers! One thing we can agree on - he deserves better - heck, he deserves the best. The hard part is accepting that's not us.

Down Goes Brown said...

Tucker is a completely different situation.

Tucker had a long-term deal. He had taken a home-town discount at the time he signed it because he wanted to be with the Leafs. When he refused to waive, it was because he wanted to play for the Leafs for the next several years. They had to literally force him off the roster. And let's face it, they wouldn't have got much for him anyways.

Sundin refused to waive, then almost immediately started eyeing the door. He refused a deal that would have seen the Leafs get a boatload from Montreal, then started playing footsie with Bob Gainey as soon as the season was over. He said he wouldn't be a rental. We know how that turned out. He's jerked the Leafs around at pretty much every opportunity.

Sometimes there's more to life than just living up to your contractual rights. Sundin did owe the Leafs and their fans something. If not a trade, then some loyalty. If not loyalty, at least a little integrity.

eyebleaf said...

@ LD: That was beautiful. A tear.

@ PPP: You're absolutely right. If Sundin can do the 180, so can any fan. I agree with you 100% on that. What really gets me is not a fan's 180, but the "why didn't he waive his no-trade clause and accept a move at the deadline?" To continue to question that and chastise over Sundin doing what he was contractually obligated to do is not fair.

We don't know the workings in Sundin's mind and how it all played out, hence why I can't say Sundin lied. I think circumstances changed. Perhaps Sundin thought the Leafs might be active in the free agent market or trades over the summer. Perhaps he really didn't believe that rebuild was going to occur.

If you were OK with Dougie playing elsewhere and you now know that he wanted out, why the "Fuck Mats if he plays elsewhere" schtick? Sundin didn't ask to be let out. I understand that you feel misled by his actions, but don't you think you're being a little harsh?

And, brother, please stop all this trading Kaberle talk!

@ General: Thanks for your comment bro. I think you're right about Sundin thinking that if you make the playoffs, anything can happen. I think that's what he was banking on happening with the Leafs the last few years. I think you make a good point about the loyalty between Sundin and Fletcher. I think Fletch handled the entire situation over the past year pretty damn well. He was put in a tough spot as well. Those two, Mats and Cliff, will be forever linked. But I'm glad that you think he deserves better. Even Gilmour didn't receive such harsh treatment from the fans upon his leaving town, and I can't quite wrap my head around that.

@ DGB: Before Sundin's one-year deals, it was argued that he took a discount with the Leafs as well. I know you'll bring up his career earnings to counter that, so there's no point in even going there. Sundin's made millions of dollars from the Leafs, hasn't delivered a Cup, and therefore he owes the franchise, and the fans, something.

You call it Sundin eyeing the door, I call it him being a smart and astute individual. He was a free agent, he might as well keep all his options open. You were the one who said it was about the money, and you were proved wrong.

As for your assertion that he's jerked the Leafs around, that couldn't be further from the truth. He's done everything that he had the right to do. Jerking around the Leafs would have been agreeing to waive the NTC, and then reneging on that.

I don't think, in Sundin's case, that he had to do any more than live up to his contractual rights. Why should he be the martyr? In my eyes, by sticking around and believing that the team could make the playoffs, Sundin showed the ultimate form of loyalty. It's typical, absolutely typical, that you would question his loyalty.

blurr1974 said...

Mats had his right to 1) not waive his NTC and 2) change his mind. As a fan i have the right to expect 1) the truth and 2) nothing but.

I'm with Chemmy and PPP on this one, and the imminent departure of #15.

richie said...

Ultimately Mats can do whatever the hell he wants, but this does not change the fact that playing for the bloody Canucks will:

A) Taint his Leafs legacy.
B) Throw a huge shadow of doubt over his emerging poker career.

Loser Domi said...

riche, not to mention the wake and bakes might hurt his PP ability

eyebleaf said...

