November 10, 2003TORONTO
-- The lack of respect Mats Sundin
gets in this city, the centre of the hockey universe, never ceases to amaze me.
Take for example the first part of this season. Sundin will tell you he's paid to produce and he wasn't getting it done. Scoreless in his first five games, the captain was not playing well to say the least.
The chances were there, but neither he nor his linemates (Owen Nolan, Nik Antropov
, Alex Mogilny and Mikael Renberg) weren't putting the puck in the net. It happens. Even Mario Lemieux has had slumps, it's called being human.
You would think from listening to radio call-in shows that Sundin had been washed up for years. It's like he'd never done a single thing in his nine-plus season with the Blue & White. You hear things like ""Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark were way better captains, Sundin should be shipped for a top-notch defenceman!""
Not to disparage any of the things Killer or Clark did during their respective tenures, but Sundin has the numbers to back up his standing in Leafs history and then some.
Sundin will always chase the ghosts of those two glorious seasons that Gilmour produced in 1992-93 and 1993-94. Back-to-back Western Conference Final appearances, a slue of team records, league recognition and his unwavering level of effort made Gilmour a demigod in Toronto. Don Cherry still pouring over him every week doesn't hurt either.
Clark was always revered because he pounded opponents into submission and always had a knack for scoring the clutch goal. He exemplified what the blue collar fans of the Maple Leafs love, heart, grit and determination. Sundin is not that type of player and it isn't fair to compare the two.
No. 13 has always had to live in their shadow and he accepts that. He respects what both individuals did for the team and what they represent in the community. Many a player facing the same level of expectation would have folded and asked for a trade out of here years ago, but that hasn't happened.
Instead all you get is consistency out of the big Swede. He is a point-a-game player. In today's NHL that's a superstar, like it or not.
He just scored his 300th goal as a Leaf and now sits alone, fourth all-time. By season's end he will have moved into fourth place all-time in the points category as well. If Sundin finishes his current contract as a Leaf, he will have a real shot at becoming the all-time goals, assists and points leader.
If you take a quick look at this season's stats, Sundin is atop the Leafs' leader board yet gain with 10 points in 15 games. Take away the five-game slump and what do you get? It equals a point-a-game player - exactly where he should be.
If you want further evidence he's back on track, take a look at the replay of his goal Saturday night against the Oilers.
Sundin is likely never to get the respect he deserves while he's still playing for the Leafs. Whether it is because he's European, perceived as a quiet captain or doesn't have the name Gilmour/Clark on his back, it seems he'll be underacheiving unless he's raising the Cup onto his shoulders.
It doesn't seem fair to me but if Sundin can live with it, I guess I'll have to as well. " commentators