@ Blurr: Like I said above, every fan has the right to change their mind re: Mats, just like Mats did. But we'll never know what "the truth" was. I'm in the same boat as you. I wanted and expected the truth as well. I'm just giving Sundin the benefit of the doubt, because that's what he deserves, in my opinion.

@ Richie: His Leafs legacy will never be tainted. This is a new chapter. I've closed the book on his Leafs career. I have great memories. I wouldn't trade 'em for anything in the world.

I heard Sundin was ripping it in Poker Stars. They gave him a no movement clause as well because, damn it, it was the right thing to do.

@ LD: Imagine him and Wellwood back together!

Loser Domi said...

SUNDIN: Welly, you ever notice how your name is "well WOOD"? like, it's good wood, right?

WELLWOOD: My mind is BLOWN, man! I should never use a composite stick unless I, like, change my name to "WellComposite" or something. You gonna eat that?

richie said...

Let me clarify...

When I used the verb "tainted" for Mats Leafs legacy I did not mean like "Vince Carter forever I will hate you" kinda tainted.

It was more of a "I love you so much I don't ever want to see you wear another jersey - unless we get to trade you for Steve Sullivan, Alyn McAuley and Jason Smith - in which case I could cope" kinda tainted.

If we can't even get prospects for our superstars then we may as well have Rob Babcock trade him for Eric Williams. Fuck you John Ferguson!!! No trade clause my ass.

Down Goes Brown said...

I don't think, in Sundin's case, that he had to do any more than live up to his contractual rights.

That's pretty much the crux of our whole disagreement right there. I think after 14 years and $70M and everything else, living up to the strict letter of a contract isn't all there is to it.

Why should he be the martyr?

Because the team that made him the third-highest paid player in all of hockey for a decade and a half was begging him, absolutely begging him to.

Sorry, but if Sundin today is willing to play in Vancouver or Montreal or New York or (apparently) just about anywhere, as a rental, there's no good reason that he shouldn't have been willing to do the same in February when the Leafs desperately needed him to.

richie said...

Im gonna second the argument made by Down Goes Brown.

He hurt the Leafs future.

Whatever was going on with the Muskoka boys last season has definitely set back the Leafs rebuilding prospects. It is undeniable.

eyebleaf said...

@ Richie: Definitely not Vince Carter type hated. DEFINITELY NOT. And don't forget the other Williams dude we got, and Alonzo, who never played a game, and the millions we used to buy his ass out. Worst trade EVER.

@ DGB: I don't think the team begged him. I think Cliff asked him, Sundin said no, and the media, surprise surprise, made it the circus it was. Cliff respects Sundin. A lot more than the media does.

As for him willing to go elsewhere now, circumstances have changed. He knows the Leafs can't make the playoffs. Last year, he thought they might sneak in. Just because the Leafs needed him to do something that was in their best interest, doesn't mean he should be chastised for not doing it.

@ Richie: I second DGB as well. Sundin did hurt the Leafs future. But that future should never have been put in his hands in the first place. That's my point. It is undeniable that we don't have prospects because we weren't able to trade guys like Kaberle, Kubina and Mats. But then point your anger towards JFJ, who gave those guys the no trade and no movement clauses. Sundin shouldn't have had to sacrifice himself for the future of the franchise.

Once again, there is no loyalty in pro sports. Sundin was as loyal as he could be. In the end, he did what he wanted for himself. I'm not going to piss on him for that. Teams aren't loyal to players, ever. So I believe the expectation that Sundin should have been "loyal" and granted the Leafs their wish is wrong.

Down Goes Brown said...

As for him willing to go elsewhere now, circumstances have changed. He knows the Leafs can't make the playoffs. Last year, he thought they might sneak in.

The Leafs are currently four games out of a playoff spot, with four months to play.

At last year's deadline, they were six points out (eight points at the time Sundin refused to waive), and Fletcher was telling anyone who would listen that they weren't a playoff team.

If Sundin really based his decision on expecting to make the playoffs, then maybe he really was part of the problem in terms of the "good enough is good enough" dressing room.

And of course, that's still not what he said. He gave two reasons leading up to and after the deadline: he wanted to stay in Toronto, and he didn't want to be a rental. Now he doesn't care about either.

eyebleaf said...

I think you and I both know that this team, regardless of where they are in the standings right now, is not a playoff team. The goals against and penalty killing numbers are laughable, and downright pathetic. They aren't even NHL worthy numbers.

And, perhaps Sundin saw the fallout from all the trade deadline bullshit and thought, hey, maybe this isn't the best place to play hockey after all. Can you blame him?

Bhattorious said...

Sundin.....i am going to hang your picture with the other leafs of i gotta get a Schenn picture....i love the leafs....but...blow leafs blow...

puckbuddy said...

Great post!
I been on here thinking of a comment but this situation is something that I'm a bit torn with. I believe that both camps are right and the main point can be summed up by this clever quote from DGB:

Sundin did owe the Leafs and their fans something. If not a trade, then some loyalty. If not loyalty, at least a little integrity.

I kind of 100% agree but at the same time 100% disagree. I don't agree that he owes us but there is something to be said on the whole way it all went down. I think pro athletes in a way do owe their fans everything. Its sort of the mentality that Burke spoke of when he talked about putting on a show to warrant the ticket prices of admission (or could of also said warrant the salary of players but that's for another day). We fans are the "customers" here and athletes (as well as management) need to realize and understand that. I think this Sundin thing is prime example of them not taking that into account.

My thoughts on loyalty is more in that I believe that no one in pro sports is loyal to anyone anyways. As much as I believe that fans are the truthfully most loyal to the colors of a team (more so to any given player) the truth is sadly enough, fans are just as loyal as anyone else in pro sports.

I don't know really, its a tough subject for me... :(

tbot said...

Does anyone else find it kind of strange that after all of this hoopla over Sundin at the trade deadline he then won the leqgue leadership award? Don't you think he got this award specifically because of this decision?

It shows what at least Mark Messier thought of the deal.

eyebleaf said...

@ puckbuddy: Thanks for your comment. It definitely is a polarizing one, eh? I think DGB does make some great arguments. I just don't see the need in calling Sundin a "back-stabber," as DGB as resorted to in his latest post. If I knew how to link in the comments area, I would send you over DGB's way.

@ tbot: I think because that award is relatively new, and due to the timing of it, no one really put too much stock in it. When it comes to this issue, people are entrenched in their respective camps. No award is going to change a person's mind. At least I don't think so. But I did see leadership in Sundin's decision not to be moved, regardless of the reasons. He said he believed the team could make the playoffs. He was dead wrong, but I can still respect the hope he had.

Down Goes Brown said...

eyebleaf, a well fought battle as always. Glove tap.

One more question -- any thoughts on Strachan's comment on Hot Stove that Sundin is angry about his "treatment" at the deadline? I know it's Strachan so it may not even be worth worrying about, but any reaction if Sundin is actually mad at how Fletcher handled things?

eyebleaf said...

DGB, right back at you, brother.

I was actually meaning to ask you about Strachan's comment.

If Sundin is upset at Fletcher for asking him to waive the no-trade clause, he's out of his mind. Fletcher had to. He was doing his job.

I think Sundin is upset at how it went down, but I think he's upset with the media for making it such a huge issue. He said time and time again the same thing, that he wanted to remain in Toronto and that he'd said that from day one. I think by the time the deadline rolled around he was sick to death of talking about it.

I don't think Sundin can be mad at Fletch. They seem to have an amiable relationship. I guess Sundin might have some bitterness towards the franchise for asking him, and having it become a shit storm, but I think most of Sundin's angst is directed at the media.

Mats denying any interviews while the Toronto media is in LA feeds into that theory as well. He doesn't even want to see Berger, Shoaltsy, and crew. Can you blame him?

On The Fence Sports said...

Sundin has earned the right to choose his own future. He has put in his time and played his ass off for the Leafs and now, at this point in his career, he understands that there aren't many years left. Going to a contender that can give him a legitimate chance at the cup is something everyone, including these die hard Leaf fans, should respect.

Would you question someone who changes jobs, after a job-contract expires, because another job offers more money, better benefits, better lifestyle (child-care and education for the kids, less hours of work), and a chance to do achieve his/her dream?

I didn't think so. I can't stand people who bring in the loyalty crap when it comes to players in professional sports.

"He should be loyal and stick with this team." "He is just leaving for the money."

Loyalty is great but there is always a point in everyones life where selfishness takes precedent to make ones self happy.

On The Fence Sports

woodpeck said...

Sundin is going to win the cup with his buddy Alfie in Ottawa!

Down Goes Brown said...

Would you question someone who changes jobs, after a job-contract expires, because another job offers more money, better benefits, better lifestyle (child-care and education for the kids, less hours of work), and a chance to do achieve his/her dream?

No, I wouldn't. But that isn't a good comparison.

A better comparison would be if I had an employee -- my very best, and best-paid employee -- but times were tough and I needed to cut costs.

So I make a few calls and find out there's an opportunity for this guy to take a dream job somewhere else. I pull a few strings. Then I call him into my office and explain that there's a great opportunity, and he'd really be helping me out if he would voluntarily take it.

He says no. As is his right.

I'm disappointed, and it makes my life difficult, but he's a loyal employee so I can't be mad. I have to go and make a bunch of difficult decision in other areas. It's a bad situation all around.

Then, the next month, he walks in and says he's quitting. He changed his mind. He's going to work for that other company after all.

Now he hasn't broken any laws or contracts, and maybe he doesn't owe me anything. But I think I'm within my rights to slap him in he head and ask him why the hell he didn't just do this when I asked him to, when everyone would have benefited.

eyebleaf said...

DGB, I think that is one of the best ways you have ever put it.

I think a slap to the head is fair. Extremely fair.

But when that employee walks out of the office, you look around the walls and see his pictures, you look at the record books and see what he accomplished...I think you remember and respect what he did for those 15 years prior. You let what he did go, even though he could have done one last bit for the organization, because of what he went through for you before it got to that final point.

Remember, all things end badly, otherwise they wouldn't end at all.

That's where I'm coming from. I just can't hold it against Mats because after all those years of him doing his job, the Leafs never really lived up to their end of the bargain. Don't get me wrong, Sundin was well paid, very well paid, but the Leafs never did, in my opinion, enough to surround him with the absolute best talent. We had a few good years there, we tried, but most of the time, Sundin was fending for himself.

Had the deal with Montreal gone down, we would have received a late first rounder, along with probably two other picks, and Higgins. Higgins is off to a pretty slow start this year and, frankly, I think Ponikarovsky is a better hockey player than he is. All this stink over Sundin's refusal to leave when we were getting back that guy? I don't quite get it. And the trading of Steen and Colaiacovo proved me that even first round picks, mid to late, are by no means guaranteed.

Escaped Lab Rat said...

-great posts, bottom line to me is that before, sundin's legacy was a 9 and now, it's more like an 8.5...I think part of the problem was that we had trouble understanding why mat would turn down deals to good contending clubs, deals which would have helped the leafs but also put him in a good position to win. Who'd have blamed mats if he'd vetoed a deal to ship him to a last-place team?

-weren't there rumours of sundin for bobby ryan and a 1st and 2nd (in addition to carter and a pick for kaberle)?

-at least mats didn't VC it up on us

-I am having nightmares thinking about cy halladay's future in T.O. now...I don't think I could take people slagging cy...if he has to leave just don't send him to the sox or yanks, that would be terrible